The First Time
Aside from ducks quacking in the distance, my paddle dipping in the water was the only sound. The moon was so big it seemed like something out of a cartoon. I remember thinking, so this is what they mean by a harvest moon. It was all I had to light my way and it was plenty bright. I had left my light in the truck. I knew I would not need it. I knew I would not see anyone else. My young dog that I called Bo was my only companion. Like usual he was standing up with his front paws on the bow of my two seat canoe style kayak and was making sure I was taking us to the right place. The small boat cut the shallow water in silence. I was overwhelmed by the feeling that I was meant to be here, meant to see this, to feel this, to be this, and right now. I thought of my duck hunter grandfather that I was never able to share a blind with before he died. I wondered if he had ever experienced the emotion that I was feeling. I jumped out as my boat slid into the alkali bulrush on the edge of a pond somewhere in the middle of Harold S. Crane WMA., and went to work quickly setting my 80 or so decoys leaving a hole in the middle. I had read somewhere that this was the way to get them to set where you wanted them to. I had never seen anyone use a spread this big so I figured I was really outdoing everyone. Lol I set Bo in the weeds where he was well hidden, smeared mud on my face, and was content to sit and watch the world wake up around me. As expected we were the only ones in the marsh. I watched wave after wave of Mallards, Gadwal and Pintail get up and fly to the north. I had no idea why at the time. I wouldn’t figure all that out until much later. I tried calling a little but nothing would respond. I soon got frustrated and sat silent as they flew over out of gun range. At around 9:30 I hadn’t fired a shot, and with nothing flying I was tempted to leave. After waffling back and forth for a while I thought about how much work it would be to pick up and paddle out. I finally decided to make a day of it, and so we sat, and sat. At around 11:30 a single drake Mallard appeared from no where and was checking us out. Trying to stay as still as possible I gave a timid faint quack on my duck call. To my surprise he changed direction.. I could feel the excitement fill my body and had to concentrate to try and calm myself. He flew past us and I gave a faint 'quack quack quack quack' greeting thing that I had practiced on my Lohman Bill Harper Pro-Model duck call until ill. I couldn’t believe he bought it, banked right into the hole I had left in the middle of my spread. In excitement I stood up too early and fired both barrels of my O/U somewhere in his general direction only managing to scare him away. I yelled something at the top of my lungs, then sat down feeling ill. I had not even thought of what I would do if it had worked. Lol. That was the first duck I had ever called in, and I had missed him, choked and blew it. Fortunately, my shame and anguish would be short lived. I would kill my four (4) duck limit that day with ducks I had beat with the call. A hen and two (2) drake Mallards and one (1) Gadwal if memory serves. Life has never been the same. I was hooked on working ducks with the call. That has been the only way I have wanted to hunt ducks since.
|Me in 1993 Sadly, I don't have any photos of the actual hunt|
In another time it was a different game altogether. I didn’t know what the term pro-staff meant, some still don’t. I had no clue about mud motors, air boats, motion decoys, spinners or even all the camo patterns we have today. I’m not sure they were even invented at that time. I was just learning to decoy ducks and had been working my tail off to learn how to call a little bit. I had no real teacher,I didn’t know anyone that could call, but I guess a cassette tape was a decent surrogate. There was no internet, I think I had seen a computer or two but couldn’t even imagine that one could be of any use whatsoever. I had been brought up with the philosophy that duck calls were only good for scaring ducks. I believed this until I watched a guy work birds into gun range on a “blue bird” day the year before. We were also of the theory that very few ducks were killed on “blue bird” days at that time. Lol. That man, who I have never met and who doesn’t know me lit a flame in me that would grow into the raging fire of obsession. He changed my world.
I often find myself longing for that simpler time.