Tu tene eum procul; Ego curram ob auxilium!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Early Teal 2018

First time hunting out of the Fowl Trouble.

I had scouted a bit the week before.  The habitat looked
good, but I only saw two birds that might have been
ducks.  Senior, wishful eyes can sometimes be
deceived.  The river dropped several inches over
the week and I was glad this week was Early Teal.
A few weeks from now and it'll be only good for

I got up Saturday morning and got out to the
ramp in good time.  There was another boat
launching.  I talked to one guy and he said
they had seen some groups when they scouted.
I hadn't been sure if Hurricane Florence hadn't
messed up the migration.

The first time I had paddled out to my spot in
the dark and I got lost in an area that shouldn't
have been that challenging.  It took a while of
paddling around trying to find landmarks and
trying to move fast enough to register on the
GPS until I figured out where I was and
got near my spot.  I had to get out of the
kayak and pull it through the smart weed to
find a hole with enough open water.  I
finally did, got the decoys out, the boat positioned,
and waited the 15 seconds until shooting time.

The time came and went, but there were no
ducks.  I could hear sporadic shooting in
the distance, but not much.  As the light
got brighter, I saw a slightly bigger and
better hole a little farther out.  So, I moved
the decoys to it and the kayak up some.
I was set up 15 yards from the decoys
because I need to see the ducks and I
hate long retrieves.

The ugly blind that I built from pvc
conduit pipe and old camo netting
stood tall and odd shaped behind me,
but the sun was to my back and I was
at least in deep shadow.

An airboat went behind me some
distance.  It must have flushed a flock
of ducks.  They came from my right shoulder
and looked huge.  I thought it was the
biggest group of mottled ducks (illegal
to shoot for early teal).  They wheeled
around and came right back to the
spinning wing duck.  I had a quick debate
and decided they were teal.  I missed
with the first shot, but doubled with
the next two.

I then spent twenty minutes trudging through
the smartweed looking for the birds.  I
was certain they had both dropped hard and
weren't swimming off crippled. I located
one took it back to the boat, Texted a
quick photo of it to my son who was out
hunting in North Dakota to let him know
I was first on the board with a teal.

I sat for a long time without another bird
and decided to look again for my lost
duck.  I retrudged the smartweed and
happened to look up to see two teal
flying right over my head away from me.
(That's a way too common occurrence for
duck hunters.) But, I found my lost bird
and went back to the boat happy.

I saw another group several hundred
yards to my right get flushed and fly
around, but not near me.  Some time
later, another group of 8 or so came
from the left straight into the decoys.

I had too much time to think and didn't
hit but one duck.  I marked it much better
and went right to it.  The bird helped by
being belly up.

By then, the tour airboats were running
and had scared everything else away.  I
waited for the Ten O'clock Duck (tm),
but no luck.  I packed up and started the
paddle back to the ramp.

I chose a different path back and headed
straight for the main channel of the St.
Johns River. At the edge, I had to get out
of the boat and pull it across a sandbar:
one step too far unfortunately.  I stepped
of the edge and topped off my hip waders.

I was a little soggy on the paddle back, but
a very happy hunter.

North Dakota boy really had a good day.  He
got two wood ducks and a green wing to
tie for most while beating me on biggest and
only.  He went out the next day and got a
hen mallard and three spoonies.  




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