waterfowl article

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waterfowl article

Postby 2point » Mon Sep 24, 2012 7:26 pm

I wrote 2 articles for a waterfowl magazine, one got published this one never did. Thought some might like to read it. Have a great season.

The Full Circle of a Waterfowl Hunter

When I was younger in the 70s, and early 80s, the only thing I did was waterfowl hunt. If it wasn’t duck season, my friend Randy and I would go on reconnaissance missions scouting ducks, seeing their numbers, and flight patterns on the local refuge that we hunted. We were two young guys sitting on the hood of a 72 Ford Maverick, drinking a cold one, watching the birds overhead and saying, “ Yeah, I would of hit that one, no doubt.” Even today as my wife and I go for walks in the area parks and ducks and geese fly over us, I shoulder my imaginary gun, and pull through with a “Boom.” She says, “You do that every time, and shakes her head.” She looks at me as if to say, you know you are getting too old to do that.

If you do something long enough you get pretty good at it. Randy and I loved duck hunting, and not to brag, but we were pretty skillful hunters. On the refuge we frequently went to, we had to pick one of the many blinds that were scattered all over and hunt within 10 feet of that blind. You could watch other hunters, and see how well their hunt was going. The blinds were first come, first serve; you parked your car in the spot for the blind you wanted. Randy and I were overzealous, and much younger back then. Some people may have just called us plain stupid. We would sleep in our car to assure we would get a good blind for the next morning’s hunt.

We would sleep over at each other’s house. Our parents never wanted us to leave too early when we went hunting. My mom told us to get a good night sleep and not to leave too early. Then she would go to bed. We would be reloading shotgun shells in the garage saying “Yeah mom, no problem, then about an hour later we would quietly push my car a block down the road so she wouldn’t hear us leave. We would start it up, and drive off to the refuge. I can remember those cold nights sleeping in a car seat with a black lab on my lap, and waking up in the morning with a thick layer of ice inside the windows.

One day at sunset, Randy and I were walking out from our blind back to the parking lot. An older fellow hunter was waiting for us to walk out with him. Looking us over he said, “ Hmm, I was expecting older guys than you two, and with better guns. But boy can you guys shoot. I knew if anything came in range of you two, there was a slim chance it would ever make it to me.” He was right that day. We did have a flock of 4 blue wing teal come in, and after four quick shots, none left.
I couldn’t believe he wasn’t impressed with my old Winchester pump model 1200. My grandpa had a model 12 and told me I needed a Winchester pump if I was going to hunt waterfowl. I saved up $75 and bought my gun. I remember telling my grandpa it only shoots 2 ¾ inch shells, no 3 inch magnums. He laughed and said, “You don’t need 3 inch magnums to kill a goose; that is crazy.” It reminds me of today, over 30 years later, and guys arguing about the merits of the 3-½-inch magnums. I now have that model 12 in my safe, and I am planning to take it out this fall on some grouse and pheasant hunts in grandpa’s honor.

Nobody in my family ever hunted, except my grandpa on my mom’s side of the family. My mom was the one that in a weird way encouraged me to hunt. I remember one day when my older sister came over and asked what I was doing. My mom laughed, and told her that I have either painted my face green and was sitting in a tree with my bow waiting for a deer to walk by, or of course I could be duck hunting. My sister said, “That is stupid! Why do you let him do that?” Mom smiled and said, “ He loves it and there is a lot worse things he could be doing. Don’t worry about him.”

Before I could drive, my mom would drop Randy and I off on the Bitterroot River with our decoys and shotguns. In the predawn darkness, she would say, “See you in a few hours.” Mom would do what she loved to do; she would go to rummage sales. She hunted for bargains, and ducks for us. One time she picked us up and proudly said, “Look what I got you!” In the car trunk were a half dozen duck decoys and a nice wool-hunting coat. Then we would go get some cinnamon rolls or some lunch, and we would talk about our hunting adventures. Thanks to mom, I had rubber, cork, and plastic decoys. Most were mallards, but a few other species were thrown in. It was like that Dolly Parton’s song called, “A Coat of Many Colors.” She sings about when she was poor; her mom collected fabric and made her a coat from the different fabrics. We really weren’t poor, but thanks to mom I had decoys of many colors.

My mom is no longer with us. Sometimes as I sit in my duck blind and the action is slow, I look up at the clouds wondering if she is looking down on me smiling because she knows how much I love it. I have sat in the blind with my yellow lab Miley, and have talked to mom and have told her how much I miss her. A couple of years ago, her passing was fresh in my mind. I was very sad, and started to cry. Miley, being the sweet little seven month old puppy, came over and started licking the tears off my cheeks and gave me a look like, “Don’t worry they will start flying soon.” Having a special hunting dog like Miley sure makes waterfowl hunting something wonderful. To see her as excited as I am anticipating how the day will unfold is something special. Continued next post
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Re: waterfowl article

Postby 2point » Mon Sep 24, 2012 7:30 pm

Randy and I got away from waterfowl hunting for many reasons. The administration of the refuge changed and it made hunting a lesser priority. Steel shot wasn’t very appealing. We both got married which took away some free time. The passing of Randy’s little lion hearted black lab named Cookie was probably the biggest reason we got away from waterfowl hunting.
We knew she was a special retriever on her second or third retrieve. She swam 100 yards across a pond chasing a cripple that then crossed a road, jumped in another pond, and swam another 100 yards before she caught the duck and brought it back. Without much training, she would bring the bird back, sit, and deliver the bird to your hand.

I remember one day shooting a bull sprig and it fell to the left of our blind. It looked crushed as it dropped like a stone. Cookie started out that way and then veered to the right of the blind and started going through a cattail jungle. I was hollering at her to get back to the blind to send her in the right direction. She managed to get 100 yards from the blind and my blood pressure was rising. She finally came back with a very alive winged pintail drake in her mouth. The look she gave me will never be forgotten, as I sheepishly took the bird from her mouth and we continued hunting. Her look was like, “Don’t tell me how to retrieve and I won’t tell you how to shoot. That bird should have been dead.” She got an extra large piece of my sandwich for lunch that day.

Sometimes Randy had to work and I would stop by his house and pick up Cookie and head out for a hunt. Some blinds were good for pass shooting, and so many times we sat in those blinds on the dike. Keenly watching one way the ducks would back door me from the other way. Cookies other job besides retrieving was to sit on the straw bale seat so she could see out of the blind. We always faced in opposite directions watching for ducks. Then glancing into her eyes every few moments and watching her actions, I knew if any ducks were coming. She would sit quietly for hours, scanning into the sky for ducks for me. What a dog! She probably weighed fifty-five pounds soaking wet and forty-five pounds of that was heart. She never would have won any field trials; all she ever did was retrieve ducks and geese.

Do you remember when you were 17 years old? If you were like me you never thanked the special people in your life enough? Possibly it could have been your special dog, or even your hunting buddy’s dog. I would like to go back and hunt with Cookie just one more time and thank her for all the wonderful memories.

As a middle school teacher, I respect and love the students who sincerely thank me for helping them. Sometimes it is later in life. I have been out different places, and former students have come up and introduced me to their spouses. They tell me what they are doing, and just say thanks to me for being a friend to them. That is a great compliment to a teacher. I should have done that more often when I was younger.

Randy and I started big game hunting and pushed our shotguns further back in the gun safe. We had a lot of fun and killed some great animals. It was fun and exciting but nothing ever compared to ducks cupping into the decoys. No matter how successful we were, we would say things like, “Remember that day in blind thirteen when we limited out and the birds just kept coming in when were picking up the decoys. Nothing will ever top that day.”

About ten years ago my hunting career made a big turn back to waterfowl when a friend I taught with, named Shawn said, “Do you want to go goose hunting up at my place over Christmas break?” So another teacher Jon and I went up there. We were driving around looking at endless fields and then we came across a field that had a string of honkers in it 200 yards long. Shawn made a few phone calls and said “We can hunt there.” Jon and I couldn’t believe our luck. “That was so easy to get permission.” I thought. Jon said, “We could hunt there? Well let’s go.” We had to convince him that tomorrow we would put out decoys, and needed to leave them alone. If we go jump shoot that field, they won’t be back. Jon is a big guy, an ex pro football player for the Los Angeles Raiders. I thought, we better drive fast out of here because I can’t hold him back if he wants to sneak up on those geese. Even with his fused neck and 2 artificial hips he could still easily take me.
I remember not being able to fall asleep that night. Like a kid before Christmas wondering what will tomorrow bring? Or maybe I couldn’t sleep because the couch was so uncomfortable. Then visions of elk hunting were in my thoughts, getting up super early, chaining up the truck, sliding over icy mountain roads, and hiking endless miles looking for elk. I remember wondering if you were lucky or unlucky if you got one, because of the work ahead of you. I am the first to admit I am soft. The word I am thinking about other then soft probably couldn’t be printed here. Big game hunting was losing its appeal. If tomorrow works out like it should, the 30-06 is going further back into the gun safe.

We did great the next day. Everybody limited out, and new friendships were made. The pendulum was swinging back to waterfowl hunting. At 50 years old, is this my final swing, will waterfowl be my final priority in my hunting career? I believe it is. Only time will tell, but I will still make time to paint my face green and sit in a tree (okay maybe a ground blind this year) and think of my mom’s laugh when she looked at my painted face. I still will get out during the whitetail rut to look for a whitetail buck as big as the ones Randy always seems to kill.
Yes, the joys of waterfowl hunting have returned to me, and as I have grown older I have more respect for the cold mornings scanning the skies for the first flock to appear. As I wrote this article my wife kept asking me to read it to her, and I did but always with the following warning. “Honey, I don’t know if you will like it, or even get it, because you don’t hunt waterfowl”. She would say “That is not true, I will tell you if it is good or not”.

No matter what I write non waterfowl hunters won’t understand it until they have spent many days waterfowl hunting. They have never smelled the mixture of gunpowder and fresh mud. They have never seen birds of prey chasing mallards down the river at incredible rates of speed. They have never heard the loud screeching wings of canvasbacks as they bank in the decoys. You swear it sounds like a miniature jet. They will never know how good it feels to get back to the truck after picking up icy decoys and waiting for the heater to start to blow warm air. They will never know how great a cold peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a hot cup of coffee can taste in a duck blind. They will never know the feeling of watching your young lab retrieve her first duck. Then way too soon, they will never know the feeling of watching your old lab retrieve her last duck. They will never know the feeling of dropping a duck after everybody else in the blind has missed it.

Yes, I am back to my roots for what I love to hunt. Should I curse myself for the years I let go by? I don’t think so; maybe with that absence I now understand more about this great tradition that was introduced to me so many years ago. I sure hope that those who have read this article understand what I am trying to express. When really there is no way a middle school teacher from western Montana describing his adventures will ever do waterfowl hunting justice.
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Re: waterfowl article

Postby gunsnrods » Mon Sep 24, 2012 10:08 pm

Thank you for the great read. Good luck to you this year and many to come.
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Re: waterfowl article

Postby OGblackcloud » Mon Sep 24, 2012 10:42 pm

Very good :thumbsup: :beer:
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Re: waterfowl article

Postby 2point » Tue Sep 25, 2012 8:36 pm

Thanks for the kind words, Here is to an excellent year chasing waterfowl. :beer:
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