Up the Creek: The “Chosen” Quarters
Up the Creek
Ken M. Blomberg
Wisconsin’s Gordon MacQuarrie, the undisputed outdoor writer laureate of national fame, called them “chosen quarters”. Places in the great outdoors all close-to-earth hunting and fishing folks know as their chosen quarter. Places in the outdoors we hold close to heart. Places where long lasting memories were made. Places shared with close friends and relatives. Places you can pull from memory by simply closing your eyes and dreaming.
Locations as romantic as a mountain range out west. As glorious as a wind-blown duck blind on the Atlantic Ocean coastline. Perhaps the golden ocean of prairie grasses and potholes that cover the North Dakota landscape. Or, a favorite northwoods lake where muskellunge prowl the edges of weed-choked drop offs.
Maybe, just maybe, yours is closer to home. Like a local trout stream, where you’ve never caught anything longer than 10 inches. A nearby pothole of a lake, swarming with panfish that make children squeal with excitement. Or an upland grouse and woodcock cover close to home that most hunters pass by on their way to northward horizons.
This time around the sun found the boss and I heading south on last weekend’s opening day of the duck hunting season. A whelping box bursting with 8-week old field bred English cocker spaniel puppies needed attention and distribution to their new homes. The first to a rendezvous on the Illinois/Kentucky border on its way to Alabama. On opening day. For as many years as I can recall, opening day has been reserved for my “chosen quarters” on the backwaters of the Wisconsin River close to home. But this year priorities shifted, as the welfare of my litter of puppies took precedence.
So Sunday, a day late, found this old duck hunter and my faithful sidekick spaniel Buster, nestled in our opening weekend chosen quarter slough – sitting at the end of an ancient beaver dam. Road weary from a 9-hour drive the day before, we managed an evening hunt at a spot our family has staked claim to for the past 39 years. Both of our sons cut their duck hunting teeth there. Wood ducks, blue wing teal and mallards passed by our makeshift blinds by the beaver dam over the years. The boys, now grown and raising families away from home, sat by my side in spirit on Sunday.
“Any action?” texted my son from Maine.
“Just missed a shot,” I replied. “At 3 pintails! I swear.”
“That’s a painful miss!” he exclaimed.
You see, the backwaters of the river are well-known for wood ducks, teal and mallards. But in nearly 40 years, we’ve never encountered pintail ducks. More attuned towards open waters and prairie potholes, they were a rare sight indeed along the river bottoms. Swooping into my lap like a trio of Lear jets, I was taken off guard and rattled by the sight of the three long tailed male ducks. Yes, they were that close! Excuses for missing aside, the picture of those magnificent birds will reside in my mind forever.
MacQuarrie loved duck hunting the most. He loved his chosen quarters and shared that passion with his readers. He knew how to reach into minds of hunters and make them ponder beyond the obvious. I hope your hunting, fishing, or just plain outdoor “chosen quarters” mean as much to you, as mine do to me.
Blomberg is the author of two books, UP THE CREEK, and WISCONSIN BIRD HUNTING TALES. Both are available at either amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com or arcadiapublishing.com. Autographed copies are available from the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.