Stikine Ducks and Geese 2018

We’d decided on a date of about Oct 24 to go to the Stikine to pull the dock at B’s cabin and also duck hunt.  I came down to Craig to go on the trip with him, and turns out Sara’s sister was going, too, so we all rode over. From Craig, we trailered their boat to Coffman Cove.  From there we crossed Clarence Strait, which can be a rough stretch of water, but was not bad at all, despite a forecast for 25 knot winds. Once in Wrangell, we loaded the gear into Mike’s boat, who is a good friend of my B’s since childhood.  His boat is a jet boat, which is better for the shallow water running we’d have to do to cross the Stikine Flats and then got up the river to the cabin dock.

We saw lots of waterfowl on the way to the cabin.  Once there, we hauled in our gear, opened up the cabin and started the generator, got our beds in order, and relaxed.  I picked high bush cranberries in the last hour or two of daylight. We had moose burger, pepper and onions for dinner.   Lots of shotgun shells came with us from Paul. We weren’t going to run out of ammo.

At first light, we headed downriver to a slough on the end of the same island the cabin is on.  We set up geese silhouettes on the bank of the slough and put some mallard decoys in the slough. B and E and their lab walked the island to jump shoot birds, and some of those they didn’t shoot get found their way to me in the decoys.  We all got a handful of ducks.

On day 2, at first light, we headed downriver as far as we could at low tide.  When the water ran out, we beached the boat, threw out the anchor, grabbed our guns and some decoys, filled out pockets with ammo, and struck out towards the island across the dry river bed.   A moose or two had crossed here overnight from the looks of their tracks. We set up the decoys along the river, and hid behind a big tree on the beach. We got a few ducks.  E decided to walk downriver and found a spot on the bank where she could get ducks passing along the bank where she hid. She got 5 ducks down there. She was pretty excited when she came back about it as she learned to let the birds get by her before she stood up to shoot. That way, the ducks didn’t see her and flare up.  I got a couple ducks at the tree blind. That evening at dusk I looked out into the woods from my perch in the outhouse and there was an owl on his own perch a short distance away, ready to start his hunting day.

On Day 3, we went further down the island we’d hunted day 2, and set up the deeks.  As we were further out towards the mouth of the river where most of the ducks and geese were, we had pretty good action.  E hiked all the way down to the end of the island. We could see her in the distance close to a mile away. She disappeared at one point when she had to climb down into a slough to cross it.  Right at that moment, a flock of geese flew by, unaware she was there. We saw 2 big honkers drop from the sky. B left me sometime later to get the boat for high tide, and on his way, he, too, jump shot a goose. I got a handful of ducks at the blind, and a lesser Canadian goose – my first.  I still can’t shoot worth a dang but starting to hit a bird now and then. I lost some birds I hit, though, and surely don’t like that, although the eagles, hawks, marten and foxes roaming the flats surely do.

We had dinner that night with neighbors that live on the island full time.  Of course, they have lots of great stories about living out there and it was an enjoyable evening.   In the middle of the night, when I went outside to pee, I heard some growling in the big cotton wood tree I was under.  When I shone the light, there was a marten looking down at me.

Leaving the next day was going to be tricky as it would be low tide in the morning, and we’d have to first go upstream and around the upriver end of the island and back down the other side to find our way out to the ocean. The Stikine has several fingers where it dumps into the ocean, but the finger we were on does not have enough water to run at low tide.   High tide was late in the day, and we couldn’t wait for it if we wanted to get back to Craig that day, which we did. The neighbor drew a map of the path to take the previous evening, and we were doing good until we weren’t.  We came to a screeching halt. I saw the shallow water coming, and was on the bow of the boat to ballast the outboard and allow us to run in the shallowest water possible. When we stopped, I just slid forward a bit but was able to hang on.  B and E were in the seats behind the windshield, and B got a fat lip when we grounded when he hit his mouth on the top of the windshield. A little lower and he’da lost some teeth. We had to empty the boat, muscle the boat off the sand bar to deeper water, then pull it upstream to a spot deep enough for us to get a running start and on step before we grounded again.  With alot of complaining, we got the boat off the sand bar, upstream 50 yards, then started hauling all our gear up to reload the boat. Less than an hour later, we restarted and were on our way again. This time we made it around the island without incident and back to the bay and crossed to Wrangell in decent seas.

Back in Wrangell, we offloaded to B and E’s boat, said our goodbyes, and headed back towards Clarence Strait.  I sat on the back deck and started to butcher the ducks. Clarence was a little sloppy and it took about 1.5 to 2 hours to get to Coffman Cove.  I had a couple dozen ducks ducks and 4 geese to butcher. I got about ? of them done on the ride over, and finished the remainder when we got back to Craig.   All the waterfowl meat went home with me for Sara in Juneau and B kept the carcasses for trapping bait.

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