Tuesday, December 16, 2014


     I came to conscientiousness lying flat on my back staring straight up into the blinding sun. My whole head was throbbing in pain, the nose of my old Brittany dog, Bo was an inch from mine. His eyes gazed directly into mine. He looked as though he thought I was sleeping on the job. I sat up feeling groggy and disoriented. I wasn’t sure where I was, or how I got there. The star bursts in my vision reminded me of an old stooge short I had watched. For a minute my inner clown surfaced and I thought “ Hey Moe, look at the pretty birds”, but that was short lived as I started to realize the predicament I was in. My shotgun was laying beside me sort of half resting against my leg. I was laying out in the middle of a big frozen pond. The sky was the most beautiful shade of blue, and the reflection of the sun on the frozen pond that I was somehow now sitting in the middle of was making my vision very painful. I was in my stocking foot waders, but somehow I was wearing no boots. “Where the heck are my boots”, I said out loud. Bo was now standing over a dead Canada goose that I had apparently shot and he had retrieved. My gun had two empty shells in the chambers, and I was so confused. It would take a long time for me to put together the happenings that led to that moment on the ice. I sat for the longest time trying to think with a concussed brain. I hurt, I was lost and why in the world would I have come out here with no boots.
Though it was all really fuzzy at the time things have cleared up considerably, and I remember fairly well what happened. Like any hunting day Bo and I rose early in the the morning. With my best pal on the passengers seat I pointed the truck toward the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge just west of Brigham City, Utah with the hopes of having the marsh all to myself. It was Christmas day, and I knew I shouldn’t be hunting. If my mother had known she would have thrown a fit. I was in my rowdy early 20's and I didn’t much care what she, or anyone else thought or said. In fact I suppose a part of me sort have enjoyed the fact that it would make someone angry. We arrived an hour or so before day break and walked off into an area of the marsh that I knew very well. Looking back it is amazing that I never even took a flashlight with me, but never once lost my way without one. My good side had me thinking of returning home early to be with family and celebrate Christmas so I took only a few decoys. December in Utah is always cold and most years the flat, still waters will be very locked up with ice. We walked out across frozen marsh to a place where current always kept a little bit of water open. We set up, and waited.
The magic of the morning marsh always leaves me breathless. It started with the deafening songs of thousands of ducks, geese and swans in the distance tingling my ears. Soon the silhouettes of ducks could be seen rocketing into and then out of sight. Finally the sun peaked over the hill and bounced off the ice crystals on the bulrush, the mostly frozen pond and other vegetation. Yes, it was truly magnificent. I remember feeling sorry for those that were in bed, or opening presents. They did not see, and hear the magic of this Christmas morning the way I did. As the sun rose a little higher it became obvious I was no where near the place the ducks wanted to be. I picked up my decoys and left them in the cattails to be picked up on the way out, and walk off in search of a better place to hunt the next day.
I crossed several canals in the direction of the birds I had been listening to all morning until I was in sight of them. There were a ton of birds sitting on a patch of open water out in the middle of a huge pond. They were in a situation that I was not equip to hunt in those days. Disappointed, I sat and watched them hopelessly for several minutes when I noticed a few waves of geese getting up to the north me and flying low to the east. They would get up a few minutes apart and each wave followed about the same path. I knew if I could put myself in that flight path I might get a shot at a “Christmas” goose. There were so many birds in the big flock on the water I just hoped they would continue to do what they were doing. As I got closer the difficulty in getting to that flight path without disturbing every bird on the pond became obvious. The ice had a crunchy layer on top that cracked and echoed off the frozen pond with every step I took like it was electronically amplified. There were some small islands of Cattails that I could use for cover but it would be tricky. Wondering if I would regret the move, I took my boots off leaving them on the ice and tried as hard as I could not to crunch the ice in my stocking foot waders. With my careful footsteps now muffled, and belly crawling in places I was able to get very close to where I wanted to be. I had one more big patch of open ice to sneak across to get to the patch of cover that I figured would be the best place to hide and wait. There was only one patch of cattails that I could put between the big group of birds on the water and I. The real trick would be to not get busted by a flock in the air already. I sat and waited for a flock to get up and fly off. When they passed, I hustled to try to get to that cover quickly while still being as quiet as I could. I got right in the middle of the open pond when a group got up. And flew straight at me. I dropped down flat on my stomach and pulled Bo in close to lay down beside me. With my face down against the ice, and hood over my head I could not see the birds. I could hear them, and I could see Bo's eyes getting more intense as they approached. When Bo was looking out of the very top of his eyes I blindly stood up and picked out a bird. They flared, the first barrel connected and a goose fell from the flock. I picked another bird just as they were getting over top out of my range of motion, and I pulled the trigger. I had gotten a little off balance, and Ice had formed on the bottom of my stocking feet and as my gun fired, and recoiled my feet slipped out from under me. My head slammed into the ice, and that was where I found myself.
Putting these events all together took some time. I was finally able to figure out where I was, and put
enough together to start walking back. I did have some question as to where I had put my boots. Bo helped me find them and we were off in the direction where I ad parked the truck. Later that night my head was still throbbing as I was eating Christmas dinner with my family. I suppose everyone has there own beliefs and feelings about a higher power. I usually choose to keep mine private, but I will tell you that I have never hunted on Christmas since.