“How does your club shoot on a north wind?” was the response to my query.
“OK,” I responded, “Not accustomed to being tested when inviting people to hunt on my club. Usually my potential guests were less direct.
“Wednesday’s going to be a north-wind day,” reiterated the voice at the other end of the phone. “Do you do well in a north wind?”
“It should be good, I responded,” noting that nobody had hunted our club since Friday and nobody would before Wednesday. “There are lots of birds, and a north wind day should work fine.”
My nervous friend seemed to accept my statement and I finally got in tune with his concern. Here was a serious duck hunter with only four more shoot days before the end of the season. He was already feeling the pangs of withdrawal and couldn’t afford to waste one of the precious remaining few hunt days. With that understanding, I forgave him and we agreed to meet at Sherman Island public boat dock at 6:00 AM on Wednesday.
The individual with whom I was speaking as Mark Hennelly, a professional lobbyist and employee of the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance, a 501c4 non-profit organization created to lobby in California for the benefit hunters. (www.outdoorheritage.org)
I met Mark because COHA had been working on legislation for The Mule Deer Foundation (MDF) for several years in an effort to improve fundraising efforts for deer projects. As State Chair for MDF I had been the liaison for those efforts and Mark, along with Bill Gaines and Jason Rhine (COHA staff) had been regularly in touch with me as we developed potential legislation.
I knew Mark was a waterfowl hunter, but his attitude about the Wednesday hunt reinforced his seriousness.
“Should I bring my dog?” was his next question.
He accepted my response that although he could bring his dog if he wanted, I’d prefer that we hunted with just one dog (mine). That’s always a tough concession for any serious duck hunter.
At first light, mallards began to lift off from the pond next to our camp where we sat pulling on our waders. I could tell that Mark wasn’t accustomed to our casual approach to water fowling.
“Don’t worry.” I said, “The birds will be there when we arrive whether it’s now of 30 minutes from now. There will only be four people hunting here today.”
Mark relaxed a little, but I could tell it was taking all his willpower to hold back. A self-professed public area hunter, Mark wasn’t accustomed to standing around after shooting time.
“We like to be able to identify drakes before we start shooting,” I commented.
“Should I bring my motoduck?” he responded.
“Never used one,” was my reply. “We wouldn’t want to pop our cherry today.”
Mark was OK with that, but before we left for the field he did ask one more time, just to make sure I hadn’t changed my mind.
As the sun turned the eastern horizon red, we faced downwind and watched as flocks of pintails, widgeon and mallard circled. The first bird to drop was a drake pintail, shot by Mark. He was obviously pleased.
After I missed a mallard, Mark knocked down another duck, a mallard, and I followed shortly thereafter by leading a double on white-fronted geese. The pond to the north of us was loaded with waterfowl of all shapes and sizes. We were content to sit on the downwind side of the pond and pick off a bird here and there.
Before the day was done we had near limits of ducks and a couple specs apiece, a good day in anybody’s book.
COHA stands for California Outdoor Heritage Alliance.
All hunters should support COHA. Without their efforts, our hunting rights are in serious jepeody. Hunters are outnumbered by a huge margin in California. We’ve got to make an effort to promote hunting, not just for those who enjoy hunting, but for the wildlife that depend upon the habitat that we hunters create.
When I sent Mark home (after I’d plucked my ducks while he continued to hunt), I asked him, “Are you going to pluck those ducks at home?”
“No,” responded Mark, “I’ll just drop them of at Broadway Bait and let them do it.”
“Boy,” I thought to myself, “Wish we had a Broadway Bait in Livermore.”
(Caption: Mark Hennelly with his take.)