Reflections (The Grand Passage of 2000)
by Johnny "Dr. Duck" Everhart

Many hunters and biologists believe that at least three major migrations of ducks occur during the fall and winter.

January 6th, 2000: Duck season had ended only 8 days earlier in the middle zone. Jim Sutton, Joe Helfrecht and myself were present in #2 blind here at Wilderness Lodge. We were hoping to bag a Canada goose or two.

The water was exceptionally low, due to the very dry fall. The pool we were hunting was, at best, 15 acres of ankle deep water, mostly ice. The sky was partly cloudy and fowl-free as the clock approached 8 a.m.

And then it happened. About 200 mallards came from the northwest at a very high altitude, and suddenly dived for the pool in front of our blind.

It was an amazing sight, but proved to be only an appetizer for what we would witness for the next seven hours ... non-stop.

Every minute or less, bunch after bunch of mallards, numbering in the 50s, 100s and 200s, continuously loosing altitude to make a counter-clockwise circle and land all around us.

In all the years I've hunted, I had never seen this many ducks so close. Never did one bunch land without the next tailing them down, like a train pulling an endless string of cars.

All three of us were so overwhelmed, we did without lunch, knowing we may only witness a scene like this once in a lifetime.

I had brought my camcorder and was scrambling to capture every second.

Hundreds of ducks were climbing up onto the ice. Their weight was breaking it open for the newcomers. Thousands were within 25 yards or less, totally accepting our presence in the blind.

The pool was full of natural food, and the mass of ducks were feeding and socializing as more and more appeared on the horizon.

By noon, we all agreed that we were in the company of at least 30,000 mallards, and still coming.

I took over 4 hours of film that day. My Chesspador, Fred, sat on the end of the blind the whole time, drooling over the sight. We finally left about 3 p.m., but the sight and sounds of wings, fowl language and the beauty of it all was captured forever in my camera.

As we departed, we must have flushed over 50,000 ducks. As I looked back from the lodge, they begin to settle back into the pool. I had no idea why they picked my place on this particular day. It was almost like a farewell salute as they made their journey south.

Later, when I talked to other hunters around the state, I realized that the flock must have been hundreds of miles long. Others had also experienced the same sky-full of ducks on that date.

I review the tape often and share it with my friends. There is so much knowledge one can learn about habits and language from close encounters like these. I hope that someday you will also witness a Grand Passage.