Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Foggy Ducks!

Ok, It’s Tuesday afternoon and I’m ready for work to let out so I can finish packing for the grand trip north for deer season with my daughter! Just then, I get a call from Mike, from Chico, from Mike and then again from Chico…. Some how I have now thrown packing to the wind because I’m going DUCK HUNTING! Wahoo! ….I have to be at your house at WHAT TIME?!? …and I thought the ducks were the Quackers! OK, ok, I’ll be fair… I’ve been after Chico and Mike all season about getting me out duck hunting. I’ve been slowly gathering the necessary gear and had everything except waders, shells and a Duck Blind camo coat. Also, after talking with Chico, Mike, Mack and George Lynch (!!!) Sunday, I was really aching to get out and whack some quacks! So duck hunting is on and deer packing is on the back burner. Chico has some waders for me and Mike has a coat! They said something about a boat and sitting in water… sitting??? Must have heard wrong, they said boat too….

I get home and tell the wife the “good” news. The look she gives me when I tell her I need to get up at 2 am is censored (go figure). We have parent teachers conferences tonight and voice lessons after wards. Then I get to load up my gear, have dinner and grab a couple hours sleep. I guess I’m just a little bit excited since I don’t fall asleep until about 11:30 and I wake up at 1:15…wide awake. That’s ok with me, I need to stop on the way to Mikes and get gas and then swing by Meijer’s for a box of shells. (I also grab some long johns since I couldn’t find mine…) Now, at Meijer’s they have 3 ½” steel shot in #2 and BB size…hmmm… Chico said #2, Mike said BB… BB is on the top of the stack so that’s how I decided. I have since learned that for ducks, I’ve just load up like driving a tank at a tracker pulling contest… just a little on the heavy side. …and Man, are those shells big! (should be fun!). Off to Mikes!

Ok, since I got up earlier than planned, Meijer’s had everything I needed and no lines (2 am is a good time to shop!), I get to Mikes at 2:40. He did say we had to leave no later than 3:20…so I’m good. Instead of banging on the door I decide I’d better just sit a few minutes and look at the stars (and put on my new long johns). Around 3:00 I decide I should turn on my headlights just in case Mike looks out the window. He did, and gave me a funny look too when I said I was there, awake and ready to GO! It did take him a few more minutes to get his coffee and put his pants on. We loaded my truck and were on the road by 3:20, just as planned! (Mike stilled looked a little sleepy though) The drive up to Chico’s took about 40 minutes, or so… fog is starting to set in pretty good. We park in front of his house and dump all the gear by his truck while Mike knocks on the door. A quick load and we’re ready to go…. Except that Chico can’t find his license…! Yikes! I’m thinking to myself that this guy duck hunts like mad and he lost his license…o k. (just kidding Chico!). Eventually it’s found in his duck bag and we climb in and start driving. Chico puts in his lucky sound track of country hits and tells us he’s worried because we don’t have time to stop and get his lucky coffee… We’re going to the Shiawassee River, Shiawassee Federal Waterfowl area and have to check in at the St. Charles office for our hunting spot draw by 5 am. We get there in time and Chico gets the second choice for our blind area. Now, we can stop and get Chico his lucky coffee. (every thing we can do to increase our luck, I’m all for it!).

We pull into the boat launch area and I’m starting to get a better understanding on the waders part… we’re going to be taking the boat to our location and then “sitting” in the corn rows of a flooded corn field. Might be wet. Should have said, might be deep! We load the boat, get it started and head down the drainage canal to our spot. Did I mention that it’s foggy and the gas line has a vapor leak…? Did I mention that it’s a 14’ boat with three large men in it…? And I’m in the front, watching the water running awfully close to the top of the boat… I’m thinking “light” thoughts…

Even though it’s just under 30 degrees out, it’s crisp and cold, foggy and I don’t have a clue what we’re doing… I am having the time of my life! And the ducks and geese are making tons of noise already!!!!

Anyways, we finally make it to our area. We pull the boat over the canal edge and walk it to the corn rows. Chico picks a spot and starts setting out the decoys while Mike starts to set up his camera and I help (what little I do) were I can. Now I understand what they were talking about sitting in the water, in the corn. The water is just to the tops of our knees. Chico had told me the day before to take a couple of 2x4’s and make a seat. 30” with a short piece “T’d for the seat part….hmmmm sounds a little iffy… I decide to make my own since Chico was a little vague on the height vs. water part. In 30 minutes I have a steel tube with a detachable support arm and a 12” adjustable seat, swivel seat. Turns out to be a good design. I “plant” my seat in the second row of corn, between Chico and Mike and adjust the seat to put me just above the water (after it settles in the dirt). Chico walks the boat back a ways and into the corn, covered it up and once he’s in his seat we load the guns. Mike’s got the camera ready, Chico is asking for minute by minute calls for shooting time and I’m sitting in 30 degree weather, in a field of corn/water, listening to a zillion ducks and geese, holding my new Remington 887 and happy as could be! And I haven’t even shot anything yet!

It’s shooting time. We see a few ducks and geese flying up from the sanctuary but nothing coming our way. Around 7:20 Chico calls duck, take’m! there is a solo duck flying in from Chico’s side across in front of us. Chico shoots, misses, I shoot (not even sure if I had the gun all the way up I’m so excited!), miss, Mike shoots, misses, I shoot again and watch the duck just fold right up and drop! I got my first duck!!!! WAHOO! Mike goes and retrieves the duck out of the corn row, so we can’t see him until he gets back. He asks, “now, who actually shot this duck?”.. I said, I pretty sure it was me…. A little hesitantly because I’m not sure if I did something wrong or not…. And Mike holds up the duck…It’s got a BAND! My first duck and it’s banded!! WOW!!!! A beautiful Mallard drake with a band! ( and I did not even feel those 3 ½ inch loads!) I tuck his head under his wing and set him right next to me in the water. Cool, Cool, Cool! I can hardly believe my luck! Maybe after I’ve put in a lot more hours of waterfowl hunting I’ll really understand how lucky I am to have dropped a banded bird! Chico’s lucky coffee and CD really work!!!

After that, we’re not really getting any birds flying our way. A couple come cruising in but we can’t connect. 8 am rolls around and I mean Rolls…the fog rolls in and we can hardly see the decoys! Chico spots a hen mallard fly in and she lands just out side of the decoys. He calls a few times and she gradually comes a little closer. Mike is the only one who can see her at this point and he tries to put the smack on her but she’s too hard to line up on and she takes off… in front of Chico and me. I can’t hit her, Chico can’t hit her and she swings around Chico. He still can’t connect and I try one more time. Unfortunately, I’m still a little to close to Chico’s zone and he gets a little “powdered” by my last shot… Chico, can you hear me? Chico? Chico, I’ll use hand signals…? (I think Chico wanted to use a “hand” signal to me….) Sorry buddy, at least I was not the first one to get you… “sounds” like you’re everyone’s favorite powder point! I do feel bad about not opening my zone more and deafening Chico that way.

That hen was the last bird we saw until about 10 am the fog was so thick. You could hear birds flying by, low, but you could not see anything! Speaking of hearing birds, when a whole flock takes off the water….WOW what a sound it makes!

Once the fog moved out, we did find out were the hunters in the area we wanted were…. Twice we watched ducks on “approach” to our decoys, only to watch them fold up over the corn in front of us as they flew over that group of hunters. Oh well, that’s how it works.

We decide to call it a morning and gather up all the decoys, case the guns and load up the boat. We push it back to the canal and get in only to find that we really have a gas line problem. Chico figures out he can keep us moving if he keeps the speed down to prevent the vacuum from choking the line. Back to the truck with my banded mallard and we load up and head back to the DNR station to drop of the hunt card.

I think Chico has a thing for bands… he kept trying to get the one off my duck for some reason…!

Mike, Chico, I can not possibly thank you guys enough for getting me out on my first waterfowl hunt. It was new, exciting and I actually got extremely lucky with my first bird being banded! Thank you!

Chico buddy, thank you for getting everything together and getting us out! You can shoot the next one with a band! Anytime you need someone to hold down the line, give me a call!

Oh yea, the Remington 887 performed flawlessly!

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