Friday, January 19, 2007

Putting On Wet Waders - Another 1.15.07 Waterfowl Hunt

After a successful swan hunt I drove to Columbia and headed south down Highway 94. I had permission to hunt a friend's impoundment in Hyde County and since I was meeting a guide near Englehard in the morning there was time to squeeze in an evening hunt near the fabled Mattamuskeet Wildlife Refuge. My waders were still damp from the morning's adventure when I stepped into the boots and pulled the straps over my shoulders. I grabbed a bag full of decoys (mallards and pintails) and my Benelli and headed toward the water.
With a diagram of the impoundment in my chest pocket, showing me where to set up, I walked toward a white, PVC pipe marking the flooded corn field's entry point. A large heron squawked, announcing my arrival, and lazily retreated to a more private location. My boots sunk six inches into the mucky bottom with each step and I could feel the coolness of the water through my waders. A constant breeze pushed low clouds across my peripheral and caused the fifteen decoys I'd thrown out to dance and dart, lifelike among the canes. I concealed myself in a blind, covered my smile with a camouflage facemask and enjoyed the "ducky" surroundings in which I found myself.
Swans flew across the impoundment and several groups of ducks made their way from somewhere to somewhere else, far too high to be part of the evening activities. A group of three birds came toward the blind, spotted the decoys, heard some soft chuckles from my call and decided the pond was a wonderful place for a visit. Without hesitation they locked up, dropped their landing gear and glided toward my blocks. Suddenly I remembered why I was holding a shotgun and raised it getting off two, quick shots. Two ducks flew away leaving one, a beautiful drake gadwall (my first), lying ten feet from my location. More swans flew over and more ducks but none had intentions of visiting the impoundment.
Thirty minutes before sunset I saw two blurs streak across the top of the water, landing in some weeds along the edge of the water. As I shifted around, trying for a better view, two ducks exploded into the air, apparently startled by my clumsy movement. I picked a target and fired a shot. One bird, a drake wood duck (one of my favorites), splashed into the water, thirty yards away. I walked out, picked him up and placed him on my seat next to the gaddy.
Minutes ticked off my watch and legal shooting time came to a close. I sat in the blind for several minutes, watching the sun dip behind the wooded horizon, thanking God for a memorable hunt.
As I picked up my decoys a pair of woodducks flew over the trees and landed in the impoundment. Noticing the camouflaged stranger moving through the water they jumped simultaneously and flew directly over my head. I grabbed the SuperNova, which was slung across my shoulders, pointed it toward the lead bird and just before pulling the trigger remembered it was past legal hunting time. Of course the ducks circled me again and again, each time closer than the time before, finally deciding they had another engagement elsewhere. I verbally chastised myself and quickly unloaded my gun. No duck was worth my integrity.
As I walked back to the truck several more shots range from adjoining property. Everyone has their price I reckon.

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