Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Aquatic Trudgery - 1.06.07 Permit Waterfowl Hunt

My buddy, Mark M, and I had scouted out the location a week or so ago, not wanting to go in "blind". Walking into an unknown impoundment at dark-thirty, unsure where you're going and worried about messing up other hunters' plans is not my idea of fun. We'd picked out three, different spots and marked them on a gps. In our two-hour scouting trip we'd spotted a couple dozen ducks giving us high hopes for the hunt.
Since this was a first-come-first-served situation our goal was to arrive at the impoundment by 4am. When we pulled in there were no other cars in the lot and the relief was palpable. Option #1 was ours! As we pulled on waders and got our gear together, we shared the normal, prehunt banter; previous experiences, expectations for the day and, of course, the weather (we were experiencing some abnormally high temperatures for January).
After fifteen minutes of putting off the inevitable and one last check to make sure each had our permits we were off. For about 100 yards it seemed like a good idea to be wearing waders while carrying 50 pounds of stuff. From that point on my mind was contemplating things to leave by the road that could be picked up on the way back out (Did I really need that bottle of water, the folding chair, that shotgun?).
Eventually we reached our destination, put out the few decoys we'd lugged in, stashed all our gear and sat down to a breakfast of peanuts, oatmeal cookies and bottle water.
Twenty minutes or so before legal-shooting-time we assumed our strategic posts. Mark was stationed in a clump of several, small oaks, I was twenty feet to his left, against a large, pine tree. As the sky lightened we began to hear and see quite a bit of avian activity. Five minutes before shooting time a hooded merganser swam into the decoys. A minute or two later another duck of unknown species landed in the blocks. Of course they both disappeared before we could shoot.
I was watching a flock of ducks swing across the horizon but was startled by the report of Mark's Benelli followed by a splash, the first bird of the morning, a woodduck was laying in the water. Then it was my turn, two woodies were making a beeline over the decoys. I swung, lead the lead bird and pulled the trigger. Nada! Before I could make a second shot both birds escaped through the branches above me.
As I was picking up my spent shell and reloading Mark busted another duck, this one a bufflehead. For about twenty minutes there were ducks everywhere but none inside our range. In fact, I lost count of how many landed fifty yards outside the decoys. Man, it was a beautiful, Carolina morning. I found myself wondering how any person could witness the wonder of a color infused sunrise such as this and not believe wholeheartedly in the Creator. Mark interrupted my musing, unloading on a group of bluebills, taking one with his second shot.
I was begining to feel a little left out. My hunting buddy had three in the bag and I had zilch.
A pair of bufflehead streaking across the impoundment was about the change that. I didn't feel the first shot but saw the lead duck drop. Shells two and three were expended on the second bird and it miraculously hesitated, buckled and dropped, coasting to the ground a hundred yards away.
Although we saw more waterfowl no other shots were offered and the rest of the morning was spent making fun of missed shots and enjoying our surroundings. Around eleven o'clock we packed everything up began our journey out. For some reason the walk out seemed much quicker than the walk in. But the temperature had risen considerably making the sight of my truck awaiting our return a sight for sore eyes. With dry clothes on and gear stowed away we left the gamelands with several ducks, a new appreciation for the outdoors and shared memories to last a lifetime.

1. It was discouraging to see the how much trash including fast food wrappers, a breasted out goose carcass, condoms and beer bottles, littering the gameland parking lot, especially with a couple empty trash cans standing nearby.
2. If you're going to walk 3 miles make sure you're only packing necessities.
3. The enjoyment of hunts like this is compounded expodentially when shared with a good friend.
4. Put items you don't want to get wet (e.g. your wife's digital cameras) into ziploc bags. Make sure said ziploc bags are sealed completely after taking pictures of your hunt. If your wife's digital camera gets wet, try removing the batteries and memory card, blowing it out a hair drier, and allowing it to sit for a day or so before attempting to use it.

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