A long, rewarding trip to Devil’s Lake


Before leaving for North Dakota to hunt ducks on expansive Devil’s Lake, one of the nation’s premier waterfowl spots, I had wished for low gas prices, good weather, and a few other uncontrollable verbs.

What I always dread are statements too often heard such as “you should have been here last week” and “the birds aren’t here yet.”

Making the best

I’ve heard that stuff so many times that I’ve learned to simply ignore it and make the trip a success regardless of my timing. It’s a philosophy that works well and takes the word disappointed out of the conversation.

Why Devil’s Lake? Why not? The drive is a long one, more than 1,200 miles each way. We broke the drive into a two-day affair that allowed us to arrive mid-day so that we could spend several hours scouting and familiarizing ourselves with roads, launch ramps, and conveniences.

After checking into our motel, we glassed several areas for birds and decided on a couple spots to try first thing in the morning.

But after driving from Ohio morning seemed like a distant time table so we decided to speed things up. We had obtained our licenses online, which allowed us to begin hunting right away and we did just that just hours after arriving.

Depressing words

Understand that the first few hunters we queried at the motel cooled our jets with the dreaded, “never seen it so bad” and, “last week was great but the birds are gone.”

We accepted those downers as a challenge and headed to the nearest launch ramp and in the coming days found the shooting to be good, if not some of the best we’ve ever experienced.

Most of the hunting attention at and near Devil’s Lake is directed to mallards, the most coveted duck when it comes to table fare.

Worth the trip?

We directed our attention to diving ducks, which put us on a huge lake with little competition. Would we go back? You betcha, and we will.

Devil’s Lake is a dynamic piece of water bordering the town of, what else, Devil’s Lake. The lake itself is like a hungry monster as rainfall fills the lake and pushes it across the nearby farmland.

The lake gobbles buildings and grain fields by nibbles and mouthfuls. So quickly at times that ramshackle buildings, other manmade structures, and trees protrude from the lake’s surface here and there awaiting the next storm that might topple them or at least tip them into some sort of trash art.

Interestingly, the town of Devil’s Lake has pushed the lake back and somewhat controlled its appetite for buildings and roads by constructing a series of tall earthen dikes as a barrier. In addition, neighboring highways have been moved and raised to sit atop a long series of causeways which grows as the water continues to rise.

Devil’s Lake is known throughout the Midwest as a waterfowl mecca but is even better known for its outstanding fishing. Its main product is tourism in the form of anglers and hunters.

We travel on the cheap, avoiding fancy motels and costly guides. Fortunately, we never paid more than $3.29 for gas and totaled nearly 3,000 miles with travel and daily outings.

We trailered a boat and hauled our own decoys and other gear. We stayed in the Davis Motel, a Mom and Pop, one story 1960s kind of place and it was perfect for our needs.

Our room featured a mini-kitchen and a spot by our front door for the boat and truck. A walk of perhaps ten feet between gear and room was much appreciated.

According to the manager, the place caters to outdoorsmen and always has. Where else would you find a fish and game cleaning table and a freezer dedicated to wild meat.

While we cooked our own morning eggs and packed snacks for the day, we frequented the nearby Cedar Inn in the evening, a family-style restaurant that serves excellent, affordable meals.

Although we aren’t gamblers, except for the timing of a trip, there is a sparkling casino on the lake for those who do.

Trip tips

Avoid Chicago if at all possible, especially if you are trailering. The countless tolls and time wasted to stop every two or three miles to pay a questionable toll is not worth the few miles saved.

Fill trailer tires to the max psi shown on the sidewall. They will run cooler and last longer.



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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.



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