The Mallard…If a vote were to be taken among duck hunters as to which is the most popular wild duck in this country, I have no hesitation in saying the mallard would poll the most votes.
The mallard is truly a splendid bird and one reason why he is so much admired is that it takes more skill to circumvent the wily fellow than it does some others of the duck family.
When a flock of mallards are about to alight in a pond in the prairie or are coming into your decoys, they circle about countless times, inspecting the place from all sides to see if everything looks just right before dropping in.
The mallard associates more or less with nearly all of the different varieties of non-diving ducks, probably with the pintail the most.
In times gone by there has been a great deal of mallard shooting in little ponds in the corn-fields in the Spring, and at times the overflowed area along the great rivers has been quite extensive, and is a great resort of these birds, but now that we have prohibition of Spring shooting, there is an end to this so far as the duck hunter is concerned.
The mallard’s favorite habitat is little rush-surrounded ponds rather than stretches of open water. When these secluded ponds are frozen they then are driven to the larger expanses of adjoining lakes and rivers.
The best mallard shooting is generally to be had in the most severe weather, as the birds will not leave as long as there is an open water, and during snow storms and heavy wind, storms are the times when the best sport is to be had.
The mallard responds to the call probably more readily than most any of the wild ducks.
Splendid mallard shooting is sometimes had in the wet corn-fields, and in the stubbles, particularly in the cornfields. With live decoys and a shock of corn to hide in, a man can get the cream of the shooting at times.
East, West, North and South the tendency is to restrict the limit. I think this is all right up to a certain point. But fix a season limit, say seventy-five birds, and let a man kill his limit in a day if he can, and if he wants to.
Men who have followed the sport know how many days are drawn blank in the shooting, and if a day does come when the conditions are all right it is more or less of a joke to shoot ten birds a day. Make the limit even fifty birds, but don’t put the lid on at ten birds a day. A man might get that many ducks at one shot, teal particularly.
Anyway, what is that long, trailing ribbon over the trees, dipping, winding and curling about the river bottom! Mallards, by all that’s lucky! The northern flight is on. Get out the 12-gauge, sort over the shells, break it gently to the Missus and receive her (call it benediction) and set the alarm clock for 3: 30 A. M.
The old instincts are alive again, the old blood is jumping, the duck-shooters primal savage characteristics are beginning to assert themselves. Yes, there’s nothing like it, and I have “followed the gun” for forty-three years, come next Micklemas, or any other Mas that happens to be roosting about the premises.