oldfatslow

Tu tene eum procul; Ego curram ob auxilium!

Sunday, January 06, 2019

You've Got to Really Hate Ducks to Do This

Ugh, rough day yesterday.  Went out
to the area we limited in last week.  The
report was that the ducks weren't flying
like they had been and it proved true.
 I thought the December lull was over
and January might be the turn around -
it sure wasn't yesterday.

We headed out from the ramp at 0400
and paddled with a pretty good west
wind at our backs for a long ways
until we found a floating mud island
of beach daisies  and sticks.  Putting
the decoys out was exhausting because
the wind was pushing us out into the
impoundment so strongly.  But we
did get them all out and got ourselves
hidden in the island.

I faced due east and my buddy due
south.  We could see them coming
from all directions, but they were
mostly several hundred yards south
of us in big, open water.  A few
came in early, I dropped one that
landed four feet behind me.  Anchoring
it at that distance didn't leave much
duck.  My buddy had to water whack
his in the decoys after waiting five
minutes for it to jump up and fly.

While a few other chances presented
themselves, and I missed spectacularly,
most birds stayed outside the dekes.
We set 0900 as our give up time and
sure enough one flnal ringer came through
the decoys.  I hit it and it landed crippled
to my north.

I headed out to retrieve it hurriedly,  so
hurriedly in fact that I didn't think to
pull in the camo netting I had over the
bow and trailing in the water.  The
wind was really starting to blow by
then too.

I paddled out to the duck and took
three more shots to put its head
down.  Those hulls in the water proved
to be both disastrous and beneficial
for what happened next.  I got the bird
and then went to pick up the hulls..
I was broadside to the wind and
sliding up next to a hull.  I barely
reached over to grab the hull when
I giant force tipped the kayak over
and all my gear and I went into the
water. I think the trailing edge of the
camo netting grabbed the hydrilla and
pulled the kayak under.

Thankfully, the water wasn't as deep
as it had been last year, but it was still
chest deep.  I grabbed the netting,
my blind bag, a few things that could
float and tossed those back in the boat.
My gun, new GPS, and a box of shells
were gone.

I hollered for my buddy to come help
because I thought I could still find the
gun.  He paddled his layout boat over
and tried to hold my kayak and his in
place.  He started to drift off unable
to paddle and hold on to my boat.
Eventually, he secured a rope to
my boat's bow.  I had started to wade
after him, and had lost the place
where the gun sank.  Again,
thankfully, I had marked the spot
by two of my hulls stuck in the
hydrilla.

I waded back and forth for what
seemed like 20 minutes before I had
my Excalibur moment and kicked
the gun up with my feet.

I gave the gun and blind bag to
my buddy to hold in his boat
while I tried to get back in mine.
I had watched a video many months
back on how to get back in a kayak
from deep water.  It worked perfently
until I tried to swing my legs in.  The
waders were full of gallons of water
and I couldn't lift my legs from the
weight.  How I finally did, I don't
know.

We paddled back to the blind and
picked up our decoy sleds.  I got
my remaining gear back and headed
out to pick up dekes.  I didn't pay
too much attention and just tossed
my Texas rigged decoys in the sled.
(that was a mistake).

We had to paddle home into the
teeth of the wind.  I thought it was
just the additional weight of the
water in my waders and the strength
of the wind, but the Fowl Trouble
was paddling like it was named
the Fowl Scow.  My buddy was
back to the ramp 30 minutes
before I was.

When I got there, I had to get
out of the kayak and slosh up on
the levee to dump the water out
of my waders.  My buddy said
he wished he had a camera for
that moment.

He pulled my decoy sled up on
the bank.  Some of the decoy
weights had trailed in the water
and grabbed about thirty pounds
of hydrilla.  That was what was
making the paddling extra hard.

My first duck hunt started with my
flipping a canoe twenty years ago.
But it worked out when I got back
to the ramp and ran into that same
buddy coming in from his own
duck hunt.  He eventually hired
me back at my present company.

A couple of years ago, I got
ejected from my duck boat on
a solo hunt, but had no damage
to me, boat, or hunt.  My buddy
says I've never met a boat I
couldn't fall out of.

I completely stripped, cleaned,
and super oiled by gun.  My
IPhone is another matter.  It's
in a bowl of rice now, but I don't
expect it to live.  The waterproof
case and the zip lock bag it was
in kept out a lot of water, but not
enough.

I am very glad to be alive today.
Things could have been very
different.

"You've got to really hate ducks
to do this." says Joe Richter.


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Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Against the Wind

Worked hard for this limit (first of the season)
last week. Six minutes before legal light, the
marsh opened up with shots ringing out. My
buddy and I couldn’t see what they were shooting
at. At 8:30 AM we only had two ducks down
and were watching distant dots as ducks flew
nowhere near us. But patience paid off. As
the sun got higher and the wind picked up,
more and more ringers flew past our spread
and some decoyed. The wind stiffened so
that they were almost standing still in the
breeze. I’m still learning how to hunt from 
the kayak, and went through a lot of shells. 
I dropped my sixth duck with my last shot 
and had to borrow a couple of shells to 
anchor it. 



















Picking up the decoys and paddling back in
the wind were tricky. The odd thing was that
some people were still shooting at 10:30 and
we beat most boats back to the ramp. Seems
like a lot of guys might have been sky
busting their day.


One really bright spot was the device Number
1 kid and I made to float my Mojo teal. It
worked perfectly and handled the wind like
a champ.

















We had a duck feast for Number 1 kid and
his family and Number 7 kid home on leave. 
Number 6 kid added his culinary talents. 
We had a whole wood duck, whole mottle,
and three whole bwts.  Tossed in a few snipe
and also had ringer breasts.   We marinated
all of it in Italian dressing.  The ringer breasts
were split open and stuffed with cream cheese
and pepperocini slice before being wrapped
in bacon.  All of it was then grilled over a
charcoal fire. 



















Served medium rare, it was great.

os

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Sunday, December 23, 2018

Mid-Season Update

So far, the season has been a mixture.  I've hunted
by myself and with some buddies.  I've done better
hunting with others, but none of it has been stellar.

We had a wet summer right up until July 1th. After
that, we've been in a low level drought.  The local
WMA has been a bust and the surrounding public
lands have been just as slow.

I did scout one place that looked good before
the season.  Topped off hydrilla (duck candy)
for miles.  But the ducks have cleared off.



The one really good hunt I had started off
strange.  I was heading down a dirt stretch
on the way to ramp to meet my buddy and
his airboat.  I saw something running in
the road, swung around it, and saw it
was a Babe-sized pig. Unfortunately,
the little pig decided to commit suicide
and dove under my rear tires.  No damage
to the truck, but the pig wasn't in good
shape. Ended up dinner for the vultures.






My buddy, Mike T. and I had a pretty good day.
I got my first wood duck in years.  I thought
about mounting it, but it wasn't quite fully
plumed.


I went to scout one kayak friendly spot, but
the wind was too strong.  I got practice stowing
the kayak and gear in the truck





I also got to use the homemade kayak trolley.  Wow
does that make it easy to haul the kayak to the 
water.


But while I was there, I got to meet the FlukeMaster 
hisself.  My Navy boy watches his YouTube channel
 religiously.


Nice guy for a Georgia fan.

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Monday, September 24, 2018

Early Teal 2018

First time hunting out of the Fowl Trouble.

I had scouted a bit the week before.  The habitat looked
good, but I only saw two birds that might have been
ducks.  Senior, wishful eyes can sometimes be
deceived.  The river dropped several inches over
the week and I was glad this week was Early Teal.
A few weeks from now and it'll be only good for
snipe.

I got up Saturday morning and got out to the
ramp in good time.  There was another boat
launching.  I talked to one guy and he said
they had seen some groups when they scouted.
I hadn't been sure if Hurricane Florence hadn't
messed up the migration.

The first time I had paddled out to my spot in
the dark and I got lost in an area that shouldn't
have been that challenging.  It took a while of
paddling around trying to find landmarks and
trying to move fast enough to register on the
GPS until I figured out where I was and
got near my spot.  I had to get out of the
kayak and pull it through the smart weed to
find a hole with enough open water.  I
finally did, got the decoys out, the boat positioned,
and waited the 15 seconds until shooting time.

The time came and went, but there were no
ducks.  I could hear sporadic shooting in
the distance, but not much.  As the light
got brighter, I saw a slightly bigger and
better hole a little farther out.  So, I moved
the decoys to it and the kayak up some.
I was set up 15 yards from the decoys
because I need to see the ducks and I
hate long retrieves.



















The ugly blind that I built from pvc
conduit pipe and old camo netting
stood tall and odd shaped behind me,
but the sun was to my back and I was
at least in deep shadow.
























An airboat went behind me some
distance.  It must have flushed a flock
of ducks.  They came from my right shoulder
and looked huge.  I thought it was the
biggest group of mottled ducks (illegal
to shoot for early teal).  They wheeled
around and came right back to the
spinning wing duck.  I had a quick debate
and decided they were teal.  I missed
with the first shot, but doubled with
the next two.

I then spent twenty minutes trudging through
the smartweed looking for the birds.  I
was certain they had both dropped hard and
weren't swimming off crippled. I located
one took it back to the boat, Texted a
quick photo of it to my son who was out
hunting in North Dakota to let him know
I was first on the board with a teal.

I sat for a long time without another bird
and decided to look again for my lost
duck.  I retrudged the smartweed and
happened to look up to see two teal
flying right over my head away from me.
(That's a way too common occurrence for
duck hunters.) But, I found my lost bird
and went back to the boat happy.

I saw another group several hundred
yards to my right get flushed and fly
around, but not near me.  Some time
later, another group of 8 or so came
from the left straight into the decoys.

I had too much time to think and didn't
hit but one duck.  I marked it much better
and went right to it.  The bird helped by
being belly up.
























By then, the tour airboats were running
and had scared everything else away.  I
waited for the Ten O'clock Duck (tm),
but no luck.  I packed up and started the
paddle back to the ramp.

I chose a different path back and headed
straight for the main channel of the St.
Johns River. At the edge, I had to get out
of the boat and pull it across a sandbar:
one step too far unfortunately.  I stepped
of the edge and topped off my hip waders.

I was a little soggy on the paddle back, but
a very happy hunter.

North Dakota boy really had a good day.  He
got two wood ducks and a green wing to
tie for most while beating me on biggest and
only.  He went out the next day and got a
hen mallard and three spoonies.  

ofs

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Fowl Trouble

Taking the new, slow ride out for a
spin.



The new boat is the Fowl Trouble.
SheWhoMustBeObeyed put the
kibosh on Fowl Mood or Fowl
Temper

I got 3.5 miles up the St. Johns
River, before paddling into the
wind and current got too much.
I also spent a lot of time dodging
tons of air boats and air barges.
The boat handled all the wakes
admirably. 

ofs

Friday, February 16, 2018

Pictures at an Exhibition

This year started crappy.  The breakdown and
ultimate sale of the Dawn Treader put me in a
funk. To top that off, the ducks didn't show.
The local WMA that has for years been a
pretty good source of birds and hunting
suffered another terrible year.  My airboat
buddy's go to spot dried up completely. 
Even the United Waterfowlers' forum
didn't have a lot of new content.  Things
were bad.

Then my buddy said he had found an
area that could only be accessed by
canoe/kayak/layout boat.  Since he
had two layout boats, we were set.

The first hunt at this spot involved
five us us: one in a kayak and four
in layout boats.  The fog was
extremely thick and there were no
landmarks to see.  We paddled what
seemed like very long distances trying
to locate our destinations with handheld
GPSes.  When finally we got our spot,
Mike (my buddy) and I settled on one
muddy, floating island to ram our boats
up in.  We put out decoys and waited
for dawn.  As hard a spot as it was to
find, we had to shine off two other
hunting parties.

I had the hot corner and Mike was
getting shut out.  While I finished
my limit (but only retrieved five),
Mike paddled back to join the other
three guys and quickly finished off
his six.  I thought my arms would
fall off on the way back.

The problem with floating islands is
that they float.  A strong front came
through on one hunt (that I wasn't on)
and rearranged the islands.  The storm
was so strong that some of the guys on
the hunt lost decoys when an island
moved over top of their spread.

Mike and I went out three more times
and limited each time.

Once, after the storm had shifted the
waterscape, we tried to find an island
that wasn't there any longer.  Instead
we found a sofa size clump of tall
hyacinth-like plants in the middle of
a large, open area.  It was Keystone
Kops trying to manage the floating
clump (that kept trying to break up),
the wind that kept moving our boats,
and the shotgun recoil that also moved
us. 

Again it worked out for Mike to move
to a mud island back several hundred yards
away. I tried to stay with the clump, but the
wind picked up and blew it and my
layout boat into the decoys. 

I finally settled on paddling upwind and
sinking the decoy sled I had tethered to
the boat and using that as a sea anchor. 
The thick hydrilla helped slow the drift,
but I still had to pull up the sled and
paddle back upwind several times. The
clump moved out of the decoys and
sailed off into the sunrise.

Mike saw me doing all the movement
and couldn't figure out what I was doing,
but it worked.  Ringers were flying in
from all directions and I was able to
drop a limit.  Mike paddled back with
his limit, we pulled in the decoys, and
had a long 1.5 mile trek back into the
wind.

We hunted this spot several times and
it was always very productive.  What I
thought was a crappy year turned out to
be pretty good when I figured up my
total of 31 birds.  It was one short of my
best year since '07-'08,

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

End of an Era

Great day/horrible day duck hunting. I
scouted yesterday and was able to pick
the one hot spot I found at the WMA.
My buddy and I set out in the dense
fog to find this out-of-the-way impound-
ment. We got turned around and stuck
several times. The last time we were
near the spot (code named Many Teal).
At that point, the engine seized up. We
pushed it as far as we could and decided
to hunt where we were. What a great
choice! Shooting time was 0639 and we
were done by 0715 when the ducks
stopped flying. He had 6 and I had 5.
We had to wade out and find the birds
and pick up the decoys because the the
engine wasn't budging. We found every-
thing we downed including the ones that
landed in the lilies.

We then spent the next three hours pushing,
pulling, push poling, and paddling the boat
back to the launching ramp. The lest leg
two great guys with a mud motor gave us a
tow. My legs were like jelly.

So, I took the boat to my mechanic, told him
that he could have the motor for parts, resell,
or scrap. He offered to sell the boat for me.
Alas, the _Dawn Treader_ will no longer
tread the verges of the dawn for me.

The good thing is that we did the best this
year of anyone hunting that reservoir. For
that matter, I didn't see anyone at the check
station that did nearly as well as we did.

If you know anyone who wants a 1648 Grizzly
with a good trailer and a homemade boat blind
have him call Danny at Palm Bay Power
Equipment.

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