Outfitter Review On Big Water Outdoors
Outfitter Review On Big Water Outdoors
OUTFITTER REVIEW ON
Big Water Outdoors
Part 1: THE HUNT
Sea Ducks On Lake Michigan with Big Water Outdoors
by eric mathes
Getting a chance to hunt sea ducks on big water, with a quality outfitter, out of a layout boat set up is a very unique waterfowl hunting opportunity and had been on my bucket list for a long time. For those hunters based out of the Midwest, like myself, it is a long flight to one of the coasts or even a further trip up to Alaska, to experience such a trip. And with the economy the way it is today, not an option for many. That is why I was so excited when I heard about the chance to hunt Old Squaws and Scoters right here in my back yard, just outside of Green Bay, WI on Lake Michigan with Mike Thun and Dean Crom of Big Water Outdoors.
My anticipation was high as I pulled into the Park & Ride to meet Mike and Dean for a my first ever morning of sea duck hunting. It was going to be a new experience for me as I had never even hunted out of a layout boat before, let alone be smack dab in the middle of a big water decoy spread, over a mile off shore. To be honest I felt a bit out of my element. Mike and Dean spoke with confidence the day before the hunt as to the amount of birds on the lake and it seemed as though we were hitting a good week of migration. As Dan Wennerlind and I pulled in to meet the guides, I was immediately taken back by the boat and setup that we’d be venturing out in for the morning hunt. The chase boat was massive in size and quickly diminished any worries of traveling on the big water in the morning chop.
The two, one man Might Layout Boys- layout boats were secured to the bow so they could be easily accessed once we reached our hunting location. After a quick discussion of direction, we departed for our port where we would be launching the morning’s hunt.
While checking the local forecast, Mike explained that the weatherman predicted a bit of wind coming from the southeast and the fear for the morning was that we wouldn’t make it out of the harbor. Our backup plan for rough water on Lake Michigan was to head north to Green Bay where the weather would be a bit calmer and easier to maneuver to hunt. We quickly arrived at the harbor and Dean walked down to the end of the pier to check the height of the waves, to ensure that we could make it out safely.
The fear of traveling farther north was set aside when Dean came back with good news of fare weather. Although there were a bit of waves on the lake, hunting conditions were favorable and the weather was extremely manageable with the setup we had.
As we closed on our first hunting location Mike scurried to get the first layout boat unhooked from the bow. I was amazed at how quick he was able to deploy the first boat, an example of how much thought and preparation were put into their setup and operation. With the first boat anchored it was time to set the first decoy strings. With the amount of decoys we put out, I was amazed at how quick the spread was set, in just a few moments Mike had 4 big strings of Old Squaw and Scoter decoys out. Mike explained that with his custom rig he’s able to put his spread out up to 4 times faster than the average hunter. Dan and I would be hunting 2 separate spreads so we would be able to work a larger area. This would also give us an advantage against the birds if they started using one area of the other. The first spread was set and it was finally time for me to get into the small layout boat to start hunting. Shooting time was coming up in just minutes and I was starting to see birds move from the north down south towards my spread. I grabbed my gun and a few boxes of shells and with one big step from the chase boat I was all on my own, 2 miles or so from shore and ready to start shooting.
The chase boat left me in my isolated cubby among my decoys, the morning light began to break and the sound of whistling wings began. Dan was going to be placed in a spread in shallower water on another feeding area about a mile away from me. Before I left the chase boat Mike gave me a small handheld radio so I could communicate with him and Dean whenever I needed. That way they could come in with the chase boat and retrieve birds or reset my decoy spread if something wasn’t working right. Right before I had ample shooting light I heard Dan over the radio that he was all set and from there it was game on.
The birds began to fly just as the guides had said, coming from the north and moving south.
With the southeast wind blowing at about 10 miles per hour I was able to watch the birds appear on the horizon as they moved to feed. Before too long my decoys were swarmed with Old Squaw and the first shots rang out. Having to adjust to the rolling waves and the fast moving birds was the trick of the morning, but with a little luck and some Winchester BB’s the first drake Old Squaw hit the water. Picking out the drakes ended up to be a lot easier than expected even with the cloudy weather. Mike had told Dan and I to try and only shoot drakes and look for the “flying tuxedos” which was extremely easy to do with the amount of birds that we got to sit under. Not a few moments later a pair came in quick over my left shoulder and I was able to shoot the drake on my first shot. I quickly radioed Dean and Mike in the chase boat to come retrieve the two dead birds I had sitting on the water. I could hear over the radio that Dan was having similar success over his spread and had a few birds down as well. The next hour went on with similar shooting of pairs and small bunches of birds. The flocks of Old Squaws and Scoters worked consistently throughout the morning gave plenty of opportunities for shots, even if at times the shooter was behind the eight ball…
One of the aspects of the hunt that I enjoyed the most was the fact that I was able to enjoy shooting my own limit of birds while being catered to at all times, rather than being thrown in with 4 – 6 other hunters and shooting a limit of birds between the group.
About thirty minutes after shooting light started I saw a gigantic flock of birds hovering over the water coming straight from the north towards my spread. As I watched the flock get closer I started to realize the amount of birds there were and my jaw started to drop. As if I was sitting under a snow goose spread in Saskatchewan, about four thousand Old Squaw raced right over my head and covered the sky no more than 10 yards above my boat. As I got lost in amazement, I was so caught up in the sights and sounds of the birds that I nearly forgot to pull up my gun and shoot. I finally pulled up on the back side of the flock and shot a picture perfect drake Old Squaw. Not but a few seconds after my shot I heard Dean on the radio hollering with excitement as he watched the birds fly over my spread. They were no doubt excited to see that there scouting and work had paid off for the morning’s hunt and that they had two very happy hunters sitting in their decoys. The morning progressed and both Dan and I were able to easily bag our six bird bag limit of 9 Old Squaws and 3 Common Scoters, while leaving our hunting locations as the birds were still flying.
By midmorning we were heading back to the harbor where we launched, to warm up and grab some well needed breakfast. With smiles from ear to ear Mike and Dean snapped a few happy photos of the morning’s success. We enjoyed a soda and waited for Mike to prepare a delicious egg bake packed full of goodies as we relived the morning’s adventure. It must have been a family recipe tasting that good.
While Mike prepared breakfast, I noticed Dean scurrying around the truck and he soon came back with two small boxes. Inside were coffee mugs that were decorated with a picture of Dan and I holding our two trophy Old Squaws from the morning’s hunt. Dean carries a small photo printer in his truck for a quick souvenir for all his clients and I was excited about being able to take something unique away from the experience.
Being an active waterfowl hunter I’ve gotten to see quite a few spectacular mornings when the birds give you a great show, but I can say that hunting sea ducks on the big water is truly something special. It’s surely something completely different from the typical waterfowl hunt and one that every waterfowler should try at least once in their life. And to have that opportunity right here in the upper Midwest was something very special and unique. I am sure I will be back again to hunt with Mike and Dean again very soon, but next time I am going to be sure and add on a second day to encompass their fabulous diver duck hunting combo hunt on the bay of Green Bay!
Part 2: THE REVIEW
|OUTFITTER KNOWLEDGE / PERSONALITY||Score||5 / 5|
Both of our guides- Mike Thun and Dean Crom were very professional and knowledgeable. The hunt was well put together and the atmosphere from start to finish was a fun and light hearted experience. Whether we would have shot a duck or not it would have been a fun experience. But we did have ample opportunity to each harvest a full limit with no problem due to out outfitter’s expert knowledge and preparation.
|QUALITY OF EQUIPMENT USED||Score||5 / 5|
The equipment used during the hunt was top notch. The boat was a 24 foot Duck Water Boat. I felt safe at all times while on the boat even in big water. The fact that we had two separate spreads of decoys to hunt over made the experience very personable and the fact that Mike and Dean were at our beck and call at all times to make sure that we both had a great time. It was also evident that there was a lot of preparation put into the decoy spread as well and everything was fast and efficient.
|OPPORTUNITY TO TAKE GAME||Score||5 / 5|
The opportunity to harvest a limit of ducks was unbelievable. I saw more sea ducks during our 2 hour hunt than I have seen on many other hunts and the fact that we were set up on the X even though we were located 2 miles out in the middle of “The Big Pond” Lake Michigan, it was very clear that there had been a lot of time and effort into making sure the feeding grounds for the Old Squaws and Scoters were put into the GPS and it was like clockwork to get set up in the right spot. It would have been very discouraging seeing that many ducks and not being set up in the right spot. The fact that we had a Plan B if the weather was too rough also gave me piece of mind.
|QUALITY OF MEALS AND LODGING||Score||3 / 5|
When we received our itinerary there were several motel lodging options listed with several caliber lodging establishments. We elected to stay at a small bed and breakfast style motel with a little fireplace and canopy bed. Refreshments were available throughout the hunt on the boat supplied by our fearless guides and a delicious egg bake breakfast wrapped up a successful hunt.
|HUNT PACKAGES AND ADDITONAL FEES||Score||5 / 5|
The guys offer a very personalized hunt at $225.00 per hunter for groups of 2 – 4. However you will be hunting out of your own boat so the hunt is as personable as you can get. They also offer the option of catering to individual hunters for a little extra- $350.00 per day. Trust me when I say they earn every penny and it is well worth the money invested!
|OVERALL QUALITY OF THE TRIP||Score||5 / 5|
From the moment we booked the trip we received a professional itinerary about our upcoming trip. Each step of the way the overall experience was very well put together and planned out. Both Mike and Dean were what I would feel expert waterfowl hunting guides. Much thought and preparation were put into every aspect of the hunt and it was evident that our guides truly care about the hunter’s experience and will bend over backwards to make it a success.
|Overall Big Water Outdoors Scored 28 Out Of 30 Giving Them An “A” Rating. We Would Not Hesitate To Refer Them For Their Spectacular Sea Duck & Diver Hunts!||Final Score||28 / 30|
Part 3: Booking Information
Contact Information For Big Water Outdoors
Outfitters: Mike Thun and Dean Crom
Address: 21998 Schreiber Road Kiel, WI 53042
Email Address: email@example.com
Additional Services Offered
In addition to Mike and Dean’s unbelievable Lake Michigan sea duck hunting, they also offer an incredible diver duck hunt on the bay of Green Bay as well as early season and regular season field Canada goose hunts in eastern Wisconsin. A perfect compliment to a day of sea duck hunting on Lake Michigan is a 2 day combo diver duck hunt. Be sure to ask about that option at the time of booking!