Tu tene eum procul; Ego curram ob auxilium!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Last Hunt for the Big Boys

Today was the last duck hunt of the 09-10
season for Jim and me. We were invited by
Mike T and John G to join on John's draw
at TMG.

This had all the omens of a disaster hunt.
I had originally planned on having Jenny
join us for her final hunt as a youth. I
wanted her to get her first duck for her
16th birthday. It didn't occur to me until
yesterday that she wouldn't be a legal
hunter because she didn't have a
license since being 16 for even a day
means you need one. Good thing we
didn't try to bluff our way through -
the game warden was at the check

Last night, I went to bed nice an
early so I would have a good night's
sleep. After two hours, multiple
sirens started blaring on I95 and
woke me up. When I finally got
sleepy again, some idiot got a
number wrong and kept trying
to text message our land line.
I ended up with only three hours
sleep. Jim said he got even less.

Still, both the trailer and boat
lights were working. that was
a change from recent hunts.
Something was going right.

At the check station in the AM
we were 16th and last pick, but
were hoping for a spot in the reservoir.
None of us really fancied hunting lower
Goodwin and having long slogs and
wades. When our names were called,
only two other parties had chosen the
reservoir. I got some good G2 and
we headed out to the spot I had hunted
early teal.

We putzed around a bit until Mike found
a spot and Jim and I found another. The
hydrilla wasn't thick, but we had a pretty
good hole. Unfortunately, we were looking
into the sun. The wind was light from the
southwest. I put ringer and coot decoys
out along with four woodducks. My hope
was that the predicted heavy cloud cover
would stick around and that the wind would
pick up. Well, the wind did eventually pick
up, but it was a warm wind as the day crept
up to 80 degrees.

We didn't get a lot of early shots. I was
afraid it was going to be dead. We didn't
even hear anyone shoot out in the rough
blocks until exactly at shooting time.

During the lulls, we could hear big,
bull gators thrumming the water.
They were all around us and they
were loud.

Eventually, we got some singleton ducks
come in. Jim got the first one that we thought
was a nice wood duck. Turned out it was
a beautiful drake ringer (our only ringer).

I got on the board with a hen green wing. We
also got four drake bluewings. One for Jim
and three for me.

By the end of the day, Jim had three ducks
down and I had six. But, one of his and two
of mine had dropped a long way away and
one of those wasn't hit too hard. We never
found any of those three. I'm pretty confident
that the marsh monsters got to them. Where
Jim's duck landed there were three small
gators and a big cottonmouth.

It must have been cottonmouth day. RedFishRob
told us at the ramp that they had run into
one and we saw another on the levee that
some one had run over.

As days go, it wasn't the best. We shot
behind and badly, didn't have great
opportunities, but didn't get skunked either.
I really needed the afternoon nap.

Next week, Youth Waterfowl Hunt.



Sunday, January 24, 2010

Like Riding a Bicycle

Whew! I haven't forgotten how to
kill ducks. We had an awesome hunt

My friend, Mike T. had two open
spots to hunt Broadmoor WMA and
invited Jim and I to join him. He
was pick 11 out of 14, but with the
way things have been going lately,
sure to move higher with no shows.

The forecast was for dense fog. I've
had good hunts in fog and some
really bad hunts. I was nervous
as we drove out in fog so thick
that we were under 30 mph
for quite a bit of the drive. But,
no fog at the check in station and
no fog on the marsh. Very strange.

We did move up a few slots and
my buddy, Duckmanjr, gave us some
good G2 when our pick came and we
were off. I've had some really good
hunts in 2 North before and this
one was no exception. Mike has
bad hips and can't wade too far
so he hunted near the levee, but
Jim and I decided to head about
4 tenths of a mile away from
him where we had heard large
numbers of black bellied
whistling ducks. It wasn't a
hard wade by any stretch and
we found a spot where a lot
of ducks took off in the
dark. (That's a noise that
will make you stop for a
second). We each put out
decoys at opposite ends of
a long row of reeds. For
once, the hidden, lateral
ditch was in the middle
of the clump of reeds and
not much of a threat.

No sooner did I have my
dekes out than I talked
myself into moving to the
opposite side of the reeds.
That way Jim would be looking
south and I north and we'd have
a good view of where the ducks
were flying.

In the wait until shooting time,
I've never had so many bb whistling
ducks around me. About
8 minutes before legal light,
I group of 8 or 9 came across
on my left all of them singing
and wide open. It took every
ounce of ethical energy not
to get my limit right there.

Later in the morning, we were
also serenaded by fulvous
whistling ducks. Their
notes are a little easier to imitate,
but both birds can be talked
into your spot if you have
enough guys with whistles
to offset their social
gatherings. Jim and I
did our best.

When shooting time did come,
it was all blue wing teal in
shooting range. I dropped one
that fell hard in some reeds.
I had to search the spot three
times over the morning to find
my bird. Behind me, Jim got
a teal. He moved south a bit
to where some birds were working,
but I was doing pretty well
where I was. I added three
more teal (including a true
double) and then got a double
on a group of black bellies
that came through. One of
them landed in the next cell
up and was still swimming.
I was able to reach him and
put an anchor shot on it.

Jim wasn't having as much luck.
I had him move to my spot and
then move north a cell. I
saw him drop one teal stone
dead in some low weeds. It
should have been an easy
retrieve. Where it went
we'll never know. Maybe
a mudfish that survived the
freezes got it.

I was sitting back at our
original spot. Even though
I had limited, not a duck
had decoyed all morning.
It was all passing shots.
Suddenly, there was a whir
in front of me and a splash.
Four or five blue wings flew
through, but a nice drake
and hen landed 30 feet in
front of me. I sat stone
still for about 10 minutes.
Neither duck seemed to
notice me in the reeds.
I was able to learn that
they would actually land
in a hyacinth patch. As
far as I know that's not
a food source. They
eventually took off and
I moved up with Jim.

A little later four fulvous came
over. Jim had switched
to my Baikal 12ga because
his little Remington 20ga
wasn't cycling right. I
yelled at him to shoot one
of the fulvous and he popped
up and hit one. Unfortunately,
it wasn't hit hard and sailed
on the wind a couple hundred
yards behind us. I saw where
it went down and went off
on the retrieve. After
crossing two laterals, I
saw the bird making for a
large patch of fairly low
stuff. I got there and
spent 20 minutes stomping
around (part of which in
a third lateral) before I
gave up. I really wanted
Jim to get his first fulvous.
When I got back to him,
he had gotten three more
blue wings and we called it
a day. It was warm and we
had drunk all our water and
had a healthy wade back to
the levee. By then the wind
had freshened and was at
my back. I let the decoy
sled float back to shore
with only the occasional
nudge from me. There were
still so many teal flying
that I could easily have
shot another limit on my
way back in. At the check
station, we found that Mike
had limited on teal too. A
great day for all of us.

After that, we went to
picking. Teal are
easy this time in the
season, but the black bellies
are next to impossible.

A really fun day.



Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Christmas 2009

Here's my tribe:



Saturday, January 09, 2010

Sleet Hunt

It was cold, windy, and sleeting, but the sleet
was better than rain since it just bounced off.
The day was slow since we were the only guys at
our boat ramp, there were few other hunters
on the marsh shooting, and there were
precious few ducks in the air. Still, I hit
four hen quacks on my call and four mottles
came over the reeds and dropped their feet
for a landing. We had three guns in the boat,
made three splashes, and sent the fourth duck
off a widow - she kept circling us all morning.
The only tricky bit was that one mottle got
caught in the river current and was headed
to Jacksonville. I had to run after it and
jump into waist deep water on the retrieve.



Sunday, January 03, 2010

Reminders to Self

Three things:

1) After you have crossed the hidden
ditch several times, you should remember
that it is there and not trip in it.

2) Water over the waders on a cold, windy
morning is unpleasant.

3) It was worth it for a couple bwts.