Tu tene eum procul; Ego curram ob auxilium!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Snipe Plogging

Duck season is over, but snipe season
lasted a little longer and we tried to
end the season with style with two
back to back hunts.

Friday was an off day at work for me
and Jim got off early from college.
He met me at the launching ramp
at Hwy 50.  I had his waders, gun,
ammo, waters, and Sweet 'n Salties.

We headed upriver to some of my
favorite and most productive spots.
If only they had been productive.
We only saw 5 snipe in all the miles
that we walked and only shot one.

Even more annoying was our
visit to Snipe City.  I told Jim that
I had scouted the spot for ducks
right before that season opened.
A flock of blue wing teal had
flown directly over and landed
at the far end of the pond 60
yds in front of me.  Even as I
spoke to him, a flock of green
wing teal flew over us and
landed at the very same spot.
Where were they when we
hunted the area?  We even ran
up a flock of 16 mottle ducks
from one tiny pond.  Who knew
mottles ever group up like

To add insult to injury, I
had forgotten that I needed
to wear booties with my
hip waders and my left
heal had a blister the size
of Montana on it.

Here's a picture from the
boat ramp of the river.

Hwy 50 Boat Ramp looking south.  Note all the free range cattle.

The next day I didn't think would be
much better, but I had agreed to join
my co-worker Rich R. at the WMA
and try our hand there.  He, Jim, and
I had tried it last year, but struck out.
Turns out I'm glad we came back this

Snipe hunt days at the WMA are first
come first serve.  We were 5th in
line by 5AM.  That too did not bode
well.  Better hunting conditions are
directly proportional to the number
of people who show up.  Rich pulled
up directly behind me.  He's in BD,
so he's always upbeat and optimistic.
I don't suffer from that affliction.

At the check in station, I saw
Chuck McK.  I hadn't seen him
the few times I got to TMG during
duck season and he said he had not
been able to get draws.  We
chatted a bit and when our turn
came he recommended a spot
for us.  Now, he is an awesome
shot and I took his advice
seriously.  Eddie H. confirmed
it and we headed off.

Leaving the Check Station.  On duck days, there can be a 100 guys right here.

  It was just sunrise by the time we got
to our draw.  We were greeted by
hundreds and hundreds of ducks
taking off.  It was heart stopping.
I must reassess my hunting
decisions for next year.  I think I
spent too much time trying to hunt
with the boat.  I need to not bind
myself so tightly to that.

Our draw was 3S.  Normally, it's
a bit deeper of a spot, but the
water had been drawn down
quite a bit.  there were long,
muddy strips at the crowns that
were easily huntable.  The
lateral (hidden) ditches weren't
all that hidden, but they still
could top our hip waders (as
Jim and I found to our chagrin).

We made several passes down
one side of strip and back up
the other since we didn't want
to try crossing the laterals if
we didn't have to.  I dropped
one on the wrong side and that's
how I got water in the waders.

I had to take the waders off and drain
them out.  My booties (remembered
this time) were soaked.  Rich
had also hit a bird and I came
over to help him find it.  Belly
down, a snipe may be the most
camouflaged bird in the world.

I discovered that much of the
new plant growth in the mud was
thistles.  My stocking feet felt
every spine.  We found Rich's
bird and by then, all of us had
at least one.

 We went back to the truck for
water and snacks.  Although the
day was cool and very windy, I
was sweating out my hydration
in buckets.  I quickly peeled off
my jacket and gloves and only
hunted in a pair of long sleeve
shirts.  My waders kept my cold,
wet pants from bothering me too

We decided to make a pass down
some of the closer mud flats.  Now,
these mud flats were - as far as we
could tell - identical.  But, the one
I chose was the mother load.  I
got 4 birds and brought my total
to 6.  Jim got 2 to bring his total
to 3.  I don't think Rich had a decent
shot at any.  There were tons of
shore birds - coots, rosette spoonbills,
curlews, plovers, dowitchers, yellowlegs,
godwits, killdeer, ibises, etc. - all around
us.  I held off on one shot for fear
of killing a lot of background birds.

Turned out I made the right choice.
The game warden was cruising
down the levee.  When I finished
my pass huffing and puffing like
a train, he came down to see how
we were doing.  I had to ask him
how his CPR was.  There's nothing
like wading to test the blood
pressure medicine.  He checked
my gun to make sure my limiter
was installed.  He also checked
Jim's shells for steel and gave
Rich a complete check.  I think
the officer recognized Jim and I
from repeated checks during the
season, but didn't know Rich.

We made a couple more passes,
but the day was done.  We ended up
with a pretty nice haul.

Rich heading in

I yelled, "Strike a pose!"
Jim calling it quits

Jim and ofs in the marsh.  Gotta get the orange hat off quickly and back to a real hunting hat.

Our snipe

Rich with his first kill in 20 some years.  He's hooked now.

What Boy Scouts get when they hunt snipe

What the ofs Clan gets


Monday, February 07, 2011

Soloing and Full of Fulvous

{This post is out of sequence -
I'm finally finishing it some weeks

Jim got bold and tried for a solo walk on
at the local WMA.  It was his first time
hunting without me.  We got him all
fixed up the night before and he was
up and gone by 1:30.  He ended up
8th in line and got a spot in one of
the good wading impoundments.  He
partied up with Pepi from the UWF

They would have had a real long
walk down the levee to get to
their draw, but Pepi had a kayak
and they were able to easily cross
a canal and then wade a short bit
into the impoundment.

Jim was a bit nervous hunting with
someone he didn't know and only
managed a couple teal.  Pepi got
several birds and a black-bellied
whistling duck.  He had to leave
and get to work.  Once totally on
his own, Jim got two more teal.
Considering that only one bird
decoyed, they did pretty good.

Pepi had glowing things to say
about Jim later in an email.  That
makes this old, fat guy proud.

The next Saturday, Jim volunteered to
get in the walk in line early and spend the
night.  It was so crowded that he was
the 7th car in line by 4PM in the
afternoon.  By midnight, there were
18 cars.  When Eddie came passing out
tickets, we ended up in the reservoir.  We
partied up with Dan P. and returned
the favor (he'd let me on his draw
earlier in the season). 

Joe R. gave me some good guidence
but I didn't quite find his spot.  Still,
we had a good day of teal, ringers,
wood duck, and fulvous.  Jim's nice,
drake woody floated away somewhat
at an angle to the wind.  It seemed
strange, but we couldn't figure out why
until we picked up and found that
a turtle had gnawed the butt off the
duck.  Since it didn't ruin any of the
meat, we were cool.

It was an okay day.


Sunday, February 06, 2011

For the Children

Saturday was the Youth Waterfowl Hunt
at TMG WMA.  As always, it is my favorite
hunt of the year.  

I was quite fortunate this year.  Stu got
a draw for the Goodwin side, but was the
14th pick of 16 groups.  I wasn't sure
we would get the spot we wanted in
the reservoir.  Out of the blue earlier
in the week, I got an email from Mike U.
I had worked with him years before
at Controls.  He had been scanning
the Internet for info on the Youth
Hunt, found oldfatslow, recognized
me from a picture, and wrote to see
if I was hunting.  He and a friend were
each taking a son and his boy had
the fifth pick.  He asked if I wanted
to have Stu and Tommy party up
with them.  I dithered at first because
I didn't have waders for Tommy.  But,
Tom found an old pair that he could
fit and the bathtub proved didn't leak,
and we were ready.

I got there early and found the gate open
and drove on in.  There had been no
hunters in line and no one else at
the check in stand.   Jason "Kansas" the
intern was working the desk and gave
me good G2 on where he had seen 
birds.  It was the same impoundment
where Craig had had his great YWfH
nine years before. 

Mike and his buddy Dave showed up
with their sons, Josh and Kody and
reissued their invitation.  I was only
too greedy eager to agree.  Jamie F.,
the local Professional Wildlife 
Biologist confirmed the G2 and we
got the spot we wanted.

Kansas wasn't going to run the "hay
wagon" and gave us permission to
drive up by the observation tower
next to our draw.  

It wasn't a big pond and we set up
on the north reed line.  With the south 
wind we weren't in the best spot,
but it wasn't a strong wind and 
teal will fly however they want to.

We were on the bank, high and dry.
The decoys were in two wads in
front of us and we had a lot of
time (an hour) to enjoy morning on
the marsh.  I had hoped for fog and
ended up not being disappointed.
The fog rolled in and slowly blotted
out all the distant lights.  We could
hear lots of hen and drake teal around
us and (I thought) some pintail.  A 
group of black bellied tree ducks came
over, but never came back.

When shooting time came, we had
one duck land and get nipped, but
it landed a ways out and disappeared
before we could make a retrieve.

I realized that we weren't right where
the ducks wanted to be and we picked
up and quickly moved to the only
other spot with cover.  We were still
facing south into the wind, but the
decoys were in much shallower 
water.  We covered up with palmetto
fans that Mike and Dave had brought
with them as best we could.  The
four boys were in front and the
dads behind.  We were exposed,
but it didn't seem to bother the
birds.  Fog helps.

Tommy in the Blind

Wide Open on Our Little Island
Stu fell in a hole and got most everything
wet but his gun.  He was miserable, but
still hunting.  Tommy managed the first
duck - a hen blue wing - that landed to
the right of his position.  We were on 
the board and the rest of the day was

We never had big opportunities after that
and most of the shots were passing shots.
Mike's son Josh had the hot hand making
many really hard over the left shoulder 
shots.  He finished the day with his first
four ducks - 3 bwt and 1 gwt.  Kody was
wedged in the middle and didn't have
as many chances, but as soon as he
moved to the end seat, he dropped a
nice drake bwt - his first duck.  

Tommy got one more duck when
a small group of gwt flew through.
It happened so fast that he didn't
have time to really pick them up.
He fired instinctually and hit his
drake with most of the 3" #4 20 ga.
steel pellets.  That was about as 
dead a duck as I've ever seen.

Stu got a nice drake bwt and
crippled a drake ringer.  Mike
and I made a two lab tough 
retrieve on that bird in some
thick mud and para grass.  I
again tested my blood pressure
medicine to the max and it
came through.

A UWF buddy - Naustin -
was on shore and took these
pictures of us on the wade in:

We hit IHOP for a late
breakfast/early lunch and
had then sent some tired boys
and proud-and-tired dads

It was the best hunt of the season!

Four Happy Hunters

Stuart and Tommy with (l to r) Drake BWT, Drake Ringer, Drake GWT, Hen BWT

Duck Hunting is Serious Business