Saturday was my last hunt for this season. A buddy called me on Thursday and wanted to hunt the lower river on Saturday for Puddlers. We set up a time and a place for him to pick me up off the bank since he has a smaller motor and running two guys a long ways eats a lot of gas. Toss in that his main motor has acted up twice while under heavy load this season. The day started of fine with a wake up and a quick breakfast. Bella was her usual self with tons of excitement and prancing around since she knows when we are going hunting.
I fired the rig up and had a distinct squeal I could hear over the engine noise. That was new! I popped the hood and figured I would hear a belt squealing. Nope! An idler pulley that keeps the main serpentine belt tight was making the noise. A quick shot of WD 40 and the noise stopped. Time to change a pulley, after I get back from the hunt. I loaded the rig and sent a prayer up that we would make it without the pulley loosing it's bearings. The dang thing doesn't have a grease point so the WD 40 was going to have to hold.
The drive was straight forward with very little traffic and clear roads. The sky was clear, and I had hopes to see some wind to get the birds moving. I reached the pick up spot 15 minutes ahead of our appointed meet time. I put the dogs vest onher, unloaded my stuff on shore, and put on my waders. Brian showed up about 10 minutes later than expected. The wind was really kicking it up halfway between the ramp and the pick up point and he had to slow to a crawl through that area.
We got everything loaded without a hitch and made the run to our hunting spot without a problem, until Brian ran us up on a sandbar in the dark.
Fortunately we had slowed down since we were near shore and looking for an opening. We hopped out and waded a bit pulling the boat to find the small channel we needed to run the boat back into the slough. Once we found it we hit the back area we were looking for and immediately got into a discussion about who should hunt where. Brian wanted to hunt a goofy little back pocket that doesn't get hit very hard by the birds. He wanted me to hunt some piling and see if I could shortstop the birds that normally land further up the slough. I wanted to hunt the top of the slough in shallower water where we see ducks land all the time, he wanted me to try the pile set and I figured since he set up the hunt, why not try it for a bit. After disagreeing about the efficacy of his planning for the day, and the fact that I couldn't hunt Bella with me in the piles I set up there.
Bella stayed with Brian and Schnootz on shore while I waded out and put out 4 Widgeon decoys and a floating base with 4 of my BB foamers and a BB spinner. Now mind, Brian set up the entire hunt, and is usually on the ball about everything. Being a late blooming retard, I trusted that he had done his homework and was all over it. Nope! He told me we had a small tide and incoming until around 8:45 then the water would be dropping slowly. He also told me the depth at the piles should allow me to hunt from the end of the pile set, and not to set up in the pocket where they met the brush. Well that was wrong too. When I got over there the piles had deeper water than expected. I threw the 4 widgeon decoys out from the brushline and then very carefully waded to almost flooding my waders and tossed the spinner and base outside of them a bit to draw birds.
After a bit of careful investigation I found out the the piles had an innner and outer log that was bolted in horizontally that I could stand on and walk out to the end of the pile set on. I moved about halfway out the pile set where I could stand in waist deep water and shoot at an angle where I would not accidentally spray Brian with pellets. I could hear Bella on shore giving me an occasional whine about not getting to be with me. She ran back over to Brian on command and sat down with a grumble.
Brian and I were chatting about the decoy set up, safe angles of fire, and him using the boat to retrieve birds when the first flights came in to land well before shooting light. Those spinners sure do work great in low light conditions. As first light got close more birds were dropping in to my huge decoy spread. All 8 of them and the spinner. Brian and I got into a conversation about what time first shooting light was and when we could shoot. I had to look it up, I didn't trust him after his last oops.
So first light comes up and I have a hen buffy land off the left at a bad angle on the decoys. Not wanting to shoot Brian, I let her go. At this point I notice the water has climbed high enough on my waders I either have to sit on the pile top, or move. I carefully moved out to the end of the pile set where some brush has grown on the end sets and reset up. I am sitting on a cross piece and watching hundreds of birds working the area in the first light of day. It is always awesome watching the birds work and come in, particularly against a beautiful sunrise. A few minutes after getting there a widgeon single comes in and lands way off to my left. At that angle I should have been shooting a safe direction. I popped the bird low to the water and Brian starts laughing and tells me I shot him. I know he is far enough away I can't damage him with 4 shot, but I can't figure out how in the world he got hit. Seeing how the birds were working, he had moved up the bank a ways while I was resetting and hadn't told me. He laughed about seeing three war zones and getting shot for the first time by a battle buddy years later. The shot had skipped off the water and richocheted over to him. No damage done, but an adjustment was made to my shooting angles.
After that I knew my entire left side from 9:00 to 12:00 could no longer be shot and that eliminated my best angles for shooting. by this time I also had enough water around me that getting off the pile set was not a good option either. So I sat and enjoyed watching birds work and waiting for some to land straight out. About ten minutes and over a hundred birds later 3 Widgeon decided that they had enough of life and wanted into those decoys from the outside. I aimed at the middle bird and what do you know! I dumped all three with one shot. That is a first for me with Widgeon. I have shot teal that way a few times, but never anything else. Brians starts holler at me that he has never seen that before and and then asking how I plan to retrieve my birds. Funny guy!
I shot one more Widgeon from that spot with Brian retrieving all of them with the boat as they drifted across the slough. Bella went into a whining fit on every shot where she was sitting by Brian. She wanted my birds and wasn't being cut loose to get them. At this point Brian had only had one bird come in and shot it. We sat there for another hour watching birds work and it became pretty obvious I was to exposed as the light came up. The birds were flaring from either me or the spinner. Brian ran out and picked me up, we grabbed the 4 Widgeon decoys and moved Bella and I up to the head of the bay. We of course had spent the early morning watching a few hundred Widgeon and Pintail dump into the pocket where I wanted us to hunt originally. Brian dropped me off and ran back to his spot. Now that I was a safe distance from a moving hunting partner I could shoot in all directions.
As I am setting up and getting Bella squared away, the birds are working and trying to come into the corner. Brian hollers at me to finish shooting my limit. I am not in a rush and let them pass. He has 1 bird and where he is at it may be a long day. I get Bella set on shore, and wade out and stand behing some tall grass in knee deep water and watch the birds work. One group works in close and I get a clean shot on a hen Pintail. I could have dropped two, but wanted to work Bella cleanly on her last duck hunt of the season. Bella went out and hooked left to search the brush line, with the bird out in the slough drifting away in the wind. She had to come off shore behind me and could not mark the falls properly. I stopped her, got her online with an over cast and she made the retrieve. I let a few more flights work and land and picked a pintail drake out of the next set to come in. I folded him with him landing right at the edge of range due to wind effect. He had his head up so I hit him again and then sent Bella. She hit the water hard and the race was on. That pinner was swimming like mad for a bunch of brush and logs near shore with Bella was in hot pursuit. After about 15 minutes of splashing and crashing out of sight, she came back without the bird. The only thing I can figure is that bird got past some large logs she couldn't get over and got away.
The tide is going out and Brian is finally getting some shots down his way. The birds wouldn't come into his pocket so he was shooting them right at the edge of range as the swung in for a look. I had shot my limit and just sat back to enjoy the day being one bird short with the lost Pintail drake. I reach into my pocket to grab my phone and get some photos, and lo and behold. No phone. Like a complete DA I forgot to zip the pocket closed after checking shooting light. At some point during the morning I had dropped it in the water and I have no idea where.
I of course was pissed and then said the hell with it and got over it. The phone is gone and that is just how it is. I sat and enjoyed watching dozens of birds working into and landing in my 4 decoys for another hour until Brian finished his limit. We pulled out with just enough water to get out of the slough. I took 15 minutes for Bella and I to wander over and search the area where the Pintail disappeared thoroughly before we left. No luck. We hit the river in a hard wind and rough water to make the crossing to the pick up point. Sure enough the main motor starts acting up and running really rough. Brian killed the motor and fired up the kicker to run me over to the bank. And.... of course the pulley started screaming when I finished loading up the gear and fired up the rig. Another shot of WD 40 shut it up and it was off to the parts store on the way home to buy another pulley.
To top my day off the Pacific Flyway Rambler was sitting on my door step when I got home. The holiday had delayed the shipping and it didn't make it in time for me to hunt it this season. Maybe next season.
All in all it was a great day and a fun last hunt. I of course shot a friend and his dog, shot my first Widgeon triple, lost a bird, and frustrated my dog no end, and used two defective mechanical devices to travel long distances, one of which could be dangerous, and hunted in a really goofy manner in a pile set under the advice of someone with questionable decision making process ( that day ).
Oh, and lost an expensive phone. So it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. No animals were harmed in the making of this debacle, except two limits of ducks that is.
Anyone who has been texting me on decoys, hunting, foamer information, etc... You can PM me here. I will have a new phone shortly.