Waterfowling is a passion of many a sportsman around the globe. My friend Tim is one of those sportsmen, so whenever an invite is floated my way I am sure to accept. Today Tim, along with his Chessie Pogue, and I trekked in the predawn blackness to the brush choked, muddy shore of a beaver impoundment Tim frequents. The effort was well worth it.
To assure we'd have ample time to bushwhack in and set decoys, I rolled out of bed at 4 AM, and turned the car north 15 minutes later. By 5:30 Tim and I were dressed and making our way in, and had our set up completed about 20 minutes later. This actually allowed us 15+ minutes of listening to mallards quacking, wings whistling, and duck butts splashing down. One minute after shooting time arrived I found myself swinging on a trio of ducks set to land in our spread. The butt to shoulder-cheek to stock- muzzle to bird-finger to trigger scenario played out in perfect syncronization, and the duck disappeared. The splash and concentric rings in the water confirmed what we knew, and Pogue was sent for the first retrieve of the day. Not being a regular fowler, I am usually happy when any fowl makes it home with me, and even a single duck is considered a "success". In turn, my focus has been on increasing my species list. I've shot Mallards, Blacks, Woodie, Pintails, and now I could add Gadwall to the list. For the next 15 minutes we announced our position to the world with an almost steady volley of shots. I'd like to tell you that by the time it slowed down we'd sent the dog to pick a number of well shot birds, but I can't.
As the action slowed, ducks still came in, worked the decoys, and held our attention. Some shots were still offered, and some spectacular misses were recorded by us both. Such is the art of wing shooting. To our right Mallards teased us, setting into an inpenetratable mess, while to our left Teal zoomed in, landing in open water too far away. Eventually it was time to pick up the decoys, and prepare to go to work, so we resigned ourselves to the fact that we need more time at skeet.
As Tim waded out to the first decoy he insisted that I remain by the shore, loaded, and looking. He assured me that as Murphy prescribed so many years ago, that ducks will come in while the decoys are being pulled. He was right, and I soon knocked a drake Mallard into the weeds about 50 yards to our left. To our surprise Pogue started back without the drake. No big deal. We'd finish picking up, walk the shore close to the mark, and send him again on a hunt dead. Of course I made this harder to do by splashing down a passing Canada goose. The goose wasn't dead on the water, and required Pogue to give considerable chase. When the goose crossed a section of the beaver dam Pogue got the leverage he needed, leaping from atop the dam directly onto the goose. A job well done, by the somewhat aging veteran.
Picking the Mallard proved to be more of a chore than we expected, too. We both expected the drake to be dead, but put it out from under a blow where it had been hiding. Again, Pogue gave chase while the duck made a series of submarine maneuvers to avoid capture. At one point, while well clear of the dog, Tim even shot it again, but it kept swimming. Soon the drake dove, and never resurfaced. Pogue was directed to the area where he searched and searched. We'd considered waiting out the duck, but time wasn't on our side, and painfully the decision was made to abandon the search with the hope that Tim and Pogue could make it back there before sunset to try a hunt dead search again.
While lost game, and a friend shooting zeros isn't anyone's idea of a good time, and I take no joy in them, the morning was exceptional. The only thing that held us back was ourselves, and had we been shooting better, no doubt we'd have been damned close to carrying out a limit. We are both excited to team up for a duck hunt again soon, and now that I've seen the beaver impoundment, and what it holds for cover, I'll bring Ginger to get her share of the work.