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Fire and Ruby

Mark Walters’ golden retriever Fire, and her pup Ruby, return to the canoe during a recent teal hunt on the Mississippi River.

Hello friends,

Wisconsin’s seven-day teal season opens on Sept. 1 each year, and I use it as an excuse to get myself and my golden retriever Fire, and her pup Ruby, ready for the upcoming waterfowl season. On the opening weekend of the season, I camped by boat on the Mississippi River near Ferryville on an island that I first camped on 46 years ago.

Friday, Aug. 31

High 82, low 55

I was pulling my War Eagle down Highway 35 just south of La Crosse, and there were two things on my mind. The first is the devastation caused by the recent flooding. The second was the fact that it was after 5 p.m., and I had a long ways to go before my boat was launched, and I had found a place to camp and hunt for the sunrise opener.

As usual, everything worked out, and the task at hand went quicker than normal, because I put my canoe inside of the War Eagle, which made it so I could do the 3-mile boat ride a lot faster.

Nothing mattered once I arrived at an island that I first saw back in the early 1970s, especially when a flock of teal flew by as I idled into my campsite.

As is the norm these days, rain was in the forecast, plus it was going to get dark in an hour. I unloaded my gear and got the pups in the canoe and went scouting. I came back, built camp in the dark, had a beer and was thoroughly happy with my situation.

Saturday, Sept. 1

High 79, low 58

The crazy part of this trip started when a very powerful storm hit at 3:45 a.m. with lots of wind, rain, lightning and thunder. I had planned on getting up at 4:30 a.m., but I was not canoeing or hunting in that kind of storm. At about 5 a.m., I noticed that I was getting wet, and could not figure out why. At that time, both dogs also began sleeping on top of me.

When I got up I realized I had not properly closed one of the doors on my tent, and I had a good five gallons of water on my floor.

The storm stopped at about 9 a.m. and I was excited to go hunting, but to be honest, I did not figure that I would get much until the evening hunt. I paddled out to where I wanted to hunt and I put out a dozen duck decoys, a half dozen geese decoys (goose season opened on this day too) and an electronic duck decoy.

I hid my canoe in some weeds and had action in the form of lots of wood ducks coming into the decoys, especially the “robo duck.” I was really surprised when I looked up and there were two teal coming my way, and I dusted one, which required a long but successful retrieve from Ruby.

The limit of teal is six per day, and I figured I would have my limit right away and go fishing. It was at this time that I kind of started having more bad luck. First my camera battery was dead, so I paddled back to camp and plugged it into the boat.

When I started hunting again, I had tons of woodies coming in and then my electronic decoy had its left wing fall off, and then its battery went dead. Then there were zero teal.

In reality, I did not care, because I had a duck and all I did was look around and put myself back into each and everyone of the last 47 hunting seasons that I have sat here.

The last two hours of the day it was gorgeous out, but there just were not any teal, and the entire day I did not see one other hunter.

Tonight, back at camp, I drank a very tasty beer, and cooked a steak and fried potatoes. Naturally, it rained again, and the following morning I went on another hunt.

I only had two shooting opportunities and one of them I hit a teal, which three hours later, Fire would find 500 yards from where I dropped it.

When I was trailering my boat at Ferryville, in what would be in another downpour, I had an excellent conversation with two conservation wardens, and Ruby got lucky and met her husband to be. A fella pulled in that had a beautiful golden retriever in the backseat of his truck.

This dog has the pedigree, looks, hunting background and a master that I can work with. Ruby is due to be in heat any day, and perhaps Selina’s wish of having pups her senior year in high school will come true. Get a hold of me if you are interested, even if you called in the past.

Sunset