Early-season marshlands are an ecosystem full of life. Frogs. fish, snakes, turtles and an occasional river otter, beaver or muskrat spend their days in this pristine setting. Teal season lures hunters to marshes where mosquitoes seem big as airplanes. Leaving home without mosquito repellent is not advised.
Northwest Missouri’s Loess Bluffs region, located on the edge of the Mississippi Flyway and close to Mound City, Missouri, is noted for some of America’s best duck and goose hunting. Hunting is not allowed on the refuge, but there are plenty of opportunities. Early season teal hunts are legendary across this noted stretch.
Outdoor writers Zach Smith, Trevor Meers and Tim Kjellesvik decided to sample this hunt led by Jacob Peterson, part-time Iron Duck Hunting guide and full-time police officer at Chillicothe, Mo., Danny Guyer, owner of Iron Duck Hunting and Joe Laukemper, waterfowl hall of fame inductee and owner of the marsh to be hunted and located close to Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Area.
The group met at McDonald’s in Mound City. Duck and goose hunting stories started flying around the table when someone noted the time and everyone immediately jumped up to go. The blind was close by, but that didn’t matter to two Labrador retrievers waiting in pickups. Laukemper’s Birdie, and Peterson’s 2-year-old, 75-pound chocolate lab named Moose, both whined with anticipation of a chance to run across another marsh.
Minutes later the group arrived at their blind about 15 minutes before legal shooting time, only to chase bluewing teal out of the decoys. Guyer gave his safety talk while the hunters listened. A good guide takes charge of the hunt to ensure safety and Guyer is one of the best.
The clear, blue sky started to lighten up as dawn broke and the sky came alive with swallows, sparrows and other birds chasing insects over the shallow mirror-like marsh water. A few resident Canada geese honked their way over the blind in search of breakfast.
Several teal skirted the marsh but continued flying to another location. Three bluewing teal eventually blundered into shooting range and two dropped. Moose made quick retrieves and then settled in for the next opportunity, but his wait would be long. No other birds flew in range that morning.
“That’s teal hunting when it’s unseasonably warm,” Guyer said. “You just get what God gives you. Let the temperature drop 10 degrees and we’ll have plenty of teal and likely everyone will limit out if they can hit the fast movers.”
The morning progressed while teal rested elsewhere. Then conversation took over the blind and stories mixed with laughter were shared – one of the best parts of duck hunting.
Peterson decided to let Moose stretch his legs and soon the big dog was bounding and leaping from place to place across the marsh. The pools were full of big bullfrogs and Moose decided to catch one. He spotted one across the pond and made several long leaps before the startled frog decided to dive and swim. Moose stuck his head underwater trying to find the frog. Then he pursued another frog with long leaps and hops and without success.
Soon he was stalking another frog and then another until one decided to jump on shore instead of swimming. Fewer sights are cuter than watching a 75-pound dog leaping after hopping bullfrogs. He never caught one, but kept everyone entertained watching him try.
“A good Labrador retriever is therapy for the owner or anyone close to the dog,” Guyer said. “They become close family if you give them a chance. Few dogs are more loyal or loving. They’re fun to watch, especially when a playful mood crosses their minds and they become big clowns.”
The pleasant morning ended and everyone took a drive around Loess Bluff’s Federal Wildlife Area, where they were starting to flood fields. The region’s excessive rain missed this crucial area, creating a drought. Pumping water from the Missouri River to these fields is necessary for partially covering millet and other food plants for migrating fowl before they fly farther south.
The one flooded field on the refuge held a couple thousand teal, pintail ducks and several Canada geese enjoying this place to rest and dine. Soon some of these birds will be joined by several million duck and geese that are now holding in the farthest northern states and Canada. Bluewing teal will travel south first with the slightest hint of cooler weather.
The writers ended their day at the Mound City Waterfowlers Hall of Fame for a tour of amazing past hunters and their vintage equipment, followed by lunch. Soon they departed for different areas across the state.
A TASTE OF OLD ST. JOE: The writers were part of the annual Missouri Outdoor Communicators meeting and were treated to St. Joseph, Missouri’s historic museums and sites along with plenty of great hospitality. Mary Supple and Marci Bennett of the St. Joseph Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and Sara Wilson, Executive Director of the St. Joseph Museum system went out of their way to make everyone welcome.
St. Joseph is filled with world-class museums. The Pony Express Stable is the original home of the Pony Express. The Patee House with Jesse James’s Home is a step back in time of Midwestern Life, all the way back to the 1800’s and before.
The Glore Psychiatric Museum, Doll Museum, Black Archives Museum, native American Artifacts and WWI exhibit are located in the same building, well worth your time. The Walter Cronkite Museum opened at his boyhood home and provides a vivid account of his amazing life.
The Wyeth-Tootle Mansion is a step back to wealthy St. Joe. My grandfather and grandmother once drove their horse and wagon by this grand structure, probably wondering what was inside, and now I am. The top floor has an exhibit of the 1993 Flood based on my book, “Missouri’s Great Flood of “93”–Revisiting an Epic Natural Disaster.” I have done several book signings there and believe there are friendly spirits in this magnificent mansion. I can’t explain why I felt their presence, I just did!
But one of the best times for me was having a bowl of crab chowder at St. Joe’s Cajun restaurant, Boudreaux’s Louisiana Seafood and Steaks, with my wife. The food, service and atmosphere were absolutely great.
If you would like to visit St. Joseph, Missouri and enjoy the history, call The St. Joseph, Missouri Convention and Visitor’s Bureau at 816-233-6688 or 800-785-0360. Tell them I sent you and you may get a free Cherry Mash candy bar.
Mailing Address: Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge, P.O. Box 158, Mound City, Missouri 64470, 660-442-3187 (voicemail). Their physical address for your GPS: Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge, 25542 U.S. 159, Forest City, MO 64451.
Contact the Waterfowler’s Hall of Fame for a tour: Joe Laukemper, 660-491-5439, and Danny Guyer to hunt with Iron Duck Hunting, 816-210-3969.
– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org