Tu tene eum procul; Ego curram ob auxilium!

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

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.  



Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Fowl Trouble

Taking the new, slow ride out for a

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

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


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

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

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,


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


Saturday, February 04, 2017

Youth Hunt 2017

Took the same young man and his dad to this
year's Youth Duck Hunt that I have taken the
last two years.  He had second pick and vaulted
to first when #1 didn't show.

We hunted the same hole that Mike T. and I
had hunted so successfully the week before.
Much (most?) of the hydrilla has been eaten
over and that hole still looked good.  Well,
it looked good two weeks ago.  I didn't
take time to look it over this morning and
it too has gotten devoured.

Still we got launched and to our draw with
no dramatics. There were only two or three
other boats in the reservoir.  And I was
afraid any ducks wouldn't be pressured to
keep moving.  Wow, was I wrong.  Right
at first light there were hundreds of ringers
flying all around.  Even a lonely hen mottled
duck flew by quacking her heart out.
Before Shooting Time

The landing zone


Teal decoys to the side

But most of the ducks were flying wide
of us.  The young man hit a coot on the
wing and then dropped one of a pair of
fulvous ducks at altitude.  All day long
he was hitting the high ducks. He ended
up dropping three hen ringers and another
coot too.

The flights of ducks kept getting fewer,
farther apart, and less intense.  He
really did well and rang off a lot of

When we went out to retrieve the ducks
a turtle had beheaded one of the ringers
and started on one of the coots.  The
fulvous was long gone - either eaten
or swum off crippled.  Sad.

This is always my favorite hunt and
we had a really successful day.  See
y'all next year.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Okey Dokey, Mr. Pahokey

Got through this year pretty well.  It was below
average - 43 ducks as a family, but it was also
a below average year for water depth on the
St. Johns.  And it was abnormally warm this
year.  The depth and the warmth worked to
limit the quantity and the location of the

The boat broke down a few times, but was
able to limp out of the marsh every time.
Hunting Turkey Creek, Big Bend, Jackleg
Slough, and West Side generated limited
variety of ducks, but a surprising number
of modus. 

I was pleased to hunt with some new
friends, Deke, Danny, Mike, and Terry.
None of them got super hunts.

I got to hunt with my old buddy, Mike
T. and with two of my boys Craig and
LT.  We got into the local WMA and
had primo spots each time.  That
generated most of the birds that we
ended up taking.

For one hunt, LT and I set up facing
the coming sunrise.  It didn't matter.
Shooting time came a half hour before
sunup and we were limited 16 minutes


Friday, July 08, 2016

Youth Hunt 2016

As always, the annual youth hunt is my
favorite hunt.  I can focus strictly on being
a guide and host and not on trying to shoot

This year went very well.  I took the same
young man out that I did last year.  What
a difference a year makes!  We ended up
in the reservoir of the local WMA.  I haven't
hunted in there in several years.  I got the good
G2 from a buddy about what impoundment to
choose and the young man, his dad, and I
headed out.

The habitat has changed there recently and
I had a tough time finding the right combination
of open water, hydrilla, and cover.  We spent
several anxious minutes stuck on a mud
tusset.  I was afraid I'd have to get in the
fairly deep water and shove us off, but the
push pole finally freed us.

I eventually located a fairly good spot and set
up.  We got the decoys out (ringers and coots
mostly) and camoed up against a reed island.
I'm writing this long after the event and don't
remember where the wind was, but we were
looking SSW.

There were a lot of ducks flying around
when shooting time came.  He was banging
away with that little 20ga pump for all he
was worth.  Suddenly his dad said that
he'd knocked one down.  I hadn't even
seen it.  But, there it lay belly up at
the edge of the open water - a nice hen

We kept at it.  But the ringers come through
at jet speed.  We had lots of fulvous ducks
around, but they are skittish and we weren't
quite where I thought they would want to
be.  But his dad and I kept whistling to them.
Low and behold, he knocked one of those very
rare ducks down too.

We ended the day when his shoulder gave out.
What a lot of fun and what a great way to
get a first duck.