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Plenty of ducks, but none for the taking

The night before Thanksgiving was predictably cold. The ponds that morning were mostly skimmed over with ice. Nevertheless, Robb and I continued with our plan to go duck hunting. Some ponds were more iced over than others.

On a dirt road in Canterbury, we had a pileated woodpecker go through his rat-ta-tat routine right next to my truck. The colorations of this woodpecker were brilliant. All told, we saw about 145 ducks. Most of the ducks were mallards. There was a percentage of black ducks that was encouraging given the depleted numbers of black ducks in the past. As the morning wore on, it warmed up and a lot of the ice skimmed surface was gone. We decided to return to our pond of first choice that morning and it had completely opened up. Much to our surprise, a flock of about 75 Canada geese had landed. Right next to the launch was a pair of black ducks. We opted to attempt to circle around the flock and come in with the sun at our backs. It almost worked, but they took to flight when we needed to be five yards closer; score one for the geese.

It should be noted that mid-November is the time when mallards and pintails are engaged in selecting a mate. When that processes is completed, the mated pair will be ready for the spring breeding season.

We were greeted at the launching site by a friendly conservation officer who was checking licenses. Apparently, there was only one hunter hunting off the Merrimack. We had an opportunity for chat given this was the end of the line for hunting that day. Waterfowl hunting has been on the light side. Deer hunting pressure in greater Concord has been unseasonably light.

Given the improvements to deer numbers, I am at a loss to explain the decline in hunting pressure.

This past Sunday, Robb and his longtime friend Ben worked two areas that have been productive in the past. The wind was shifting direction, so I figured at the very least the deer would be bedded down and having Robb and Ben drive parcels into me might be a productive approach.

The first drive yielded nothing but turkey sign. The second drive discovered two large scrapes that had been recently tended, but no deer. It was a great afternoon to be in the woods, but no deer in sight yet.

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My nephew is quite the deer hunter and comes from a family of great deer hunters. His uncle has a deer on the top 10 list for all-time big bucks. This year, Joel had been hunting on a remote parcel that had three game trails merging into one. No one else was hunting in this area.

Friends of his were hunting a half mile away and had given up for the day. Joel figured that the noise of the departing hunters would spook the deer and decided to call it a day as well.

After conversing with his friends, Joel decided to depart the area, and while going he noticed a doe coming down the trail. He stopped and then spotted a buck trailing the doe. The buck stopped and with one shot from his 7-08, he dropped the buck at 70 yards in its tracks. This was either a six- or nine-point buck, depending upon how you count points. The buck hit the scales at a whopping 193 pounds. Not up to the 267-pound buck registered by his uncle, but an impressive buck to be sure.

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On Nov. 21, Fish and Game purchased a private marina known as Downing’s Landing at the southern tip of Alton Bay. That means after many hears, Fish and Game has finally acquired a boat access facility on Lake Winnipesaukee, the state’s largest lake.

“This is exciting news for New Hampshire’s outdoor enthusiasts, because (it’s) the first state-owned and controlled public boat ramp with parking on Lake Winnipesaukee,” Executive Director Glenn Normandeau said. “For years, we’ve wanted to provide the public with a boat access site on the big lake, and I am thrilled that we’ve been able to do it.”

The Downing Landing facility includes an existing boat launch with paved parking for vehicles with trailers, as well as a handful of car top parking spaces. The site includes two buildings and several docks that will allow for excellent shore bank fishing opportunities, particularly during the spring salmon season.

The facility will be open to the public for launching boats and shore bank fishing with no fee.

New Hampshire’s Public Boat Access Program is funded through boat registration fees and federal Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration funds.

In the near term, parking configurations will be evaluated and maximized for the 2013 boating season. Future renovations will be planned as Fish and Game moves forward. Improvements may include dock repairs and installation of a newer concrete boat ramp. Fish and Game officials hope to have the site open this winter in time for the ice fishing season.

This is great news for the fishing community.

(Bob Washburn can be reached at

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