Monday, January 22, 2007

9-Hour Ducks

When deer season finally draws to a wintry close I always take a few days off to rest. I recline with the purest intention of merely biding my time until the first spring turkey hunt rings in a new hunting season. I have grown tired from my travels and weary from long hours spent clambering around in the cold, dark woods......That lasts about one weekend.

By the second week in January I find myself frantically casting about for some form of legal shooting activity. Unfortunately, there ain't a whole lot going on in January as far as hunting goes except for ducks and quail. I don't have quail dogs; nor have I married well enough to have a plantation. That leaves me with ducks - and a longtime standing invitation to hunt them with my longtime friend Tripp Maddux in North Carolina.

Initially the idea of hunting ducks seems a little bit silly I guess. After all - one can only legally shoot 2 of them; and Kinston, NC (9hrs drive) is an awful long way to go to kill two fishy-tasting water birds that never really did anything to provoke me to start with. And with steel shotgun shells coming in at $1 a piece - its an expensive venture to boot. That’s assuming you don't drown, fall out of the boat and get sucked under the prop, get shot, fall in, get lost, or find yourself abducted by swamp people.

Fortunately I was able to circumvent the distance issue by having George drive (both ways) while I slept. I avoided the expense issue by palming Tripp's shells into the tops of my waders when he wasn't looking.....My shotgun puffed out the sweet smell of free money all morning long.
We arrived in Greensboro at 11PM - just in time to meet the legendary Will Willis and Tripp Maddux, load up into Tripp's truck, take a quick tour of the house, and head to Kinston - a 2 1/2hr drive.

We spent the entire ride talking ourselves into a hunting frenzy, got in bed around 2:30AM, and were headed to the swamp by 5AM. Tripp and Will made their way downriver to the opposite side of swamp and Thomas, George, and I slipped through the woods into the flooded cedars. By dawn the whisper of thousands of wood duck wings was incredibly....absent. When it was legal shooting light and we hadn't spotted a single duck; Thomas began a mild panic punctuated with occasional curses directed at variables which included (but were not limited to): hot weather, no wind, lack of a duck call, lack of a goose call, poaching hunters, poor location choice, too early, maybe a tad late, overcast, not overcast enough, and (of course) Tripp and Will. I thought he had a point with the "lack of a duck call" bit, but Tripp told me later that he didn't know how to use one anyway. Thomas draws them in solely with the power of his mind.

In a happy change of circumstances we were flooded with ducks a short few minutes later and cheerfully banged away at them for the better part of an hour - ultimately collecting a mixed bag of wood ducks, mallards, mergansers, and teal (blue and green-winged). No one drowned.

Reid did got severely lost on his way home and ended up 2hrs away almost at the coast - but we found him.

It is a fortunate thing for Thomas that he can wield such power over waterfowl. He's going to have to concentrate a great deal to get a proper flight of geese over his apartment in Wilmington. I know that is where he'll be simply because: he can't go anywhere else.

Our haste at pulling out of the golf course parking lot to avoid the crowd of ill-tempered, cleat-wearing witnesses was hampered by an unfortunate "chunk-sha-lunk" sound from beneath Thomas's aging Tahoe. Each head bobbed forward in unison with the sudden shortage of momentum and Will whispered: "Thomas - your transmission just lost reverse." A short while - and safe distance - later, following a furious group-effort manpower reversal across the 1st teebox (spurred on by the sound of sirens in the distance), Will said, gently: "Thomas, you're car lost first and third gears too."

Hunting over for the weekend, we followed with a short nap, lunch, and two solid days of sporting clays shooting punctuated with breaks for delicious food of all kinds. There was an abortive attempt at hunting geese in the small pond of a local golf course Saturday afternoon, but we were ultimately forced to hang up our waders in order to avoid an instance of "calling the police" on the part of a tiny, irate, geriatric brandishing a 9-iron. Wizened, golf-ish features creaked into a spray-tanned grimace when she realized that, despite my best imitation; I was clearly not a lone section of cattail growing at random on the edge of the 14th fairway. The hunt was over. The proud "Kinston City Limits" sign we passed on our way in should have been our first indication to turn back but youth, fervor, and a golf pro with a hunting license got the best of us.

In addition to shells I also "borrowed" a gun from Tripp for the weekend ("Why?" you might ask. Did I lack a shotgun of my own? No. Was mine broken? Certainly not). I used Tripp's new shotgun simply because of Beau. My cousin Beau taught me that success isn't measured by how many animals you bag - its measured by how many other peoples' equipment you use to do it.

In all: I give duck hunting an A+ which should rise immediately to an A++ once I spend a few thousand dollars on new equipment specifically for duck hunting.

Quack Quack.

Weekend Quotes:
"Want to go to Nag's Head?" You're halfway there!!!" ~ Will Willis commenting on the profundity of Reid's wrong turn.

"Look how slim he looks in those waders." ~ Thomas Benton on swamp fashion.

No comments: