By Steve Weisman
This time of year always fills me with an uneasy feeling that I NEED to be doing something, you know, finishing things for the arrival of winter. I am sure it has to do with growing up on the farm. In those days, back in the 1950s and 1960s, big equipment was not part of the harvest equation.
No, my dad picked corn with a two-row John Deere corn picker with the corn (on the cob) rolling up an auger to drop into a four wheeled tank wagon that was attached to the back of the picker.
When the wagon was full, my dad or I (if I were home from school and athletics) would take the wagon home, back it up to an elevator placed in front of a round corncrib. The floor was either cement, or if we ran out of room (when the crop was bigger), we would use corncobs as a base.
We had a manual jack that we would hook to the front of the wagon to elevate it so that corn would come rolling out of the opened end gate. With the elevator running, the corn would be augured into the center of the corncrib. As the first level became filled, we would put another circle of corn fencing on top of the first level and begin filling the second level.
It would take weeks for us to get the crop harvested on our 160 acres of corn ground. So, when the first flakes of snow came down, there was an even greater sense of urgency. We knew it might be three more weeks before we were done and a dreaded late October or early November snowstorm would really take its toll.
Yes there were some years that we finished picking corn in the spring. So, I think my sense of urgency comes from those farming days!
Outdoorsman’s sense of urgency
Now, this sense of urgency came as I became an adult and became a waterfowling fanatic. The source of this urgency goes to my father-in-law. As I began dating his daughter (my wife for the past 42 years), he taught me this love for waterfowling.
I knew nothing about decoys and duck boats and sloughs. No, my duck hunting had been jump-shooting ducks on the creek or our farm stock dam. My father-in-law’s patience in teaching me was something. From what type of slough to look for, what area would make the best blind, placement of decoys so the ducks would be enticed in. Then there was the art of duck calling. The sound he made on the duck call was like music, while my rudimentary attempts sounded like an old coot! He understood, though, and during down time or when we were away from the slough, he would go through his repertoire of calls and then let me try to match the sound. Slowly but surely, the sounds actually sounded like a duck! Though he can no longer make it in the slough, we still talk about those memorable hunts!
It has been my charge to pass this on to my son, son-in-law and grandson. They have embraced this love for waterfowling and also understand this urgency that I describe.
This urgency is based totally around the great migration of ducks and geese coming out of Canada. This migration is always fueled by the same weather systems that we feared during late fall harvest. You know, the big Nor’wester, a clipper bringing with it plummeting temperatures, incredibly strong winds, either a snow squall or snowstorm and thousands and thousands of migrating waterfowl riding the northwest winds south to better weather.
A diehard waterfowler lives to be either on the water or in the fields when this happens. Part of it is being out in those elements, tucked in behind the protection of the cattails, decoys on the calm side moving back and forth.
Yet, it’s a stroke of luck to be there at just the right time. I’ve seen it happen so many times, setting up the decoys in anticipation of the migration. Nothing happens; the sky is empty, void of birds. I’ve been skunked waiting for the push.
It might be later in the day, maybe the next morning or the next afternoon or…but it will happen. The key is being able to be there when the birds arrive.
It’s so awesome…one minute there is nothing but empty skies. Then all of a sudden out of seemingly nowhere, they appear coming into the decoys, wings cupped …oh what a sight it is!
The migration is on!