My command decided that today was going to be a snow day. Why?
There is no snow, but the good idea fairy decided that since 8 people wanted to go skiing that the entire squadron would be off.
I decided last night that I would spend my day hunting since I will have my daughter this weekend. This morning when my alarm clock went off, I decided screw it...I'm sleeping in. 0730 rolls around and I get up and load the truck. I hadn't shot my Harli yet this year, but have gotten a few people theirs, so I'd better get mine before the season ends or the next storm blows them out. The decision was made that I would sneakboat a hen Harli for two reasons. 1) They are dumb 2) I need one for the mount I want to do.
I get to the location I am going to launch my marsh rat from and I can see a dozen or so Harli's in my scope. AWESOME!!
This is great! I paddle out 150 yards or so then start working parallel to the beach. I did not notice what the birds did, but started my approach in. I get about 75 yards from the beach and I'm looking. No birds.
They had flown down the beach a ways, apparently for a great reason. As I start adjusting myself to paddle back out I hear a very loud gasp behind me. I turn my head and a sea lion looks at me, jumps, and dives. TALK ABOUT A PUCKER FACTOR OF 10!!
Rather than paddling out to try another sneak in, I paddled to the beach. I waited a few minutes, watching the water to see if it would resurface, before paddling back out. I begin my paddle out and I hear the squeaks of Harlis. I look to the left and there are 4 birds flying directly at me about 5 feet off the water. As they approach I am expecting them to flare off well outside of range, but they didn't. They swung outside of me at about 20 yards and I shot the lead bird.
I begin my paddle over to retrieve the bird and it is a beautiful drake! I was a little disappointed because I shot the only drake in the group and really wanted a hen, but at this point it doesn't matter. He is barrel rolling in the water. As I paddle over to get him I notice a blue colored band around his near leg. I paddled faster as I feared losing a beautiful bird and potentially my first band to the sea lion that I know had just recently been there. I get to him and pick him up. YES!!!
HE IS BANDED!!
Since it is my first banded bird, I decided to take him home before pursuing other species within the radius I usually hunt in. The numbers and letters on the band were so faint I had to read the band at an angle. This beautiful bird will go on the wall and is also my first band. He was banded August 20, 2004 in Lake McDonald, Montana.
After discovering where this stud was banded, I headed to another spot I like to hunt to fill my Scoter limit for the day. After getting my long line set, I look over and I have 2 harbor seals looking at me. (The other day while hunting this location with another board member we had porpoises pop up right outside our longlines.) I smacked the water with my paddle and they moved away a few yards, but kept looking at me. I positioned myself where I wanted to be and began to wait. It took only a few minutes before the first Surf swung into the decoys. He was a drake so I shot him. I picked him up and reset. No sooner than I reset did I have another pair swing in. I shot my second drake. It took me longer to setup and tear down the line than it did for me to shoot my Scoters. At this point I decide I'm going to explore a little bit and see what else this area has to offer.
I found another beach access in the area and began glassing. I found a big raft of black birds so I busted out the big scope to check it out further. THERE WERE 400+ BRANT SITTING THERE!! Needless to say it was cool to look at them and whatnot, but today is not a Brant day and this county has no season on them.
After this discovery I watched the geese for a bit before heading to a spot I generally shoot Goldeneye and Bufflehead in to finish up my limit. I setup and waited. Birds were flying and decoying, but there were no drakes. I let the hens live today. About 3:00 pm my wife called me to go pick up her prescription because it was ready so I just called it a day.
Here is the obligatory photo (Internet scouters, please feel free to get the GPS coords to come shoot one. My dogs would love a snack):