Making Michigan Memories: Part 1

Brett Slack shows off a drake pintail, the first duck I took in Michigan. (Photo: Richard Simms)

Monroe, Michigan – The blue wing teal screamed across the marsh and settled, totally fooled, into the decoys before either of us could think about raising a gun. Britney, my retriever, eyed the duck and whined in anticipation. Brett Slack eased slowly from behind the cattails until the teal finally realized something was amiss and bounded skyward. It didn’t get far before Brett’s Remington spoke. Britney hit the water in a flash to retriever her first Michigan duck.

The journey had officially begun.

I shared a preview of my journey to Michigan last week.

So far the journey has met all expectations, largely due to Brett Slack who went far beyond the norm. Brett read a post I made on the Internet Forum and offered to take me hunting. He gave up two days of work to share his “home turf” with a wayward Tennessee outdoor writer.

Brett’s place and style of hunting is not for the weak-kneed. We launched his boat into Lake Erie at the mouth of the Huron River. A short ride across the mouth of the river and then I watched in amazement as Brett hauled his 14-foot boat, loaded with decoys, over a tall levee using a specially-designed portage site. The portage put us on the Vermet Unit at the Point Mouillee State Game Area. Brett said this is his twentieth season duck hunting, much of it on Vermet, his favorite area.

“It’s really crowded and can be absolutely crazy on opening weekend,” he said. “But after that it really slows down, especially during the week. And most of the hunters you see are serious duck hunters who know what they’re doing.”

Brett likes an early start. Once decoys were out and we were settled into our hunting spot, we still had an hour-and-a-half to enjoy the stars before the first rays of sun peeked across Lake Erie.

Outdoor writers traditionally bring bad luck, or bad weather, wherever they go. No different here… I was greeted in Michigan by high temperatures in the 70’s. Weather like that is a duck hunter’s nightmare as the ducks just get plain lazy. Migrations virtually halt and feeding activity slows immensely.

But for the diehards, like Brett, you soldier on. And if you do, you will likely kill a few ducks. I was beaming when my first Michigan harvest was a pintail, a rarity in Tennessee.

“I hunt puddle ducks mostly,” said Brett. “I don’t know of any species of puddle duck I haven’t killed out here, along with most of the diving ducks. I killed a nice goldeneye just last week.”

For two mornings we portaged, slogged through the mud, huddled almost waist deep in muck, hiding in cattails while swatting mosquitoes and sometimes wondering if we should have brought suntan lotion. But we killed ducks.

I have moved further North now. The weather has moderated… high temperatures today in the 50’s. I will hunt new places and maybe meet new people. But I know that few, if any, will be as dedicated and willing to share as Brett Slack.

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