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Dock Talk: Hunters and fall fishers must co-exist

Tom Hagen holds up a hefty 47" late season muskie. During this time of year, waterfowl hunters and anglers often encounter one another on lakes, ponds and rivers. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

Throughout the past month, docks and boatlifts began hibernating on the shorelines, awaiting a blanket of snow to tuck them in until next spring.

While many people devote time toward winterizing their recreational equipment or spending free moments in the woods and along the waterways hunting, a few straggling anglers continue to fish until ice encases the lakes.

But sometimes, hunters and anglers compete for the same "hot-spots."

No, you won't see a boat casting bobbers and worms in the middle of a corn field or in the tree next to your deer stand. However, when it comes to hunting waterfowl and competition for water, territories are sometimes loosely defined.

I'll never forget, as a teenager, wandering into a secluded cove with the trolling motor while fishing for largemouth bass in late September and seeing mallard ducks spread-out across the lake surface.

"Look at all the ducks," I whispered to my fishing partner. No sooner had the words left my lips than a shotgun blast cut through the cool fall air. As BBs rained into our boat from high in the sky, we both realized there were no "real" ducks in the bay, only plastic decoys for the camouflaged hunter crouched in the vegetation.

Of course simply saying, "Hey, I'm hunting in here," would've served the same purpose and saved us each from a near heart-attack.

On another fall fishing adventure, our behavior, not our boat, got in the way of a duck hunter.

The same friend and I, along with his younger brother, were fishing a small local lake, again for bass, when a hunter tucked back inside of a long bay fired a warning shot. We were near the mouth of that bay, a good 200 yards or so from the decoys, dog and hunter.

I'm glad we heard the shot so we could avoid the previous season's startling incident.

However, my fishing partner had another idea. He started quacking and in his best Donald duck voice cried, "You got me!"

All three anglers in our boat had a brief chuckle, thinking we were far from earshot of the hunter.

When a flock of ducks whizzed through the bay, the hunter shot again, missing the birds. Again, my friend started quacking and voiced his faux-feathered discomfort. But it wasn't long before the hunter rifled a massive round of swear words back from behind his blind, obviously directed at us.

We all shrugged off the behavior, but soon an outboard started and a boat headed straight for us.

Well, the hunter wasn't pleased with our behavior, to say the least, and gave us a harsh reprimand. For three teen boys, we were pretty quiet.

So as the fishing and hunting seasons collide, keep these two stories in mind. Be extra aware of decoys sitting on the water and don't automatically assume they're live ducks.

And if you do hear someone shooting at ducks in a specific area, quickly put duct tape around your fishing partner's mouth!