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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Outdoors: Returning home to Squaw Creek

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  • Different meccas exist in each life, places where you long to be.
    Sights, sounds and friends pull you back, if only sometimes in memory. Mound City, Mo., during duck and goose season is that kind of place.
    Celebrities and average Joe hunters try never to miss a waterfowl season at this enchanted place. The Waterfowler’s Hall of Fame in Mound City provides testament of this back to the early 1900s.
    Native Americans were here long before that, even before Lewis and Clark wrote in their journal of the abundant wildlife around the oxbows and river bottoms in this region.
    The entire Squaw Creek area has watched hunters and their dogs pull in flocks of ducks or geese. Many of these well-orchestrated teams are gone now and youthful hunters with young dogs scan the sky for another flock or even a single to call into their decoy set.
    Some of us old guys are still around too.
    My hunting buddies and I are the older set now where a 50-year-old would be the kid. We talk about past hunts and friends, laugh when someone missed what looked like an easy shot and praise long shots that fold a mallard or goose dead in the air — a feat more common with lead shot compared to the wound-prone steel shot of today.
    A few of us have endured all the waterfowl-hunting changes of the past 50 years, some necessary and some, well who knows. But we were there.
    Kansas City radio personality of the 7 a.m. Saturday morning broadcast, “Show Me the Outdoors,” Terry Acton recently claimed a combined 500 hundred years of waterfowl hunting experience in our blind on a recent November morning.
    I calculated and it was more like about 250 years — a lot of duck and goose hunting history.
    Hunting experience is evident when Paul Knick and Bud Burrows cut loose with their duck calls on a passing flock of mallards. Danny Guyer, owner of Iron Duck Hunting Guide Service and the baby in our blind this day at 56-years-old, added his remarkable calling skills to bring in a big flock.
    We shot and two dropped — then the show started. Slim, Burrow’s yellow Lab, bounded out of the blind on a long quest to find the wounded greenhead mallard that was quickly swimming away through thick flooded corn.
    Both dog and duck disappeared for a few minutes while we watched from our blind. Guyer started to climb out when someone said, “Here he comes,” and sure enough, Slim trotted over with mallard softly clenched in his firm jaws.
    “Slim has a good case of mallard breath now,” Guyer said.
    The Labrador retriever’s best trick of the morning was finding a crippled duck and bringing it back to the blind while everyone was watching a passing flock of mallards.
    Page 2 of 2 - We realized Slim was sitting outside the blind, but the duck was nowhere to be found. Everyone started studying outside of the blind when Burrow realized there was a dead duck at his feet where Slim had dropped it.   
    Later that morning a single mallard flew over and was greeted by calls that had been honed to perfection by decades of experience. The big greenhead dropped dead to a well-placed shot and Slim was quickly in motion, doing what he lives for.
    All hunters in the blind stood to watch his retrieve, but that is what duck or goose hunting is about.
    The kill is a small part of this annual tradition that goes back many generations. Sitting in the blind with friends, watching the world come alive over a marsh, studying a good dog at work, observing nature and just being in a great place are elements that make this experience special.
    There is more, much more that can only be discovered by being there. A lucky few of our ancestors knew this too.
    Knick, Burrow and Guyer’s dad are in the Northwest Missouri Waterfowler’s Hall of Fame. That is an honor best described as being remembered with one’s peers and heroes, making the hall a sacred place and being inducted a huge honor.
    I attended the 2012 Waterfowler’s Hall of Fame induction where four joined their honored peers, including one world champion duck caller. The Hall actually has several world champion callers that hunted the Squaw Creek region, some world-renown celebrities and many that just happened to be accomplished duck and goose hunters.  
    These sacred hunts still continue for us and will until we are no longer able to join our buddies in the blind. Many of us will always silently thank God for the orange sunrises over marshes and the beauty of wildfowl in flight.
    The morning ended when a big greenhead mallard drifted in to hang in front of Acton and me at about 20 yards out. We both emptied our shotguns with less than precise shooting and watched the duck fly away.
    We both had to laugh, knowing that missed duck will be discussed many times over the next several years in our blinds.
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