We had a 2 mile hike to our spot so after piling everything into a couple sleds my two compatriots had been smart enough to bring we took off.
The air was crisp, the temperature was around 35, and the sky was clear as a bell. With no street lights, houses or any other form of manmade illumination nearby it was still bright enough that we didn't need our headlamps to follow the trail. I have only seen stars this bright one other time in my life. A group of buddies was surf fishing on Hatteras at the Point a couple Novembers ago but that's a different story for a different time.
It took us over a hour to get to our spot. Not wanting to get sweaty (or to pass out from exhaustion) we paced ourselves and stopped every so often. About half way through we came to ankle high water and as we got closer and closer the water got deeper and deeper slowing progress and making calf muscles burn.
We unloaded the sleds, threw out decoys, hung our bags from nearby branches and devoured biscuits that Mark M had stuffed with country ham. Then we waited. In the beautiful, predawn silence of a Carolina morning we waited.
It didn't take long for the world to begin waking up. Off in the swamp an owl began hooting. Song birds began chirping and flitting from tree to tree. A pair of mourning doves began cooing and a wood duck squealed as it flew over our heads. Eighty yards away a half dozen ducks splashed down into the water and as the sky began to lighten flocks of ducks could be seen circling our locale. The second hand on a watch never moved so slow as it did this morning. It felt like legal shooting time was never gonna arrive.
At 7:00 I slipped my ear plugs in and looked over to check out my buddies who were stationed thirty feet or so to my right. They were whispering and watching the sky intently. At 7:02 I heard a safety click off and watched Mark W swing on a bird and then apparently decide not to take the shot. My own safety clicked off as a trio of ringnecks flew into range. I picked out the first one and fired but he continued unaffected. I fired again and he buckled, regained his composure and circled to my left. A few seconds later he coasted into the water to my left and expired.
There were ducks everywhere. They were circling in us groups of two to ten. I have never seen so many birds. Unfortunately the spot they were interested in landing was eighty yards in front of us. A split decision was made to wader sixty yards forward into a cluster of trees closer to the X and risk spooking the ducks. It was a great decision. Shrouded in the branches and limbs of small scrub oaks we were able to shoot at many ducks and actually hit eleven. My shooting was horrific to begin with but I stuck with it and was able to scratch out a couple drake ringnecks and a beautiful hooded merganser drake.
We hunted until around 11, picked up decoys, reloaded the sleds and trudged our way back to the truck. It was a tiring but rewarding day. We stopped at a little restaurant on the way home and ate a great breakfast. I feel asleep on the way home....dreaming of ducks.