Committed to the Dekes – Tundra Swans

“Am I going to shoot at these”, Carson asked as the tundra swans approached. “Yes”, I responded, “get ready but wait until I say when”.

Swan hunt, gadwall duck                                                                Gadwall came into swan decoys, couldn't resist


This year both Carson and I again drew swan tags. We were excited to get out into the marsh and try our hand at decoying them into our spread. Our plan was to toss out a couple of swan decoys, supplemented with several white plastic trash bags…yes trash bags. The spread looks quite realistic from a distance and definitely helps to attract the birds.

flock of tundra swans, swan hunting  swan hunting

                                  Saw this flock as soon as we arrived                                                   Loaded up with gear/decoys

Friday, November 16th, was an early out day from school so we picked up Carson and headed for the marsh. It was early afternoon when we arrived at the wetlands. It was a bluebird day with temperatures hovering in the mid-50s, I was a bit worried that the warm temps and mild weather might make for a difficult waterfowl hunting day. However, my concerns significantly subsided when we got out of our vehicle and saw swans already in flight out across the bay. We grabbed our gear and headed west as fast as possible.

Snake river duck hunt  Canada goose hunting

                       Got after some late season ducks                                                     And a bunch of geese

About an hour and a half later we had our decoys in place. Not long afterwards we heard the familiar vocals of tundra swans. Looking out across the horizon we spotted a couple of flocks heading in our general direction. We started calling to them. They took notice and swung toward us. The dozen or so birds drifted somewhat close to us, but not quite close enough for a shot opportunity. While semi-interested in our offer, the spread of two dozen decoys 500 yards down the bay must have been more enticing. As the non-committed swans flew by the hunters to the south east, the flock abruptly flared as a flurry of shots rang out. Clearly the swans were further away from the hunters than judged, a common mistake hunters make when the 6 ft. slow waving wingspan of a tundra swan passes by at 30 mph.

mallards, greenheads  greenhead retrieve, labrador with mallard

  Carson got him some late season mallards                                    Porter made some great retrieves                     

A few minutes later we saw another flock of swans in the distance. Again we started calling to them. This time the group of four wanted down. As they made a pass overhead and swung back around, I was confident that it was “go time”. The flock which had dropped in altitude was now straight out in front of us flying low over the water and heading our way. The scene almost felt like it was unfolding in slow motion. The gentle stroke of their wings brought these enormous giants closer and closer. However, unlike the familiar sight of a duck at close range, the distance of these behemoths is harder to judge…they weren’t as close as they appeared.

i went hunting swan, tundra swan

                                                    Tucked behind the reeds, waiting for the swans

“Am I going to shoot at these”, Carson asked as the flock approached. “Yes”, I responded, “get ready but wait until I say when”. I knew that Carson was getting more anxious by the second and his knowing that the previous flock had seemed close enough to shoot but had actually been just out of range, caused him to seek surety. At my command Carson popped up over the reeds and hammered the closest of the committed swans. Not taking any chances, he quickly followed up with another shot as the swan hit the water.

tundra swan  tundra swan in the marsh

                           Carson with his swan!                                            Carson and Mark headed on the long walk back

It was just after 3:00 p.m., Carson had bagged his swan. We gathered our gear and headed for home, anticipating the delicious swan dinner we’d eat a few hours later!

tundra swan in the marsh
      And with mine...shot this the previous week, right in the decoys