oldfatslow

Tu tene eum procul; Ego curram ob auxilium!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

African Queening It

Opening day for this season came
warm and clear.  The heavy summer
rains have ceased and the St. Johns
River has fallen 1.5 feet below the
78 year median level.  Many of my
favorite hunting spots have either
become too overgrown or too
shallow to hunt. Scouting the days
before did not reveal a whole lot
of ducks.  

Navy boy was home on leave
for the opener and he, LT, and
I headed out to one spot 3.5
miles or so downriver that
has historically been deep
enough and productive
enough.

The start was uneventful.
We peeked in at one spot
named Fog Hunt that was
completely dry ground and
headed on to Big Bend and
found it to be mid thigh deep.
I put out teal and coot decoys
and a Mojo teal while the boys
set up the palmettos and boat
blind.

15 minutes before shooting
time several groups of black
bellied whistling ducks came
over - some within easy
shooting range.  Visibility was
good enough to have shot a
few, but we did not want to
risk careers by getting ticketed
for shooting early.  There was
someone a bit farther down
the flight line that didn't have
the same scruples and unloaded
on the black bellies shortly
after we watched them pass
by.

For a long time that morning
we sat idle and observed fish
jumping in the pond and shore
birds flying all around us.  We
were well camoed up - even a
wary hawk didn't see us until
it was a few feet from the blind.
Our Thermocell kept the
mosquitoes off especially after
I actually got it lit.

Late in the morning, we were
suddenly surprised by a flock
of "black" ducks in the decoys.
We didn't hear or see them come
in, but they were right around
the landing zone.  I had a hard
time processing what they were
with what my expectations
were in that most puddle ducky
of puddle duck habitats.

We all opened up and knocked
two down.  I fired the new pump
three times and didn't even know
it.  I was still cycling and trying
to shoot as the flock rose up
right over my head.  I was
surprised to see the odd
bills of spoonies and even
more surprised to find that
we retrieved two nice, drake
ringers.  I've never shot, seen,
or heard of ringers up there.

We decided to go shoot some
snipe and tore down the blind
and picked up the decoys.  I
fired up the engine and almost
immediately, it seized up.  I
knew it was serious when I
called my mechanic and he
basically said, "It's serious."
There was no one near us.
The only boat we had seen
all day had cut in upriver of
us, and was long gone.

At first we tried walking on
the bank and pulling the boat.
That worked until we hit head
high para grass and could only
take 6 inch steps.  We then
got in the swift current of the
narrow (35 feet) river and tried
hugging the edge and pulling.
The edge was steep, slippery,
and marked by gator holes that
we didn't fancy dangling our
feet in front of.

Finally, LT exerted his leadership
and came up with the idea
of two of us sitting on the side
of the boat and grabbing para
grass and pulling us ahead
one arm length at a time.
Navy boy sat in the bow
paddling to keep us nosed
into the shoreline.  We did
that for several hours before
a couple of guys came by
and offered us a tow.  It
was good they showed up
when they did, our arms
were getting worked over
and at least once, LT saw
a snake.

My mechanic now has the
boat and is fixing the shaft.

 ---------------------------------
Navy boy and I decided to
walk on for a Tuesday hunt
at the local WMA.  He partied
up with Ducktales who has
been a stalwart duck hunter
for our family, while I partied
up with old friend Hookupandgo
and his boss Tony.  Navy boy
had the better spot and tore up.
He ended up with a limit that
included a drake pinner, drake
mottled, and four blue wing
teal.  I eked out a solo blue
wing.

 

 ---------------------------------
I went back yesterday when Tony
called up and said he was the first
in the walkin line and would I be
interested in joining him and his
son.  No hesitation there.

We got one of the wading spots
and got some good G2 from
Duckmanjr and headed off.  All
in all, the wade wasn't bad.  No
para grass and shallow water.  The
mud was a bit of a challenge, but
I didn't do too badly.  Tony and
his son hunted near shore and I
moved almost all the way across
the impoundment.

I had to run and gun to find where
the ducks wanted to be, but the
biggest problem I had was me.
I'm just not a good shot and the
new gun is taking some getting
used to.  I could have had several
limits, but managed to scare quite
a few ducks.  I did scratch out
a drake ringer, drake bwt, and my
second ever hen buffy.  Not the most
prized of ducks, but I was proud
that I got it.  Really a good day.

 Here's what a hen bufflehead
looks like.





"Bucephala-albeola-010" by Mdf - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

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