OUTFITTER REVIEW ON:
Part 1:THE HUNT
|Hunting The Mighty Mississippi|
With Flyway Fowling Guide Service
by dan wennerlind
As the spotlights cleared a path through the darkness, veteran waterfowl hunting guide Todd Lensing navigated his 20 foot boat blind down the mighty Mississippi river to one of his favorite island hot spots, just like he had done every morning since the opening weekend of the 2008 Wisconsin waterfowl hunting season. Today I would be hunting Pool 9 on the Mississippi river, just north of Ferryville, Wisconsin with outfitter Todd Lensing of Flway Fowling Guide Service and Steve Walker. We would also be joined by special guest Dave Carlson of the outdoor TV show Northland Adventures.
As we pulled up to one of Todd’s favorite river island spots, Steve Walker appeared out of the darkness to pull us ashore. Steve had already been out setting up the spread while Todd came back to pick us up at the launch. Talk about a well oiled machine, these guys had it down pat. In fact Todd stated that he started guiding on the river back in 2002 and went full time in 2005. Since he went full time he has only had 4 total days when they have been skunked. Unfortunately two of those days had come in the last two weeks. Todd went on to say that there were currently plenty of ducks using the river but he feels that
|after the birds have been on the river for more then 10 days, they are then considered resident birds as they know exactly where the refuge boundaries are. He went on to say that they had not seen many new ducks hit the river for a while now. Todd said that at this point in the season, it takes a good strong wind to get the birds up and moving. But being a late season hunt our anticipation grew as we knew that across the state all of the smaller waters had been freezing over throughout the week, which in turn should bring many new ducks to the big river any day now. |
As Todd and Steve put the finishing touches on the spread for the morning I had a chance to take a look around at our accommodations for the day. We would be hunting out of a custom built 20 foot boat blind rig which felt more like hunting out of a high end field pit blind then it did a boat blind. With padded bench seating and a line of built in propane heaters we were definably not going to be affected by the elements on this hunt. Todd even had a fully functional stove on board which was also hooked into the 20 gallon on board propane tank- a hot breakfast was not far away and I was already getting a little hungry. Todd said that I would have to wait until 8:00 am though which was when he serves his infamous hot breakfast. So I was forced to munch on a big batch of Donna’s (Todd’s wife) fresh chocolate chip cookies. What a way to start off the morning!
As the sun finally peaked it’s head out from over the horizon the view was absolutely spectacular. This particular stretch of the river was over 3 miles wide and was made up of many small islands, which made for a breathtaking view. We had a pair of bald eagles circle us right off the bat and several flocks of Trumpeter swans made their way up the river before we even got started. I was also now able to see what kind of spread we would be hunting over for the day. This is one of my personal favorite parts of the hunt- the decoy spread. I found that Todd spares no expense when it comes to his decoys and being a late season hunt Todd broke into his late season spread of 30 Full Curl mallard decoys as well as a half dozen oversized Avery golden eye decoys, which he sets off the end of the spread to add a little color.
Todd almost always uses a pair of Tundra swan decs as well for added confidence. He was also quick to note that since we were geared up for mallards and gadwalls today, this was his puddle duck set up. He went on to say that when he targets the diver ducks he would normally use about 150 – 180 diver decoys.
Now that we were all set up and ready for action all we needed were the ducks! As Todd had said, a big wind is almost mandatory this time of year to get the ducks moving and wouldn’t you know it, we had “light and variable” to start the day. But it didn’t matter, the guys in the blind made the hunt more entertaining then the ducks ever could. Getting a chance to meet outdoor TV host Dave Carlson for the first time was also a treat. Dave had more stories to tell then anyone I have ever met. Then just as we were starting to get too relaxed and were not paying attention a flock of about 50 mallards buzzed the tower. Todd gave them a little coaxing with his call but it was obvious these ducks had other ideas and down the river they went.
Before I knew it, it was breakfast time. Todd fired up the stove and proceeded to put on a real show. Three pounds of bacon, two packages of breakfast sausage, fourteen scrambled eggs and a big bag of hash browns later and I had a heaping plate of “BREAKFAST” in front of me. Boy did that hit the spot although I wasn’t really that cold. In fact I was actually forced to hunt out of a sweatshirt after breakfast as the temperature inside the blind had to be over 55 degrees even though it was well below freezing outside.
Now it was back to work, we had to put a few ducks on the water to make sure we did not add to Todd’s single digit number of skunked days. I definitely did not want to be apart of that record that’s for sure. As the morning rolled on the wind started to pick up around 11:00 and with that magically the ducks started to appear. We started seeing a couple flocks of golden eyes moving up and down the river as well as several smaller flocks of buffleheads.
Then without notice a pair of Canvasbacks swung right through the spread. Todd was quick to call off the shot due to the fact that the Canvasback season was closed this fall. In fact Todd said that he had to be extra careful this year to make sure that none of his clients were put in a position to break that law. Todd was very proud to announce that they had not killed one Canvasback by mistake this year to date. He also shared that it was too bad that they did close that season this fall as he feels the Canvasback numbers have actually gone up this year and that the spring breeding count was off due to the fact that the Cans were forced to move further north this spring to breed due to dry conditions in the traditional breeding grounds. Todd was fairly confident that the Canvasback season will reopen again in 2009. That is actually one of the big draws for Todd’s river duck hunts. In fact Todd gets hunters from across the country who are looking specifically for a trophy bull Can and he rarely disappoints.
As Todd wrapped up his sermon on the Canvasbacks we had a pair of gadwalls dropped right in and before we even knew what was happening Todd yelled “Take Em!” The boat flaps dropped and so did a gadwall- we eluded The Skunk! Todd’s chocolate lab Thyme made a fantastic retrieve, but after 49 straight days on the river that was old hat for him.
Not more then 10 minutes later and we had a six pack of golden eyes buzz the tower and another drake fell. Imagine
|that the wind picked up and we started shooting ducks, just like Todd said we would. Call it coincidence but spending every day on the river over the last six Wisconsin duck hunting seasons, I think Todd knows the river like the back of his hand by now. |
As the one o’clock bell rang Todd gave us the option of continuing on with an extended hunt or calling it a day. As I also found out, Todd’s day is a lot different then most. Todd is up and at them extremely early EVERY MORNING! Todd said he needs to be on the river earleier then most daily to assure that his clients get a good spot being the river is public hunting waters. Therefore Todd ends his hunts at 1:00 pm daily so that he can get back in, get geared up for the next day’s hunt and get to bed by 6:00 pm. However Todd does make exceptions to that rule if under circumstances like we had today, when the hunting does not pick up until the afternoon. Then Todd will usually give his hunters the option of extending the hunt into the afternoon. That being said both Dave and I could not in good conscience cut into Todd’s much needed sleep time. Especially this late into the season as we both realized how early the next morning was going to roll around. So we decided to call it a day.
To tell it truthfully I was completely satisfied with the hunt even though I was not going home with a bag limit of ducks. Everything Todd had done throughout the hunt was top notch. From the overall boat blind accommodations we had and the heaping breakfast we were served, to the unbelievable scenic view and the comradely. In my mind the hunt was an overwhelming success. It was no wonder that Todd’s entire 2009 season was already booked up a year in advance. Take that as a hint to all of you fellow duck hunters who would like to give this hunt a try. If you are interested in hunting with a true veteran of the river, be sure to contact Todd well in advance to assure your spot for the 2010 duck hunting season.
Part 2: THE REVIEW
|OUTFITTER KNOWLEDGE / PERSONALITY: ||Score||5 / 5 |
I felt from the moment that I arrived at Todd’s motel to the time we stepped off the boat when the hunt was over, that Todd did an exceptional job of putting together a World Class caliber duck hunt. Every detail of the hunt was taken care from start to finish.
|QUALITY OF |
|Score||5 / 5 |
Todd’s 20’ duck machine was a real treat to hunt out of. It had all the comforts of home except the big screen tv. Todd also takes great pride in his decoy spreads and has a specific spread for each type of targeted species. Bottom line, the equipment used is high quality!
|Score||3 / 5|
Although the action was a little slow this day, the fact that Todd has only been skunked 4 days in 4 seasons of hunting the river tells me that he know a little something about hunting ducks on the river. And if there are birds around Todd will be able to put his clients on them. Also when the canvasback season is open that is a main attraction for Todd’s customers and is almost a guarantee to have an opportunity to harvest a nice can.
|QUALITY OF MEALS |
|Score||4 / 5|
Since Todd and his wife own the Grandview Motel right in Ferryville it is very convenient to have a clean cozy room at the end of the day to crash in. The rooms are also very comfortable and dog friendly. Todd also has maps of the river available on site which makes for a well rounded trip.
HUNT PACKAGES AND
|Score||5 / 5|
Todd charges $200 per hunter for groups of four and for the effort and caliber put into each hunt that is more than reasonable. In fact Todd is usually booked out a year in advance due to the fact that most all of his customers rebook on the spot for the following season. That may tell you something about the customer satisfaction at Flyway Fowling Guide Service. The only additional fees during the hunt were tips for the guides which I felt was much deserved due to the effort put into the hunt.
|OVERALL QUALITY |
OF THE TRIP:
|Score||5 / 5 |
Overall I felt the hunt was very well put together. Todd definitely knows the river like the back of his hand and safety was a top priority throughout the hunt which was very comforting. In addition the boat blind was very comfortable to hunt and shoot out of no matter what the conditions were outside. With a hot breakfast on board and a well trained retriever to fetch the birds the experience was most memorable.
Overall Flyway Fowling Guide Service Scored 27 Out Of 30 Giving Them An "A" Rating. We Would Not Hesitate To Refer Them For Their Spectacular Mississippi River Duck Hunts!
|27 / 30|
Part 3: Booking Information
|Contact Information For Flyway Fowling Guide Service|
Outfitter: Captain Todd Lensing
Address: 14812 State Highway 35 Ferryville, WI 54628
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Website Address: flywayfowling.com
|Additional Services Offered:|
Todd and his wife Donna also run the Grandview Motel in Ferryville, WI. They both do an excellent job of making the motel a perfect home away from home. For those hunters who enjoy hunting on their own but still need a place to stay after a long days hunt, the Grandview motel is the perfect option overlooking the Mighty Mississippi and it is only 5 minutes from the boat launch!
|Copyright 2009 All Rights Reserve|