As you can see in the sunrise photo, it was calm at legal shooting time yesterday. And, it was that way all day long. Calm can be bad, but it can also be good.
For the first three hours yesterday it was bad, but then things turned around. With the departure of the morning hunters, pintail began to arrive. By 10:30 AM they appeared above us in large flocks.
Duck hunters use the term “covered up” when speaking of events where large flocks of ducks circle their blind at one time. Most often the ducks that do that are either mallards or sprig. Yesterday at the Kerry club it was sprig and it was also fun.
The first time it happened my partner, Tom Billingsley, and I hunkered down and waited for a good shot. The longer we waited the more pintail circled. They were like a whirlwind of fowl above us.
Finally a large flock banked towards us about 300 yards to the east of us. As they approached it became apparent that they were coming directly over us. Anticipation was thick as we both whistled on our duck calls and pulled on the jerk cords of our decoys.
When the birds were nearly directly overhead, we stood and relished the great opportunity. Two cock sprig were hit, but one (the one I hit) sailed out of sight. Lola retrieved the other after a long chase.
Good news. We had a pintail and an exciting experience. Bad news. I had missed completely on two shots and nearly completely on the third. I’d also sailed a teal and a gadwall earlier. My shooting was in the tank.
Gadwall are fun to hunt as they work much like mallards, but they’re not much for eating. This drake is a beautiful bird. He sailed about 200 yards before crashing.
Good news. I had plenty of ammunition left.
After about 30 minutes pintail began to circle again. This time they came from all directions. There were birds everywhere and I was paranoid that I would miss, so I passed up several good opportunities, waiting for a perfect shot. As I nearly rose on one groups of birds, another appeared in range to my left. The result, I shot at neither group.
It was exhilarating. Unfortunately, they sensed something wrong and in no time it was over. I had passed up shots that I could have taken. I felt bad for Tom who, since the limit is one pintail, was now just an observer. He shrugged it off and told me he was excited just to be there.
After another short wait, pintail arrived again. Our third major cover-up was similar to the first. It ended when a flock of about 15 birds, banked towards us from the east and bore down on our decoys. Calling and jerking, I waited until I could not miss.
Bang – I missed. Worse yet, a hen pintail, that I was not shooting at, tumbled from the sky. Oh well. It wasn’t the first time.
So, after a great day of poor aim on my part, Tom and I were done. It was pretty clear to us that about the only legal targets left flying were shoveler and we didn’t want them.
Being covered up by pintail three times made our day. A hunt can be exciting even when the limit is one.
Tom killed this bird about 10:45 and Lola retrieved it after an all-out 100-yard chase.