by Shawn Harris
Sitting in the tender boat on the Ohio River sometime in early November wondering when the migration of divers would reach us this year, I made the split second descion that I was heading to the State of Indiana’s largest lake. That night I spent hours researching on how and where to hunt Lake Michigan. With no such luck I took path number two and start looking at satellite images of shorelines from East Chicago to Michigan City. I contacted the Indiana DNR found a boat ramp and got local laws/regulations. It was a done deal, Friday afternoon myself, Rascal, and the best hunting mentor a young guide could have were headed on their way north.
After looking at Google Earth images all night I decided to hunt one particular break wall. Most of the hunting info I was able to find about waterfowling this great lake took place in Michigan and Wisconsin, with hunters targeting old squaws. Would they possibly come this far south? Well it just happened that we had just joined the prostaff for Ure-a-Duck and had a couple dozen brand new old squaw dekes rigged and ready to go. Originally planned to be used in Cape Cod for a guided sea duck hunt we decided to break them in floating on some freshwater, in my home state of Indiana.
With boat launched we headed out through the clear night skies on water smooth as glass. After setting two long lines of old squaw decoys we anchored the boat and got settled in waiting for that alarm to chime.
Being a taxidermist I wasn’t able to pass the quick opportunity up at my first drake red breasted merganser as it flew 20 yards out in front of the boat. As the bird folded I quickly gave Rascal the command to “Fetch”. Before he could even get up the dog ladder and in the boat we saw our first ball of birds. I have been outfitting/hunting the shores and islands of Massachusetts for a few years now, never have I seen old squaws come in or fly in groups over a dozen. That was about to change really fast as we had just witnessed over three dozen just buzz right outside of shooting range. This couldn’t be, first trip to Lake Michigan, not even 30 minutes in the hunt and already seen the largest group of old squaws of my life. To our surprise it wasn’t a fluke as another group probably the same size as the first were headed in our direction from across the horizon. I looked at my partner on my right and said “when the lead bird reaches the last decoy on the line, take em. It seemed like forever before they reached us but I will never forget the moment I yelled “take em”. After hearing six shots fired from two guns and my heart feeling like it was going to pound out of my chest I somehow gathered my thoughts and scanned the lakes surface. Six drake old squaws floated belly up. After Rascal earned his dinner and we came back down to reality we high fived. Time to prepare for the next volley.
The wait wasn’t long before we started seeing ball after ball of scaup pitching into the growing raft of birds a mile out. To our advantage old squaws are one of the most racist ducks in the air so all them scaup would not affect our plans. As I was glassing the large raft of blue bills my buddy yells “birds 3 o’clock”. To my amazement it was another group of long tailed ducks and they were headed right for my long lines. “Same thing, when they reach the tail end of the decoys take em”. Like De ja vu six shots fired six dead drakes.
• Luck or just good? At the end of the day it didn’t seem to matter as we had fired 13 times had two limits of ducks with a trophy merganser in the boat. Probably a once in a lifetime hunt, my quickest hunt, and cheapest hunt. Definitely a hunt I will never forget. I should have stopped on the way home and bought a lottery ticket!