Getting Settled in Montana and Duck Hunting

I can’t believe we’ve lived here in Medicine Lake for one whole month already!  (I also can’t believe we are at the end of October already!).  I am in LOVE with our new house. It’s got a basement (I’ve never had a basement!), a huge master bath, new washer, dryer and dish washer, lots of big windows including big back bay window that the dogs love to look out of, and a really efficient geo-thermal central heater. Our front and back yard weren’t finished so there is just a sheet of hay woven into plastic mesh. We’re told we will get sod in the spring. The front of our house faces the lake and the back looks at a shelter belt of trees where we’ve seen pheasants, deer, and birds of prey taking refuge.When we got here the weather was beautiful.  Warm in the 70’s during the day, down in the 40’s at night.  But winter is quickly coming and we are expecting snow tomorrow!


The front of our house which faces the Lake.


The view from our front yard looking out over the Lake and the Refuge.


The view from our backyard looking at a small shelter-belt of trees.


Our master bathroom. I LOVE that tub!

Our first week was a bit boring.  Drew worked for 1 day and then got furloughed.  Our moving truck hadn’t arrived so we were sleeping on air mattresses and eating on paper plates. We couldn’t even drive around the refuge because it was closed!


Bogie didn’t mind the air mattress.

Finally at the end of our first week, our truck arrived!  No more eating dinner on an ice chest.  But more importantly, our hunting gear got here! One of the first things we did when we went into town was get our hunting licenses.  There is so much variety in the game here!  We weren’t eligible for a lot of the big game tags which sold out earlier in the year, but we did manage to buy 2 white-tailed doe deer tags which will fill our freezer nicely.


Montana hunting licenses.

Our second week was spent doing a little unpacking and a lot of hunting.  The open seasons for this week were duck and grouse so that’s what we chased!  Earlier in the week I drove to Williston, our closest “big city” (read: has a Walmart) to attend a job fair.  On the way home I spotted a tiny little pond that was full of ducks in some land that was open to hunting.  Since the refuge was closed, that was our first spot to try to duck hunt and it really paid off!


Our little honey hole.

That was the first time I successfully scouted a hunting spot so I was pretty happy about it 🙂  There were a lot of firsts this week:


Our first Montana hunt!


My first Gadwall.


My first teal (Green-winged).


Drew’s first Grouse (sharp-tailed)


Drew’s first Blue-winged Teal, in a mixed bag.


Drew’s first Canvasback

I’ve really had fun duck hunting these past few weeks. The ducks seem to come in waves and right now there aren’t many here. We are patiently waiting for the next group! They tell us it gets really good once the snow starts!

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Duck Dynasty – Have the Bearded Boys Helped Increase the Numbers of Duck Hunters?

Have you been watching Duck Dynasty on A&E?  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that show!  Duck Dynasty is a reality tv series about the Robertson family, creaters of the Duck Commander and Buck Commander brands.  Mostly through sales of duck calls and other branded outdoor gear, the Robertsons have gone from down-home, self-proclaimed rednecks to down-home, self proclaimed redneck MILLIONAIRES.  The show gives us a little insight into the family-run business, but more so into the quirky antics of the family members.  If you don’t hunt you may think you wouldn’t enjoy the show but you’d be wrong!  These guys are so hilarious in their one-liners and their homemade projects that everyone can find something to relate to.  I love the show so much that for Halloween, I dressed as Willie Robertson (the main “character” on the show and CEO of Duck Commander)!   I even carried a Duck Commander teal call with me 🙂

Yup, that’s me, a 25-year old girl, as Willie Robertson from Duck Dynasty on Halloween!

For those of us that do hunt, you’ve probably noticed the wide-spread popularity of Duck Dynasty.  Many of our friends who’ve never picked up a shotgun enjoy the show.  So the question is, will the Robertons’ new fans move over into an active conservation role?  Will more duck hunters be born from Duck Dynasty?  Guest blogger Travis Brenson sheds some light…

Duck Dynasty – Have the Bearded Boys Helped Increase the Numbers of Duck Hunters?

Well, that’s the million dollar question and unfortunately it’s too soon to tell. Certainly there are those who work in State Regulated Fish and Game Agencies that might hear of stories about hunters who retrieved those dusty duck hunting caps to revisit those frigid duck blinds of their youth only after watching A & E’s wildly popular reality series, “Duck Dynasty”. Or there are those who’ve been seen trading hikes into the mountains with their scopes and rifles for waders, shotguns and duck calls.

The bearded boys doing what they do best, duck hunting.

But without hunting or license statistics, duck stamp purchases and ammunition sales, it is hard to predict. Even looking at the most recent copy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Migratory Bird Hunting Activity and Harvest During the 2009 and 2010 Hunting Seasons can’t prove or disprove the numbers since it was released in July 2011, long before the show first aired in March of 2012. So, is there any evidence to support the claims?

Duck Commander brand duck calls, available in their online store: http://store.duckcommander.com/

There is. Namely, duck calls. As in millions of dollar’s worth. According to Celebritynetworth.com, Willie Robertson has a net worth of ten million dollars directly related to his family-owned and operated duck call business. Well, that and an ever-increasing cult popularity that Duck Dynasty has created with their diehard duck fans. On their website you can find episodes to download and watch in case you missed anything big that might have happened between this week’s show and lasts or you can find the location of their next live appearance. That’s right, you can meet the bearded boys in person. Trade frog leg recipes or talk turkey (or duck) about which of the many duck calls work best in each and every duck hunting situation.

It’s a family business. Phil Robertson, the creater of Duck Commander, along with his brother Si, his son Jase, and his son and current CEO of the company, Willie Robertson.

But best of all, if you grew up hunting then you can experience firsthand the love of family and tradition and how hunting can be the glue to tie generations together with. Either way, Duck Dynasty is sure to please with its light-hearted humor, bumbling brothers and their juvenile antics. Something that is always in short supply it seems. But whether or not the show will end up reviving the age-old traditions of duck hunting is only left to anecdotal evidence, for now. Or until we get the most current U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Migratory Bird Hunting Report.

Who knows, maybe the beards will be the catalyst for a whole new generation of duck hunters.

Travis Brenson is an avid hunter and marksman who enjoys the big Texas outdoors and appreciates a good venison steak. When he’s not in his deer stand he’s working for Scopes n More, home of the best deals on scopes.

Women’s Duck Hunting Essentials Part 1: Clothes (and Haley Vines Review)

Where are the Ducks?

My husband saying "Where are the Ducks?"

Duck hunting is not easy.  But it sure is fun!

Me and my Bogie, pretending she's a duck dog and not a lap dog.

Me and my Bogie, pretending she's a duck dog and not a lap dog.

One of the factors restricting more women from duck hunting is lack of comfort. It’s cold, it’s wet, and it’s a lot of work before you ever even get the opportunity to pull the trigger. But it doesn’t have to be this way! All it takes is a little planning and the right gear to make sure you are comfortable in the duck blind. In this series, I’m going to tell you all the gear I wear or bring when I go hunting. This is part 1 of a 3-part post on MY DUCK HUNTING ESSENTIALS.

My first duck!

My first duck!

The biggest difference between me and my husband when it comes to hunting is that I am much more susceptible to being cold than he is. He is usually too hot under all his layers! Flexibility and ease of movement are also very important to me. That shotgun is not light and I need to be able to move it quickly! Many of my duck-hunting essentials are also essentials for any outdoor venture, but duck hunting also requires protection from cold water. Here are my duck-hunting clothing essentials:

Patagonia Women's Capilene 3 Midweight Bottoms in Ozonic Blue 49.00

Patagonia Women's Capilene 3 Midweight Bottoms in Ozonic Blue 49.00

Patagonia Women's Capilene 2 Lightweight Crew in Turquoise and Seafoam 45.00

Patagonia Women's Capilene 2 Lightweight Crew in Turquoise and Seafoam 45.00

BASE LAYER
Probably the most important of the layers I wear. I’ve tried a lot of different brands and fabrics. Obviously you do NOT want to wear cotton as a base layer and there are so many other options to choose from these days! My favorite: Patagonia Caplilene. Patagonia Capilene baselayers are all assigned a number based on the weight (aka how warm it will keep you). 1 is the lightest-weight and 4 is the heaviest-weight, for very cold conditions. I wear Capeline-2 long-sleeve top and Capeline-3 bottoms. These work perfect for any outdoor adventures in the south. And these are the ONLY base layers I own. No matter the season, they work for me! The BEST part about these Base-Layers? They are flexible don’t restrict my movement, at all! Yes they are bright blue.  If it’s cold, I don’t need a camo base-layer because I probably won’t be stripping down that far. But if it is warm enough I may not wear this base layer and go right to my mid-layer.

Prois Ultra Hoodie in Realtree 79.00

Prois Ultra Hoodie in Realtree 79.00

Columbia Women’s Benton Springs Vest in Palm 39.00

Columbia Women’s Benton Springs Vest in Palm 39.00

MID LAYERS
My mid-layer is the one that I will adjust based on the current weather. My mid-layer is my most versatile layer with several options. It will usually be camo in case I get hot and need to take off my jacket but don’t want to be seen by the game I’m persuing. For my mid-layer, I will wear a non-cotton moisture-wicking shirt with a vest on top. My favorite? Prois Ultra Hoodie and Columbia Benton Springs Vest. I like the vest because it is flexible (unlike a down vest) but I will be looking to replace it with the Haley Vines camo Soft Shell Vest (with shooting pad!).  The Prois “hoodie” is actually a long-sleeve shirt that I reviewed last year.  Now if it is really REALLY cold I will also wear my Columbia camo fleece or my lightweight down Patagonia sweater. Only problem with that down jacket is that it’s bright purple! So it’s usually saved for camping/hiking/field work and not for hunting.

I generally don’t wear a pants mid-layer but I’m eyeing these Drake Under Wader Pants that hubby has and loves.

Drake Men's MST Fleece Lined Pullover in Realtree MAX-4 Camo $79.99

Drake Men's MST Fleece Lined Pullover in Realtree MAX-4 Camo $79.99

OUTER LAYER
The most expensive layer is the outer-layer. The better quality jacket you have, the more comfortable you will be. I’ve tried SEVERAL different jackets. A standard canvas Carhartt jacket was not warm enough, even though it was lined, and way too bulky. The Carhartt was more suited for muddy field work when I didn’t want to destroy an expensive camo jacket. My husband’s old warm cotton jacket from when he was a kid was nice but not ideal when you may have to deal with water. I have 2 go-to otpions for a warm hunting jacket. The first is my Drake waders jacket(which I often where even when I’m not wearing waders). The bottom half is all fleece and fits nicely under chest-waders. The top-half is several layers thick, soooo warm, and even water resistant! There are 2 handy pockets on the top part of the chest, one that zips (where I keep my camera) and one that magnetically closes (where I keep spare shells).  Both are accessible when I am wearing waders. I LOVE this jacket.but if its really REALLY cold I need a jacket that is full top-to-bottom.

Diva Outfitters Natural Fleece Pants $80.00

Diva Outfitters Natural Fleece Pants $80.00

For bottoms I have again, 2 go-to options, which both have their pro’s and cons. The first are my Diva Outfitters Fleece Pants. I love that these pants are made for women, by women.  The shop owners are super nice and passionate about hunting.  I usually hate the pink trend in women’s hunting clothes/accessories (what’s a girl gotta do to get some purple in her camo?) but the little hints of pink in these pants are sweet and perfect.  Not enough that is screams “Hey I’m a girl ya know!!” but just a little reminder that these are not my husband’s pants.  These pants are a soft and warm heavy fleece.  Now you wouldn’t normally think of fleece pants as an Outer-Layer, but these pants are thicker than normal fleece and offer amazing warmth and wind/rain protection. I don’t know the technology behind it (an inner layer? a coating?) but I know it works. The best part of these pants? ELASTIC STIRRUPS. I have NO PROBLEM putting on my waders and keeping my pant legs down where they should be. I also wear these deer hunting. My only issue is that they tend to slip down too far on my hips. This is a problem I have with most all my pants due to my body shape but these especially cause they are kind of heavy.  Wearing a belt and wide suspenders solves this problem but I still have to take off the right suspender strap when we are getting ready to hunt/shoot so I can line my shotgun up in my shoulder correctly.

Haley Vines Catalog jacket and pants $250.00

Haley Vines Catalog jacket and pants $250.00

Haley Vines Catalog jacket and bib $250.00

Haley Vines Catalog jacket and bib $250.00

Now, what about when it’s COLD cold? This is where my Haley Vines Waterproof Insulated Jacket and Bib come in. These are the warmest clothes I have EVER put on. I just got them late last year so I’ve only gotten to use them on two duck hunting trips but let me tell you, I am SOLD. This set is so warm, cozy, comfortable, fitted, and water-resistant I don’t know what I did before it. You can check out the entire Haley Vines collection on their website: HaleyVines.com and be sure to check out their catalog!

Me in my Haley Vines Jacket and Bib, right out the box!  So warm.

Me in my Haley Vines Jacket and Bib, right out the box! So warm.

Haley Vines Review for the Outdoor Blogger Network

Pro’s
WARMTH- sooo so warm. I usually have to take the jacket off on the hike in to the blind because if I didn’t I would overheat quickly.  In fact I would add a word of caution: don’t wear this suit unless you can easily take off the jacket to cool down.  It’s THAT warm.  I did wear the bib under my waders (which means I can’t take the bib off in the field) on the one day that it was very very cold and didn’t overheat as long as I could vent my head/neck/chest.

PROTECTION- I’ve worn my jacket while hunting in a flooded rice field AND while hunting in a salt-water bay. Both times I ended up face-first in the water. The first time I wasn’t wearing this jacket and I was FREEZING. Luckily we were on our way back to the trailer because if we had not been, the hunt would’ve been over. The second time I fell in the water I was wearing this jacket. I got the outside SOAKED but I barely felt it! We continued hunting and I was still warm and dry inside my jacket. Even when the sleeve cuffs got a little wet inside, it wasn’t unbearable because the jacket stayed warm.

FEEL- I cannot describe in words how amazingly soft the lining (and outside!) of this bib and jacket are. Even hubby was a little jealous when he touched it. It’s quite luxorious and feels like you are wrapped in your favorite fuzzy throw blanket instead of wearing practical hunting clothing.

FIT- Haley Vines really did their research and got the shape of these pieces just right. SO well suited for a women’s body. Tight and loose in all the right places. The big creates a very flattering shape. The pockets are also in the right places and soooo warm, especially when my hands are wet.

COMFORT- So soft and so comfortable, I don’t like to take them off! The bib’s suspenders are elastic and don’t dig into my shoulders.

STYLE- Yes, I look damn good in my bib and jacket. Even wore the bib by itself over a flannel shirt to go shopping (granted we were shopping at Mack’s Praire Wings)- watch out boys!

Me wearing my Haley Vines bib.

Me wearing my Haley Vines bib.

Con’s
COST- At $250 a piece, this set is NOT cheap. But it would be worth it to save up all year and buy at the beginning of hunting season next year. If you are going to spend top-dollar on any part of your hunting wardrobe, make it your jacket.

SIZE- I bought the largest sizes available and they are just a tiny bit too small. I’m generally a size 16-18 and all my weight is in my mid-section/torso. I struggle a little zipping the bib and the jacket on top of the bib. This tightness restricts movement a little, but I can deal with it fine. I would love to see Haley Vines sell the jacket and bib in one more size larger.

Warm and Comfortable.

Warm and Comfortable.

Well there you have it! My Duck Hunting Clothing Essentials! Being that Duck Season is pretty much over, the next posts in this series will wait til the beginning of next duck season.  But right now it’s time to look forward to some warm weather!  Thanks for reading!

My First Duck Hunt

Even though I’m in grad school for wildlife management, before this year I’d never been hunting.  During 2010 I got to go pheasant hunting, deer hunting and duck hunting.  I plan to make a separate post for each so I’ll start with the most recent: duck hunting.

Over Christmas break, as my fiance and I toured the south for family parties, we made some time to stop at his uncle’s rice farm here in Arkansas to do some duck hunting.  My fiance is an avid duck hunter and was excited to introduce me to the tradition.  Unfortunately it has been very dry and there weren’t many ducks at the farm.  But it was our only chance this season to go so we did!

Mallards hanging out in a puddle at the farm.

After some scouting we realized there was a slim chance of us getting some ducks to come in because the water on the field we were going to was very shallow.  But we still got up and out to our spot before sunrise.  Drew set up the decoys while I adjusted to moving around in my new waders.

Me helping pick up decoys.

We ended up sitting waist-deep in a ditch next to the field and used some vegetation to hide our silhouettes.

I was a little cold!

I was completely bundled up but that cold water still sucked the heat out of me.  We stayed for about 3 hours calling ducks and watching geese.  Early in the morning we had some shovelers fly in and I had my sights set on one but when I pulled the trigger, nothing happened.  My gun misfired.  The shotgun I was using was my grandfathers 12 gauge and has only been shot a few times in the last 40 years.

The next hunt I borrowed one of Drew’s uncle’s shotguns: a Benelli 20 gauge that I LOVED.  Much lighter and easier for me to handle.

4 whitetails running through a field

We didn’t end up taking any ducks but I really enjoyed the experience.  Sitting in the mud listening to thousands of geese honking above us…  Feeling my heart race when a group of mallards flew around us…  Seeing Drew in his element where he’s happiest…  It was wonderful.

The dogs having a blast!

Not only did I have a good time, so did the dogs!!  We would drive the ATV up and down an air strip between fields and they would run with us until they were exhausted!  They were head-to-toe covered in mud and couldn’t have been happier.  Spartacus chased barn cats and Bogie chased killdeer.  I’ve never seen Bogie sleep so hard.  Makes me excited for the future when it will be our children worn out after playing hard at the farm.

Speckle Belly Geese taking flight