Duck Hunting Games – The Long Morning Walk
by Blake Gipson
It was Christmas morning and it was dang cold outside. What made this worse was the fact that I was lost. I better start this duck hunting games – the long morning walk story a couple hours before this. I got up as usual at 4am and gathered my gear in the dark at my house. I had heard about a stretch of river that was loaded with birds but I had never hunted before so I figured I had better arrive early just to be safe. I got all packed up, had my dog Remington, gun, shells, deeks, and everything else I would need for the day. About an hour later I arrived and checked in to blind #12 since 13 through 17 were already taken, I figured that must be the area to be in.
I arrived at my parking lot and for the life of me could not find a single trail leaving it in the direction I needed to go so I blazed my own. After an hour of busting through brush, following old dry riverbeds, slogging through mud that was once duck habitat, and spewing just about every curse word in the book I finally found the river. I found a nice log laid over in the water and set out my modest spread in front of it; a couple ringneck here, a group of mallards there and a pair of geese for the finishing touch. As I walk back to shore I don’t see my shotgun laying on the shore where I left it. As I get closer I see a couple inches of barrel sticking out above the water and realize that Remi bumped it and it slid in. “No big deal,” I think to myself. I get the gun pulled out and dried off as best I can and sit and wait. My watch says 5:15, almost two hours to sunrise still and this is when the cold really starts to hit me. I’m layered up thick in my thermal underwear, fleece sweater, waders and jacket and it’s still cutting in on me! Any exposed skin feels like pins and needles are getting hammered in so I decide to walk back to the truck and warm up for a bit.
I follow my haphazard trail for about 15 minutes before I realize that I never really had a trail… I am lost in the dark again. After another half hour I find my way back to my spread and lay down on the bank and wait. My phone buzzes indicating shoot time so I slide in the water behind my log just as a group of mallards starts to dial in on the decoys and lock up to land. I pull up and push my safety, but it doesn’t give. The birds land 5 yards away and all I have is a gun with a safety frozen solid so I start blowing as much hot air on the thing as I can, scrambling to get a chance at these birds. After about 15 seconds of this they’ve had enough and take off. I give Remi a dirty look but she still looks happy as ever. It’s not long before the next group is working in to my calling and between quacks and chatter I am making sure to keep my safety thawed out. They cup and slide right in and this time I am ready for them! I hammer the first drake, work the pump, and *click*… nothing… I work the pump again and *click*… still nothing… the birds are gone and my dog is retrieving my downed drake while I start to tear apart my gun and figure out what is going on now. Turns out the magazine spring froze inside the tube. I get this thawed and dried and we are back in business. From here things go pretty smooth, a duck works in, I keep the safety warm, take the shot, a duck falls and my dog chases it down. By the end of the morning I have my limit of 5 mallard drakes plus a drake wigeon for my 6th bird. As we started to walk back to the truck, I dread the hour it’s going to take us to make it out of there because these are northern birds and they are dang heavy! We just make it through the first patch of brush when I hear a vehicle coming along the road that led to blinds further down from us and sure enough the road and my truck are only 300 yards away! I looked all around in hunts after that and still have no idea how I managed to spend an hour lost in that short distance between my truck and the river. Sometimes the duck hunting games, getting lost on the morning walk, guns going in the water, or finding a new place by accident are what make the memories even more special.