Why this duck hunter is obsessed with blackjacks

Blackjacks or bust

From remote N.W.T. to northern Ontario to Manitoba’s Whiteshell region, one waterfowler’s quest for elusive ring-necked ducks

On to Ontario

After that first real taste of hunting ringnecks, I began to look for them each year, most often in my home province of Alberta. I’d shoot a few, generally mixed in with scaup or even dabblers, especially wigeon, on my favourite diver marshes. I was never able to find a real ringneck honey hole, however, where they were the predominant species. While my interest in these ducks remained high, my efforts to find them dwindled over the years, fuelled by a lack of success. Then I headed east.

A cast-and-blast adventure on Ontario’s Lake of the Woods in 2005, again with Dave, rekindled the romance. While exploring the massive lake searching for black crappies and walleye, we spied a hidden bay thick with wild rice. There, above the surface, swirls of black-and-white ducks clouded the air. A quick check with binoculars confirmed what we thought we were seeing—blackjacks!

Find wild rice and you have a potential ring-neck hotspot

That afternoon and evening remains one of the most memorable waterfowl hunts I’ve ever experienced. Leaning against a towering white pine on a ledge overlooking the little bay, I sat mesmerized as a seemingly unending stream of ringnecks poured in. I suppose I should tell you Dave and I limited out in minutes, but the truth is we didn’t. We shot a few, certainly, but for the most part, we just sat under our tree enjoying the spectacle while our guide, hidden in the shoreline cover 20 metres away, looked on dumbfounded every time another flight arrived and settled in unmolested. The experience only served to rekindle my affection for these hard-to-find ducks.

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