Tu tene eum procul; Ego curram ob auxilium!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Weird Day

Per Van's request ... be careful
what you ask for:

Yesterday's second phase opener was
strange. The last weather forecast
I saw on Friday had the dreaded word
FOG in it. On a twisty river with
a million sub-channels, fog really
complicates things. But, I've had
some really good foggy day hunts too.
So, I went to bed hopeful.

I woke up at 1:30AM and checked emails
until 2:00AM when I got Dave and Jim
up. We were dressed and out the door
by 2:30AM. I got coffee at the RaceTrac
gas station (they must love it when
camo clad men come into their store
that early), and headed up I95. At
one point, I saw the car ahead swerve,
I should have paid more attention. I
hit the huge remains of a semi trailer
tire. It didn't seem to do any damage,
so I kept going. [Side note: It is
family tradition to call those Gila
monsters after my Mom's misidentification
of dozens of them on a cross desert
drive back in the early 50s.]

We got to the launching ramp. We were
the only boat. Last year, this was
the tell-tale sign that there were
no ducks. But, Friday I had scouted
and saw piles. I put Dave in the bow
with the Q-beam and I manned the tiller
with my GPS in hand. We averaged 4.5 MPH
as we navigated in what was indeed fog.
It was an odd fog because it only went
horizontally. Straight up, we could see
every star in the sky and dozens of
shooting stars. I tried to hug a
bank, cause it was the only way the
Q-beam could find anything. Once
Dave shined the roots of an over-
turned cypress tree. It was right
next to me and looked like some
critter about to come in the boat.
I jumped a little. We now call
that the El Chupacabra tree.
[It doesn't help that we listen to
Coast to Coast on hunt day drives.]

Somehow we made our lonely way up
river. When we finally neared our
spot, the banks were lit with
headlights from cars and trucks.
Someone had a way to get where
we wanted to be without a boat.
I got nervous that someone would
already be set up in out spot.
But, the other groups were
set up either well north or
south of us. And, our spot
was open.

We unloaded all our gear.
The river has fallen so much
over the last weeks that all
the cover was 100 feet back
of the water's edge. We
created our own cover with
palmetto fans on dry land. I
tossed out a pile of green
wing and blue wing teal and
a half dozen pintail decoys.

The boat I drove and dragged
about 300 yds away. I covered it
with some camo netting and
slogged back to the boys. Our
slow trip on the river had taken
almost two hours. Getting set
up had taken even more time.
When I finally got in my blind
and sat down, I only had 20
minutes to shooting time. As
we sat in the dark - Dave on
my left and Jim on my right -
we could hear birds land in
the water to the right of our
decoys. Other people must
have had birds land in their
decoys too - they started
shooting well before legal
light (6:34AM). Even if I had
wanted to start early, it was
still too dark for us to see
where the ducks were. Plus,
my glasses were too fogged
over from the humidity and
exertion I had put in so

Finally, a bwt came flying
in on our right. Dave jumped
up and shot it. After a bit,
he did it again. Then again.
I got really nervous by then.
Jim and I'd had some shots, but
my shooting was stinking. I
was very happy to finally get
on the board with a teal for me.

One thing that helped was making
a decoy change. Every group of
teal had flown over a small circle
of water with a 30 foot diameter.
I moved all of the bwt decoys to
that hole. Now, when the teal came in,
they had to think about where to land
in that crowded spot. Never be afraid
to adjust decoys. Make a quick decision;
it may make your day.

The sun was well up by now and
the fog was gone. We heard
a boat pull up to the group of
hunters to our right. After a
bit, it pulled off and headed toward
us. The boat scared up three gwt.
They came on Dave's left. He
fired all three shots and clipped
one. It swung back around over us
and I finished if for him. I told
him to leave it, cause it hit the
water dead.

We sat back down and waited for the boat
to pass. It did, but I could see it
was a FWC officer. I stood up
and waved. Might as well be friendly,
cause he's going to check us anyway.
He pulled up south of us. I told
the boys to unload and I went to get
Dave's teal.

Officer Riley checked our shells
[must be steel shot], magazines
[plugged for two shells with one
in the chamber], ducks [less than
six ducks per hunter], and licenses
[hunting, wildlife management area,
Florida Waterfowl, HIP, hunter safety,
and Federal Waterfowl.] Jim forgot
his hunter safety card, but he doesn't
really need one. I was clean. But,
Dave didn't have his safety card and
he apparently didn't buy the right
licenses when he went to the county
extension office. I had never followed
up to back check him. Dave's failed life
of crime continues. The officer
was cool and only issued Dave a
warning. I appreciated the compliment
he payed us. He said, "I saw your
boat, and your fake ducks, but you
have really good camo; I didn't see
you at all."

As he sailed off, we headed back
into our palmetto fan blinds.
The sun was up, it was getting hot,
we'd had a brush with the law, but
we only had four ducks. SheWhoMustBeObeyed
and the three little kids were at Sea
World, so "On we hunt." That turned
out to be a good idea. Lots of boats
started working through the area.
That helped kick up some birds. Several
more small groups came through.
Dave shot a bwt over the dekes while
Jim and I were watching a larger
group working our way. At last,
a group of 8-10 teal came across
our decoys. Dave finally choked
but Jim knocked down a duck while
I hit a double. That turned out to
be the last of the day: eight teal -
all hens. Oops.

For the first time, Dave outshot me.
I hate children. Thus far,
Jim is tied with his entire last year
bag. I'm doing okay. And Dave seems
to have figured out the Mossburg 20.

We tried snipe hunting on the way
down river, but my reaction time
and #4 shot didn't connect. That
was the end of yesterday's adventure.




Blogger vanckirby said...

well not a complete loss like my day was. glad you guys got some shooting in!

7:30 PM  
Blogger oldfatslow said...

Were there any birds around at all? We didn't see a lot and there were no big ducks at all. We could have killed a few more, but I missed to many easy shots.


8:24 PM  
Blogger vanckirby said...

i only fired a couple of shots. not many birds at all. afew more birds about 100 yards east of me. should of had a mottled but he was a bit high.

9:48 PM  

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