Tu tene eum procul; Ego curram ob auxilium!

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Serpent in the Garden

Tuesday, we were still waiting for Craig's
snow-delayed flight from Moscow, Id.
Rob and I decided to try a walk-on hunt
at our favorite wildlife management area.
The hunting there has been well down from
previous years, so we figured we had a good
shot. Instead, we were the eighth car in line
but ended up tenth pick and that tenth pick
wouldn't even start until all the folks who out-
ninjaed the on-line reservation system got
their choices. Things didn't look too good.

Matt, one of the WMA's biologist saw me
standing there and said he had a draw with
two open slots and would Rob and I like
to join him and Jamie another wildfowl
biologist. "Oh yes and thank you!" We
actually got to choose an impoundment
that I was surprised was still available.
We got some good G2 on where to hunt
and were off.

Getting into the impoundment was
tricky. There was a heavy brush line
that bordered the levee. We walked
until we found a small trail down into
the water. (Hmm, was it from previous
hunters or a gator trail?) Down off the
levee and into the dark black water.
For the most part, the wade was knee
deep water, but the bottom was crusted
mud that occasionally gave way and
dropped another couple of feet. Extricating
this fat man from that really tested the
blood pressure medicine. Rob, a
Legolas-like elf, effortless skittered over
the top of the mud.

By the time we got to where we would
set up, the projected 20 mph wind had
died and I knew I wouldn't need my
hunting jacket. I peeled it off and hunted
with a long sleeve tee shirt. I only put
out 8 or 9 teal, a few pinners, and the
mojo dove. Those were all the decoys
we needed.

Waiting for legal light was nerve wracking.
I've been covered up in ducks before, but
never quite like this. We had them landing
all around us. They all were calling: teal
drakes and hens, widgeon, mottles, fulvous
whistlers, and black-bellied whistlers. When
the shooting time came, things were fast
and furious. Unfortunately, Rob's shot
gun wasn't cycling and was only giving him
the single shot offering. After I had four
teal, I swapped guns and places with him.
He started dropping teal. And, I even
managed to round out my limit with his
gun (the ducks were that close - it wasn't
skill). Matt and Jamie had things a little
slower but were killing birds too.

Matt was on duty that morning and had to
head in early to drive the pick up wagon.
Jamie moved over and joined us. Things
slowed down a bit, but were still fun. We
decided to hold out for the 11:00 pick up.
By 9:45, Jamie was thinking of calling it
quits. I told him of the success we had
had in waiting for "The Ten O'Clock Duck"
in the past. As 9:59 a huge group of blue
wings came zinging in. Jamie got one
and Rob got two. We had ringers and
spoonies take looks at us, but it ended
up mottles and teal. Rob would have
limited, but one cripple got under the

The wade back in was exhausting. The
wind finally did pick up, but the mud
seemed to break even easier. Rob
and Jamie decided to take a short
cut up the levee through the thicker
brush but I opted to wade over to
our original path. On the way up
there, I saw the middle of a large
black snake with green spots cross
directly in front of me. It kept
slithering, but I never saw either
end. At first, I didn't think it was
a cottonmouth. After all, they don't
have green spots, but I eventually
realized it was duck weed. I reached for
a shell, but I had given them all to
Rob. I had to quickly back out and
get another path up.

It was a great day.

We picked Craig up and got him home
from the airport about midnight. We
slept in, but got up and shot snipe
on Thursday. We did okay for hunting
as late in the day as we did.



Sunday, December 07, 2008

First Limit

Friday was closed to duck hunting, but
snipe were still open. I went out on the
St. Johns River to do some scouting for
Saturday's second phase of duck season
and to whack a few snipe.

There were only two folks on the marsh:
the sheriff's deputy that checked my
license and me. He was real decent
and let me sit on the side of his airboat
and puff for a bit. We chatted and then
he headed off.

I hadn't gotten snipe one up to that
point though there were tons around.
I finally decided that it was the blaze
orange shooting vest I had on. Although
there wasn't anyone else around to mistake
me for a snipe, I also thought it might
be a good idea to have it on in case the
heat and/or exertion got to me and I
ended up face down in the mud. Still,
the snipe were seeing me a hundred
yards out and bolting. I ditched the
vest and put a camo jacket on that
had pockets for shells and birds.
That seemed to do the trick and things
picked up. The only problem was that
the day was over seventy degrees, sunny,
windless, and I was wearing neoprene chest
waders. I needed to be in shorts and short
sleeves. As it was, I ended up drinking
7 bottles of water to keep from dehydration.

I would hunt a spot for a bit in as close
to a circular route as would bring
me back to the boat without having
to cover hunted over land. When
I covered that, I would pack up and
find another spot. I covered a lot
of really boggy ground. I spent a lot
of time shooting behind birds, but
I was picking up one or two at every
stop. There were times I flushed so
many that I didn't know which one
to point at. But, I didn't lose any
birds and found all but three of
my hulls from almost two boxes
of #7 12 gauge steel shells.

It was my first snipe limit ever
and maybe more fun than duck hunting.
I was glad that we weren't able to
get organized for duck hunting the
next day. I was too sore.