Arrival at the Kerry Club was unimpressive. As I passed the Ingomar Packing Company ponds, I was surprised that there were zero ducks. When I reached the Kerry Club, I could see a limited number of ducks on the ponds, but not as many as I would normally expect.
Once in camp, I began to look around and I could see some birds working. It was mid-day, too early to arrive at any conclusions about duck numbers.
Other hunters began to arrive about the same time as me. Enthusiasm was high.
Everybody let their labs loose and it was mayhem. My Airstream was in sad shape after a long off-season, but a quick clean-up put it into acceptable shape.
The traditional dinner was excellent with surf and turf with all the trimmings. Parking was at a premium. Camp was about as crowded as I’ve seen it.
Here are some shots from Friday.
Mike Hill’s two year old male was pumped up. He had lots of company. Lola’s almost twelve. I kept her out of the fray.
From camp, there wasn’t much sign of ducks during the afternoon.
About a half hour before sunset, birds began to arrive by the thousands. Optimism was restored.
The sunset over Ingomar Grade was a hot one.
Being in the “senior” group, I laid myself to rest at 9:00 PM. The younger group was still going strong.
Not a sound could be heard at 5:00 AM when I turned on the Airstream lights, but it wasn’t long before the camp came to life and several more hunters drove up ready for the hunt.
The walk to blind 4 was pleasant. Most of the other hunters rode ATVs so Lola and I were about the last to settle in. My partner, Tom Billingsley, was working so I had the blind to myself. I took my time.
Just after shooting time I snapped this photo of the horizon. As you can see, Lola was ready. She’ll be 12 in January.
As is the norm, the ponds were void of ducks by the time everybody was in place, but it wasn’t long before birds poured in, mostly teal and shovelers, but there also quite a few pintail.
My first shot was at a drake pintail. I missed on the first shot, but hit him on the second. He started down, but I lost track of him in the mix. Lola hadn’t seen him.
Bad start. I unhooked Lola and climbed out of the blind, heading in the right direction. After the water cleared of birds, I had no idea where the drake had disappeared. Rather than search, I opted to head back to the blind. Didn’t want to ruin everybody’s hunt.
After my first screw-up, I proceeded to miss the next eight shots at teal. They were humming, but the problem was me, I knew I was aiming and that never works.
Finally I got my sighting figured out and knocked down a teal. Lola made the retrieve.
From that point on, my shooting was better. I passed on a boat-load of teal while trying to get a good shot at pintail. Finally I dropped a drake sprig dead and Lola made the retrieve.
Next I knocked down a green-wing that was a swimmer. I turned Lola loose. She was within inches of the bird, but could not catch up with it. After she turned the corner into some tules, I followed but lost sight of the action. Last year she would have retrieved this bird, but I wasn’t sure where it went and I didn’t want to stay out of the blind, so I called her off and she reluctantly returned to the blind with me, birdless. The fact that she was willing to give up was a sign of her age.
As the morning wore on it was mindful of other Kerry Club openers that went down in a similar way. There was the debate about whether to shoot pintail first or last. There was the amazing difficulty of hitting shot-at teal that never slowed down. There was the worry of shooting a spoony by mistake.
I got my second sprig, my sixth bird. It was getting late as we began the wait for a seventh bird. As sun rose higher, Lola was finished and so was I.
We closed out one shy of a limit. As we neared camp, Bob Smallman drove his ATV out to give us a lift. It was hot and the ride was appreciated.
The sunrise was complete as I chased after Lola and a swimmer teal that we never found.
Lola with a drake pintail.
Opening day hunts are a small portion of a duck season. Unlike most other duck hunt days, they are generally predictable. The emotions, the ducks and the shooting.