Now Dave had been monitoring his ponds with the trail cam photos daily and with the temps dipping down into the single digits, the birds weren’t moving until early afternoon, so we were in no big rush to get to the blind the next morning. This was fine by me, as we awoke to a cold January morning of -2!!! That may seem extreme to even some diehard duck hunters but be rest assured that Dave’s blinds are the best there are & come fully equipped with heaters & comfy seating for all.
With as many ducks as there were working the ponds, we decided to take turns with the new 410’s and let everyone have a chance at their own limit. Jimmy Jones was up first. As the big drake made his final descent into the decoys, Jimmy stood up and with a single shot dropped the big mallard stone dead in the middle of the spread. His golden retriever Ronan made a great retrieve and we were on the board! Not more then 10 minutes later a pair came sailing right in. It was Dave’s turn next, and with one pull of the trigger we were 2 for 2 with the little 410’s. I was on the far end of the blind and about 20 min into the hunt I was up. The other guys had went 4 for 4 on big greenheads so I was a little nervous now, having only shot a 410 one time before. Another big, single drake sailed right into the spread and I stood up and pulled the trigger and…. down he went stone dead! I was surprised and relieved at the same time. The boys were all cheering me on as my chessy Brandy made a nice retrieve on the gorgeous drake.
After a little razzing from the boys I was ready for another crack at my 4th big greenhead. This time my aim was true and I dropped him at 35 yards again, stone dead! Whew Hoo! Meanwhile Dave’s head guide Brett finished his bag limit with a long 40 yard shot and dropped his 5th greenhead of the day with only his 5th shot – what an accomplishment!
By 2:30pm we had a full limit of 25 big greenheads in hand, all shot with 410 shotguns. And most impressively we had not lost a single bird! For the next half hour we simply watched the show as the bigger flocks were now lifting off the roost pond and heading over for a visit. It was incredible to watch. Days like this are what duck hunters’ dreams are made of!
Unlike the day before, we had much larger flocks of mallards working the spread now, trying to get back into their roost pond. The first flock of about 10 birds dropped in and we dropped 4 nice greenheads. Then another small flock of 4 mallards came in and both drakes met their fate. After everyone settled down a bit we decided to go back to taking turns on the birds. Feeling more confident today I started taking shots up to 40 yards out and didn’t skip a beat. The first drake of the day for me dropped stone dead with a single, carefully aimed shot on the edge of the decoys. We all picked up right where we left off the day before and by 10:30 am we had half our limit of drake mallards and 2 nice honkers in hand.
By this point we were all getting a little hungry and chef Matt cooked up a few duck breasts on a small cast iron skillet. Between the duck breasts and breakfast burritos Teri prepared the night before, we all had warm tummies full of goodness! The ducks continued to work the spread all morning and into the afternoon. There were a few misses I’ll admit but not many. It was close to 12:30 in the afternoon when Dave decided we should make an official bird count after I dropped a beautiful drake wigeon. We had 9 more to go for a full limit. The next flock that came in was made up of about 20 birds, with a nice mixture of mallards and wigeons. The boys picked up their 410’s while I picked up the camera. 4 drake wigeons splashed down feet up while the mallards flew off unscathed. We now had room for 1 more mallard each to fill our full bag of 6 ducks each. We each took turns on our last duck of the day until we finished it off. What A Hunt!
It honestly couldn’t have been more rewarding. Taking two full days limits of big greenheads, with a few bonus ducks and geese to match, all over decoys feet down and wings set. It wouldn’t be far fetched to think that Dave saved this spot for our special hunt, but that’s not even the case. With all of the different hot spring locations Dave has in the area on his private ranches, there are large flocks of mallards and geese on each one. Dave only hunts each pond once every other week so the birds never get blown out and Dave said there was only one group of hunters all season that didn’t harvest a full limit and he said- “Believe me, they had plenty of chances”. After the hunt was over Dave took me around the entire 300 acre property on the side by side, to show me all of the management practices he has done to ensure he holds ample wildlife year round. I saw a mixture of more wild sharp-tails and pheasants in our 20 minute drive than I have seen on any property in South Dakota that I can remember.
With the 5 star lodging and gourmet meals added on to one of the most memorable duck hunts I can remember, I was pleased and honored to shake his hand at the end of the hunt and name Dave Ciani of High Prairie Lodge and Outfitters The 2020 HuntTheNorth.com Outfitter Of The Year!