Tu tene eum procul; Ego curram ob auxilium!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Arctic Real Blast

Yesterday was as cold a hunt
as I can remember. It was
in the mid 20s, windy, and
very frosty.

We hunted the local WMA as
walkons and got one of the
less popular spots, but at
least we didn't have to try
East Marsh (our backup).

Some of the guys in the wading
impoundments were breaking ice.
We were in the boat and never
had to get wet hunting in the
reservoir. We set up in some
bulrushes, got our camo nets
and palmetto fans up, and put
ringer and coot decoys in the
hydrilla patch in front. The
decoys were very close, but
we were well covered up.

Unfortunately, the wind was
in our faces but the sun was
at our backs. I was afraid we
would have to shoot ringers
coming in at mach speed from
behind our heads. But, that
was the way the pond set up.

The day started well when a
pair of woodies came over the
levee from the impoundment
just north. I dropped a hen.
She turned out to be a real
bonus as my fifth banded bird.
ofs' fifth banded bird - hen woody
Later, we watched three ringers:
a beautiful drake and two hens
swim up to the dekes. That
is not the ringer way. We
stood up and yelled at them,
but they wouldn't fly. Dave
shot the drake and Jim got
one of the hens. We found
out later that the reason the
drake didn't fly was that he
was missing half a wing. This
was probably a cripple from the
previous year that had survived
gators, snakes, and turtles.
He must have been one mean,
manly duck. He still had
the mojo to attract the hens,
grabbed a pellet in his teeth,
and took several minutes to
die after numerous anchor
Grabbed a pellet out of mid air. 

Dave ready to take off the other wing.
Stumpy winged ringer
I added to my meager take
with a stray bwt hen. But
Jim nailed a beautiful
fulvous whistling duck
while both Dave and I
whiffed on ours.

Jim's fulvous whistling duck

Again, unfortunately, Jim
and I managed to cripple
and lose some wood ducks
that were swimming around
in the spatterdock. A
couple, we were very sure we
killed, but may have lost
to swamp monsters that
weren't entirely frozen out.
[Duckmanjr told a tale at
the checkout stand of a
particularly nasty run in
he had with an eight foot
dragon on that cold cold

Not our best, but a good day


Surprise Surprise Surprise

First, we convinced my wife that our
Army boy would not get leave for
the Holidays.  Most everyone we
knew was in on the deception.
Here is the moment she found the

As if that wasn't enough we also
surprised her with our oldest son
and his new wife.

Everyone else was already home,
so no more surprises this year.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Pounding the Modus

The river is still passable, but barely.
The water is at the lowest it's been in
76 years of measurement.  At the ramp
yesterday morning I made a command
decision to head south upriver instead
of to the places we had been hunting in
the north.  Once again, we were the only
ones at the ramp.  

Dave and Stuart went with me.  I didn't
expect much from the duck hunting,
but we figured to shoot some snipe
if all else failed.  

The boat trip took about an hour but
was faster than I expected and we
didn't get stuck once.  We looked
over one pond and rejected it.  I 
decided instead to try an area near
where Craig and I had success
three years ago.

Everything around is burnt brown
from the hard freezes/frost of a couple
of weeks ago.  Still, we found a wide
spot on a former creek that still held
water.  If fact, it held a lot of water -
enough to top my hip waders.  I
was cold, wet, and miserable all

Here are some shots of Dave at

The deeper water was in front of him where
we put the decoys.  

We made booths like the Children of
Israel out of palmetto fans.  To our
eyes, these may look weird on the
flat, burnt landscape, but one disappears
in them and the birds never seem
to mind.

We were teased all morning by
a hen mottled duck quacking her
lonely head off.  Ten minutes before
shooting time, 3 teal flew right over
our heads.  We figured we might
have a day.  Instead, nothing 
happened.  The modu cleared
out and the teal never came

I decided to tweak the decoys
and rearrange our position.
We moved from the deep
water to a tiny hole directly
behind us.  It is just
visible in back of Dave.


Not only were we now higher than 
that glorified puddle, we were much
further back than the decoys.

We had a lovely view back over the
marsh and across the river.  There
are lots of little pot holes out
there and we were able to
watch a pair of mottled ducks
way in the distance bounce
from hole to hole.  My duck
calling has really improved.
Modus are normally very 
call shy and quiet ducks,
but I commanded these
birds with my Phil Robertson
Call.  We were able to watch
them swing way out to our
right and then zoom into the

The drake led the way and decided
to pull out right in front of me.
I dropped him and the boys 
blazed away at the hen.  
Unfortunately, they were a
little rusty and she got away.

Later, Dave and I were both out
of our blinds when he yelled, "Ducks!"
and hit the ground.  I crouched and
watched as a group swung behind
us into the original pond we had
been in.  We all opened up, but
only hit one bird.  It followed its
group, but turned back to cross
in front of us again.  It was 
obviously hurt and glided with
the wind far out on the flats.  
Dave took off in a sprint for
a good quarter mile to chase it
down.  We could see him in the
distance working in and out of
the broom grass.  After a bit,
we heard a distant "boom" and
saw him waving success.  

When he got back we found
out that the group had only
been impersonating ducks.
We had a hoody (legal, but
useless for food).

We decided after that to separate and
try for snipe.  I may have had better
reactions on the duck, but I can't begin
to outshoot Dave on snipe.  1 for me and
five for him including a true double on his
first ones.

Here's a  picture I took of Dave and Stu 
right before the camera died.


Don't get me wrong, I love shooting
modus, but something is very wrong
with duck season when they are the
number one duck in my bag and not
teal, ringers, or black bellies.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Don't Quack. Don't Even Quack.

I tried a Tuesday hunt at Goodwin
as a walkon.  I was 10th in line.
Many of the ones in front had spent
the night in their cars.

I came prepared to either wade
or hunt out of the boat.  Turned
out that I partied up with Dan
P. and his son Rob and we
would wade.  He had a spot
he liked on lower Goodwin -
so wading it was.

It's been a long time since I
took the Goodwin wagon
ride, but it was fun still.  We
got to our drop off and had
a 1/3 mile walk down the levee.
There was plenty of open water
and cover.  Dan and his son
took their spot near the levee
and I plodded deeper into the

There water wasn't horribly deep,
but it was uneven and very muddy.
A lot of the para grass had been
knocked down in the freezes and
made progress much harder and

I found an area where the water
funneled down before opening up
into some water behind me. I
had a large, open expanse in front
and grass islands to either side for
cover.  I tossed 7-8 teal decoys out
and sat down to wait.

I had forgotten several important
things - my gun strap and my
shell belt.  I solved the strap problem
by carrying the shotgun out in
its case since the case had a strap.
The case, I discovered, does not
seal well.  For a shell belt, I'd have
to use the pockets in my jacket.
That meant the jacket had to hang
outside the waders and down in
the water.

Somehow I managed to drop my
hat in the water.  That sort of worked
to my advantage.  I get so hot even on
a chilly morning that my glasses (forgot
my shooting glasses too) stay fogged
over.  The cold, wet hat cooled
my head and the glasses weren't
quite as bad of a problem.

The lunar eclipse was neat, but I
only got bits of it.  I was set up
facing northeast and it was behind
me.  When the eclipse cleared,
the moon was very bright in
the clear sky.  Coupled with
the rising sun, it was pretty
bright out.  There were plenty
of teal zinging around and
two landed in the decoys.
I was really surprised no one
shot early.

When shooting time came,
the two in my dekes were long
gone and no more came close.
I saw ducks on two flight
paths.  I moved to my right
and managed a bwt that
had landed out in the open

Nothing much happened
after that.  So I grabbed three
decoys and moved farther north.
I managed to break a chunk off
of my marsh stool getting it

Over the next few hours, I kept
fiddling with those three decoys,
but nothing ever decoyed.  A
stray hen gwt landed close to
my hide and I bagged it.  For
a long time after, I took longish
shots at ducks that never quite
got in range.  Several times,
pairs of mottled ducks flew
from behind my left shoulder.
I was scared to accidentally hit
both and ended up shooting
behind the back one at each

At last, I heard a quack and saw
a singleton mottled flying
from in front of me.  I hit
it solidly with one shot and
it dropped perfectly dead
in front of me. [Turned out
is was a drake, so I don't
know where the quack came

As I slogged out to make
the retrieve, five teal came
up from behind me.  One
broke off and came right
at me standing wide open
in the marsh.

It took three shots to kill the
little teal, but my day was
done.  And a pretty good
day it turned out to be.
I've sure had lots worse days
out there.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Day Glo Camo

I went scouting and snipe hunting today.
Neither went particularly well.  For most
of the day, I only saw snipe that were
skittish and jumping up 50 yards out.
When I finally did get a shot, I was
distracted and completely missed.

What distracted me was the sudden
realization of what had happened
earlier.  I had been walking around Mud
Lake and was in a huge expanse of
acres of area where I was the tallest
thing by 6 feet.  One of the helicopters
that practices hovering scared up a
large group of ducks.  One half of
it split off and came right at me.  I
figured if they stayed low and I
stayed low, I could jump up and
swat them with #7 snipe shot. 
I huddled down and pretended to
be a stump.  But, at the last instance
they flaired off.   It wasn't til later
that I realized why - I had swapped
my camo hat for a bright orange
safety hat.


Lost in the Fog

First Modu

Last Saturday's forecast for second opening
day was for patchy fog.  If that was patchy,
I'd hate to see pea soup. 

Tommy and I decided to head for East
Marsh.  There was water and we had
seen ducks when we scouted the week
before.  That said, G2 from my friend
who scouted the day before was that
there were no ducks. 

We ended up launching about 2 miles
from the entry point to the marsh
after getting stuck at the launching ramp
50 feet away from the entry point.
The 2 mile ride was down a canal.
The fog was so thick, I couldn't
see the banks on either side.  We
went very slowly. 

We finally found the access point
and gallantly let an air boat have
the right of way.  I also discovered,
to my chagrin, that I didn't have a
route platted into my GPS to our
spot code named Three Islands. 
Instead, I only had a straight line
Go To Waypoint to follow.  That
would have been fine except for the
shallow water, saw grass islands,
and cypress hummocks in the

We finally got to a spot and the
GPS said we were where we
wanted to be, but I couldn't find
anything familiar.  We circled and
got stuck for thirty to forty minutes.
I finally found a likely spot and told
Tommy we were setting up there and
hoping for the best. 

Between driving the Go-Devil, watching
the fog for dangers, trying to read the
GPS, and vainly shining the Q-Beam;
I wasn't sure which direction we were
pointing.  I ended up about 25 degrees
off of where I thought, but it made
no matter - the fog was thick all day.
If fact, only for a couple of minutes
in the middle of the morning could
we see the sun's disk and then it
was obscured again.

Setting up the boat was no problem,
but setting up the decoys was tricky.
I only went about 15 yards out, but
couldn't find the boat again after they
were set.  I had to get Tommy to
shine a light to guide me back. 

When shooting time came, we were
surprised at how light things were
even with the fog.  I heard a noise
behind us and turned.  Two ducks
came from off my right shoulder.
I couldn't tell species, but I shot
one of them.  It landed quite a
ways off against the saw grass.
I jumped out of the boat to try
a retrieve.  I searched for the
bird, but it must have been cripple
and gotten into the weeds.  As I
turned back to the boat, two
big ducks came from my left.
I shot one and watched the other
curl towards the boat.  I yelled,
"Coming across!" to Tommy but
didn't hear an ensuing shot. 

I retrieved a nice, large mottled
drake.  As I did, I heard boom
boom boom.
I yelled, "Did you get it?"  "Yeah,
but it's swimming away!"  Then
boom boom boom
again.  "Dad, I got it!"

Tommy had swatted the hen.  She
wasn't a widow for very long.  The
duck had landed in my dekes and
he "waited" until it swam far enough
away before he fired.  Unfortunately,
it wasn't quite as far as he thought.
He also killed a coot decoy and the
inner tube I used for the Mojo

We had two more ducks (both
beauties) than I had expected.
The day progressed well when
a ringer hen came in and I splashed
it.  We saw a ringer zip by high in
the fog over our heads.  I hit it
with the Duck Commander's
paralyzer and come back calls.
Five times and five different
directions it came back.  It
finally committed and came into
the decoys.  Boom, splash, and
we were done for the day.

Drake on the left - Hen on the right

These birds have beautiful speculum.  Depending on the light, it can go from metallic green to blue to purple.

The little shooting we heard
from others proved that we
probably had as good a day
as anyone. 

When we pulled everything in
and headed out, I got lost in
the fog again.  A friend asked
me where I hunted and I honestly
answered that I didn't know.

Quite a fun day.  I'm figuring
tomorrow will be pretty dull

Tommy's take Modu and Inner Tube.  Modus eat better.