My son and I just got back from a trip to Phillips, Wisc to hunt grouse. It was our first year there so we had to burn a few days until we figured out where the birds were at, Uggh! We finally got into them though, on the third day and had all the shooting and dog work we ever wanted to see. We got our limit easily on the grouse and the timber doodles. Lots of shooting fun.
I am always amazed at how quick those elusive grouse can put a tree between me and them and it got me thinking about similar experiences I have had in the duck blind with fast flying birds. Like hunting Reelfoot Lake on a bluebird day when flights of 10 - 15 blue and green teal would buzz our decoys, swooping in like lightning and then are gone.
I'm usually the one chewing a piece of sausage or biscuit when they arrive, so by the time I stuff the remainder of the breakfast in my mouth, wipe off my hands, grab my gun and poke through the blind... well you know the story... all I ever see is a bunch of small pepper like specks jostling above the horizon.
Now that's not always the case.
If our guide happens to be 'watching the sky' and 'see' the teal 'before' they get to our spread... well things can be a little different. Yes it happened a few years back during early teal season. We had just finished chasing away the last water moccasin that had taken up summer residence in our blind when our guide got 'birdy'.
"Everyone down!" he shouted and we all quickly dropped under the blind and moved to our allotted holes. We grabbed our guns and each of us looked skyward but could see nothing. We turned to our guide and watched as his eyes strained to follow a flock of small ducks barely visible high in the sky above us.
"Don't move!" he barked as he began to work his call. I know there is a lot of argument about whether or not you can decoy teal and frankly, I don't know the answer. All I know is he worked his mallard call to perfection as any good Tenn. guide would and he got the attention of the flock high above and they began to drop.
"Get ready..." he whispered. We watched his face reddened as he held the call to his mouth. He slowly turned from looking skyward, his neck muscles tense, sweat coming down his forehead as his eyes focused towards the right-front of the decoy spread. He took breaths furiously trying to maintain his calling pattern and we feared he would keel over form working the call hard but he kept calling. We sat upon our haunches, unable to see, muscles tense, guns at the ready waiting in the hot September afternoon for our call to action.
"Take 'em!" he finally yelled. At his command 5 hunters popped up from the blind, located the flock directly in front of the dekes and began to fill the air with steel. There were 8 teal and they had strung out in a line out about 35 yards and were blazin' through the far edge of the dekes. Since we were all competitive trap shooters, it didn't take us long to lay down a curtain of steel and to our surprise, watched as 8 teal fell simultaneously dead to the water.
"Hoo, hoo!... Damn boys!" the guide yelled out as he stared in amazement at the 8 lifeless clumps of feathers floating among the decoys. "Ive never seen shootin' like that before!" he grinned and began to shake our hands. We all gave each other high fives and hooted at our success, patting each other on the back at our marvelous shooting abilities! It was a memorable September afternoon.
Isn't it funny how a grouse whisping through the aspens in Wisc. can bring back another, almost forgotten memory?