Braving Ice To Blast At Birds

Frozen backwaters don’t keep determined hunters away from pursuing geese and ducks.




2 minute read

Frozen St. Croix River backwaters
Frozen St. Croix River backwaters (Photo by Ryan Cochrane)

An engineer, a Siberian, and a reporter step onto a river. Not the start of a joke, but the adventurous and slightly goofy tale recently told by Star Tribune outdoors writer Dennis Anderson.

Waterfowl hunters are often the last people on the river every winter, braving the cold as long as open water and birds can be found. Anderson described the ingenious strategies employed by one local hunter and his Russian bride in a recent article:

Not long after we stepped from shore onto the ice, an immature eagle circled once overhead and disappeared into the low angle of sun. This was early Thursday morning and the temperature was 10 degrees. Our canoe was on a sled with steel runners, and Wendell Diller pulled the sled easily.

Behind Wendell, in the tracks of the steel runners, shuffled his wife, Galina.

In past years by Nov. 20, the ice in these backwaters of the St Croix River had barely formed, postponing our hunts until December, by which time the duck season was finished and we were hunting geese only. We like geese and marvel at their wingspans on final approach, and how the birds at higher altitudes slip air through their primary feathers and cascade downward acrobatically. So on Thursday the prospect of hunting these alone would have been attraction enough. But this year, thanks to the early cold, we could travel onto the ice, and then open water, while ducks were still legal fare, and in our mind’s eye we could see fat drake mallards backpedaling over our decoys one after another, all morning long.

“Galina,” Wendell said. “Come ahead and hold on to the canoe in case we break through.’’

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Not to give too much away, but Anderson’s party was unsuccessful in bringing home any birds on this trip. From his description of the beauty and solitude experienced, the outing was clearly still worth the hardship.


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Braving Ice To Blast At Birds