oldfatslow

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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

















Sunrise

















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
shots.

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.


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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
ducks.

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
later. 

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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
too.

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
ringer.



















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.




















ofs

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Monday, January 04, 2016

Layout

Got in a couple of hunts with my
buddy, Mike T.  My motor is in the
shop - yet again - this time with an
oil leak.

Mike has an airboat and a favorite
hunting spot.  It's not all that secret
because a lot of other hunters were
out there, but it could get a lot more
crowded if more folks knew about
it.

We were hunting out of layout boats
that Mike brings along in the airboat.
It's a lot less strenuous than a lot of
the hunting I do.

The first time we went out, we both
limited.  Saturday, we went out again
and there were a lot fewer ducks flying
than on the previous Tuesday and not
just reduced by the twelve we took.

Still we managed to drop 8.  One
of which gotten eaten by a gator.  I
went through a lot of shells, but most
of them were trying to break up
some cripples.  It's tough to hit
one when both you and the duck
are at water level.

And it was all ringers, all the
time.

ofs

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

E-Ticket Ride

So last Saturday's hunt was another
skunk.  I wore the Jones hat (never has
been on a successful hunt and it kept
up the tradition). 

I hunted solo and decided to head
back to one of my favorite spots:
Big Bend. 

At the launching ramp, There were
two other guys launching and they
were the only other hunters there.
We joked a bit about the lack of
ducks and made sure we wouldn't
be setting up on each other in the
miles of marsh. They kindly let me
launch  first and guided me down
the steep, blind ramp. 

Heading down river at full speed
and trying to steer the mud motor,
work the GPS, and shine the Qbeam
may have been a bit much.  I didn't
have the usual weight in the front
of the boat of another body and
ended up swinging very wide on
a hairpin turn in the river. The
boat went flying up into the
reeds and stopped dead.  Mr.
Inertia kicked in and I went
flying out of the boat.  No
harm to boat or driver, but
I took the rest of the drive a
little slower once I pushed the
boat back in the river.

I got up to Big Bend and zigzagged
across the hole to encourage any
gators to leave.  The Q-Beam
illuminated two sets of beady
red eyes.  Neither pair was wide
set enough to cause great alarm.
I actually motored up to one of
the little lizards.  It sank down
right as the boat got to it and
then popped back up in the
same place after I motored away.
Stupid lizard.

I put the decoys out and then
proceeded to set up the blind.
As I was setting up palmetto
fans around the boat, I hit
a hole and tripped.  I got
completely soaked - including
mask and gloves.  It wouldn't
have been so bad if the temp-
erature wasn't just below 50
and the wind blowing 15-20
mph.

Thankfully, I had a thermos
of coffee and drank that dry.
I was well camoed up - none
of the herons, sandpipers,
ibis, hawks, kingfishers, eagles,
starlings, or vultures spotted me. 
But, there were no ducks to be seen.
I heard some blackbellies 20
minutes before shooting time,
but they were long gone by
dawn.  Shooting from other
hunters in the distance was
very sporadic and not repeated.
The only ducks I saw were a
pair of mottles that I kicked up
half way back to the ramp after
I gave up. 

Even a cold, soggy, birdless
day on the marsh is so much
more than anything else.  It's
worth it.

ofs

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

African Queening It

Opening day for this season came
warm and clear.  The heavy summer
rains have ceased and the St. Johns
River has fallen 1.5 feet below the
78 year median level.  Many of my
favorite hunting spots have either
become too overgrown or too
shallow to hunt. Scouting the days
before did not reveal a whole lot
of ducks.  

Navy boy was home on leave
for the opener and he, LT, and
I headed out to one spot 3.5
miles or so downriver that
has historically been deep
enough and productive
enough.

The start was uneventful.
We peeked in at one spot
named Fog Hunt that was
completely dry ground and
headed on to Big Bend and
found it to be mid thigh deep.
I put out teal and coot decoys
and a Mojo teal while the boys
set up the palmettos and boat
blind.

15 minutes before shooting
time several groups of black
bellied whistling ducks came
over - some within easy
shooting range.  Visibility was
good enough to have shot a
few, but we did not want to
risk careers by getting ticketed
for shooting early.  There was
someone a bit farther down
the flight line that didn't have
the same scruples and unloaded
on the black bellies shortly
after we watched them pass
by.

For a long time that morning
we sat idle and observed fish
jumping in the pond and shore
birds flying all around us.  We
were well camoed up - even a
wary hawk didn't see us until
it was a few feet from the blind.
Our Thermocell kept the
mosquitoes off especially after
I actually got it lit.

Late in the morning, we were
suddenly surprised by a flock
of "black" ducks in the decoys.
We didn't hear or see them come
in, but they were right around
the landing zone.  I had a hard
time processing what they were
with what my expectations
were in that most puddle ducky
of puddle duck habitats.

We all opened up and knocked
two down.  I fired the new pump
three times and didn't even know
it.  I was still cycling and trying
to shoot as the flock rose up
right over my head.  I was
surprised to see the odd
bills of spoonies and even
more surprised to find that
we retrieved two nice, drake
ringers.  I've never shot, seen,
or heard of ringers up there.

We decided to go shoot some
snipe and tore down the blind
and picked up the decoys.  I
fired up the engine and almost
immediately, it seized up.  I
knew it was serious when I
called my mechanic and he
basically said, "It's serious."
There was no one near us.
The only boat we had seen
all day had cut in upriver of
us, and was long gone.

At first we tried walking on
the bank and pulling the boat.
That worked until we hit head
high para grass and could only
take 6 inch steps.  We then
got in the swift current of the
narrow (35 feet) river and tried
hugging the edge and pulling.
The edge was steep, slippery,
and marked by gator holes that
we didn't fancy dangling our
feet in front of.

Finally, LT exerted his leadership
and came up with the idea
of two of us sitting on the side
of the boat and grabbing para
grass and pulling us ahead
one arm length at a time.
Navy boy sat in the bow
paddling to keep us nosed
into the shoreline.  We did
that for several hours before
a couple of guys came by
and offered us a tow.  It
was good they showed up
when they did, our arms
were getting worked over
and at least once, LT saw
a snake.

My mechanic now has the
boat and is fixing the shaft.

 ---------------------------------
Navy boy and I decided to
walk on for a Tuesday hunt
at the local WMA.  He partied
up with Ducktales who has
been a stalwart duck hunter
for our family, while I partied
up with old friend Hookupandgo
and his boss Tony.  Navy boy
had the better spot and tore up.
He ended up with a limit that
included a drake pinner, drake
mottled, and four blue wing
teal.  I eked out a solo blue
wing.

 

 ---------------------------------
I went back yesterday when Tony
called up and said he was the first
in the walkin line and would I be
interested in joining him and his
son.  No hesitation there.

We got one of the wading spots
and got some good G2 from
Duckmanjr and headed off.  All
in all, the wade wasn't bad.  No
para grass and shallow water.  The
mud was a bit of a challenge, but
I didn't do too badly.  Tony and
his son hunted near shore and I
moved almost all the way across
the impoundment.

I had to run and gun to find where
the ducks wanted to be, but the
biggest problem I had was me.
I'm just not a good shot and the
new gun is taking some getting
used to.  I could have had several
limits, but managed to scare quite
a few ducks.  I did scratch out
a drake ringer, drake bwt, and my
second ever hen buffy.  Not the most
prized of ducks, but I was proud
that I got it.  Really a good day.

 Here's what a hen bufflehead
looks like.





"Bucephala-albeola-010" by Mdf - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

ofs

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Snipe Selfies

Saturday is opening day.  The fact
that the river is so low that I can snipe
hunt in an indicator of how bad the
opener may be.  I've seen no teal,
limited feed, and dried up ponds. 
On top of that, the days haven't dropped
below 80 yet.

At least the new shotgun is working
for me.  I'm still getting used to
working the pump on a deluxe
12 gauge instead of the souped
up youth model 20 I've used the
last couple of years.

I'd post pictures, but the only one
hunting/scouting has been me.  

ofs

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