It’s emotions that drive most recreational activities. Golfers lay awake mentally repeating their swing or wondering how they missed an 18-inch putt. Duck hunters lay awake wondering how they missed a mallard that seemed to be motionless, wings set and coasting towards them in a light breeze.
Anticipation is a huge part of hunting and all one needs to do is hang around one of the check stations at a public hunting area the day before a shoot day to get a feel for the duck-hunting roller-coaster ride.
So it was for me on Wednesday morning. Awake at 3:45 AM, I was having a hard time gathering up the motivation to drive to Mayberry. At Mayberry, the duck hunting has been so bad for the last two months that I wasn’t sure I wanted to risk another disappointment.
By 4:00 AM I had changed my mind about hunting - twice. However, the final decision was to go.
Upon arrived at the club, the ponds were silent. Wading out, a handful of ducks passed by. While positioning decoys, a large flock of Ross’ geese took off from a field nearby and passed overhead at 20 yards. My shotgun was in the tules, but I wasn’t hunting for white geese anyway. I didn’t mind letting them pass by.
Impatient, I tripped on the jerk string to my hen mallard decoy about five times and couldn’t get set up in the right place. Moved to another clump of tules and nothing seemed to be going right. After about a half hour, a pair of mallards passed by, low, and landed about 75 yards away, in a spot I had not been watching.
This was a sign to move. Fortunately, with only a small decoy spread, it didn’t take long. The spot the mallards had landed in was closer to my usual spot.
Moving caused the pair to take off. Then a few more ducks took wing and then a few more. Before reaching the new spot, 25 mallards rose and flew away. They had been sneaking in from behind.
After setting out a pair of mallard decoys, a group of three mallards came in right away. Bang - miss, bang – miss, bang – miss, and away they went. Bummer.
Soon after that another came in. Boom – one down. Lola made the retrieve. My heart was pounding. This is more like it.
Mallard calling while jerking the string, another pair came in. Bang. Down went another drake. Soon thereafter another with same result. The fourth opportunity was a big flock, but the first shot was a miss. Down came a green head on the second.
Things slowed down and Rob moved near me as he wasn’t getting any action at a different pond. On the way over he spooked a single drake mallard and it sailed into my jerking hen mallard. Boom, down he went.
We hit a lull and a pair of mallards landed just out of range. Breaking with our custom of passing on birds once they’ve landed, I sneaked close to them. As they rose, the drake fell and Lola tracked it down. Later, Rob gave me a hard time.
Six birds, pretty good day.
Rob called on his spec call. I listed and heard some geese approaching from the north. Here they came. Boom, down went one of the group. A bonus bird.
Lola wrestled the broken-winged goose. The goose lost the battle and we headed back to the cattails for one more bird.
A pair of pintail passed overhead. I whistled at them as they circled. Jerking on the hen mallard decoy and whistling seemed to be working. They passed down wind and turned into the decoys. Then they passed by again, just out of range and circled back one more time. As they passed behind me I did a 180 and dropped the drake. Mission accomplished. Best day of the season.
So the worm turned, my sanity is back and this weekend I’ll be more relaxed as the hunt approaches – not feeling pressure to kill a duck.
Does it really matter? It did yesterday.