Photo by Mike Lynch
Wilmington duck hunter Bill Stahl drags his kayak through a swamp off of Lake Champlain.
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It was a late November day when I joined Bill Stahl of Wilmington for an early-morning duck hunting trip in the Lake Champlain region.

The temperatures were hovering just above freezing when we met up at about 5:30 a.m. in a parking area off the Northway, just a short drive from where we were going hunting. By mid-morning it rose to the high 30s, low 40s.

The plan was to take two kayaks down a small stream that runs into Lake Champlain, then pull over in a swampy area to wait for waterfowl to fly in after sunrise. Stahl, an avid duck hunter and flyfisherman, had scouted this area a few days before we decided to set up there and had seen plenty of birds.

Getting to the hunting area went as planned. We arrived in the dark and set up behind a couple of maple trees. Ahead of us was a patch of open water for the ducks to fly into and land. About a half-dozen decoys were set up on the calm water.

And as expected a few minutes after the sun came up, a flock of ducks did head in our direction, scouting out this little area for a landing spot. But before getting too close, the birds made a quick turn and decided to head somewhere else.

For the next couple hours it was quiet, which was surprising to Stahl, who said he had pretty good success throughout this waterfowl season despite many people reporting that it was slow. He\'d also seen ducks in this area early in the week.

He speculated that another hunter must have come into the area the previous day and spooked the birds. As we were leaving we did find some red shotgun shell casings, so it appeared that was the case.

Before leaving that day, though, we did take two birds: both mallards. They were two of the few ducks to come anywhere near us that morning.

\'Weird\' fowl migration

For the most part, this waterfowl hunting season was off a bit from previous years because of warmer than normal weather in the North Country in the last few months. This led to fewer birds migrating from Canada to the Adirondack region during hunting season.