The Greatest Chase

I’d been standing next to a cattail patch 30 yards long and ten yards wide for more than 10 minutes when I thought I might have seen a glimpse of the duck Lola was after. I moved to improve my view.

Lola was in a frenzy. She’d been running ever since the green-wing teal I’d sailed had hit the water. When my eleven-year-old retriever first caught up with it, the bird made it into the air with feet dragging.

After a 50 yard chase, Lola and the bird disappeared behind a large cattail patch. I knew I’d have to shoot the bird again if Lola was to retrieve it, so I waded the 150 yards from the blind to the patch as fast as I could.

Now I was trying to confirm the presence of the bird that Lola knew was there. Getting a glimpse of the little duck was important. Because once I saw it, I would be as determined as Lola.

That’s when the bird swam out of the cattail about 25 yards from me. I raised my gun, but Lola was in the way. And, she hadn’t seen it with anything but her nose.

I moved quickly to the other end of the cattail with renewed belief that the bird would soon be dead.

Another ten minutes passed before Lola circled my end of the cattail. With Lola thrashing cattail with her body and tail, the duck was forced from its hiding spot and popped into an opening.

“Pow,” the chase was over.

Lola picked up the bird and began to slow-walk towards the blind – her best home run trot. For a moment I considered taking the duck from her, but she needed to carry it back herself.

The entire retrieve had taken about 20 minutes and Lola was running almost the entire time. My reaction was over the top. Funny how the energy of a dog can transfer so easily to a human.

Quick Change

In early December, nary a duck could be killed at the Kerry Club. Then, on the crest of a strong north wind, the ducks magically showed up and it was limits for all – for about two hunt cycles.

On the day before Christmas eve, there were a few limits, but generally the hunting has been below par ever since.

Yesterday was again below par and many of the blinds reported one bird.

Arriving late, I hit the ponds with only two hunters on site and they quit about the time I reached blind C – historically one of the best blinds on the club.

About 1:30 PM, I knocked down a drake teal – the second bird at which I shot. The bird sailed about 150 yards to a tule patch where Lola ran it down.

IMG_4056 before the storm first duck

Lola recovered this drake green-wing teal in a tule patch about 150 yards from the blind. The weather was calm and I was using a jerk cord to create some motion in the decoy spread.

As the afternoon wore on, the ducks continually skirted the decoys or screamed in at speeds that made them difficult to hit. It was a testy situation and I worked hard to kill four teal with 15 shots. The action picked up with a significant wind from the northeast around 3 PM. About 4, with the weather calming, I picked up and made my way to the truck.

It had rained enough to create significant clay mud which stuck tightly to my boots. I stopped to snap a photo of the sun as it peaked through the breaking clouds.

IMG_4127 heading in

 

 

 

Covered Up

IMG_3958 sunrise blind c

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.

IMG_3961 gadwall

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.

IMG_3962 Tom with pintail

Tom killed this bird about 10:45 and Lola retrieved it after an all-out 100-yard chase.

 

 

Pheasant Season

It’s now open. Hunting partner Bob Smallman and I managed to  bring down a couple wild roosters on Wednesday at Mayberry. Lola did well, got birds into the air and found what we knocked down.

Her only flaw was not going far enough into an adjacent field to retrieve one rooster, but she gave it a solid try. She’ll be eleven in January.

Rob’s dog, Pete, finally went far enough out and picked up the bird.

Lola and I hunted blind 2b at the Kerry Club on Saturday. Had a nice sunrise and that was about it. Got home early to work on the Airstream Trailer which is now ready for deployment to Webb Tract for the remainder of duck season.

IMG_3909 Sunrise from Blind 2b

Hunting buddy Jerry Lowery killed a great ram today in Montana.

 

IMG_3920 Jerry with Montana ram

If I’m counting correctly, Jerry  departed Reno for Montana on about the 22nd of October so that makes it about a month on the road, unguided. Congrats Jerry.

 

First Draw

Actually I was second draw on Saturday for the North pond at the Kerry Club, but hunter number one didn’t show. Therefore my partner, Joe DiDonato, and I had the first pick for a blind. Sometimes that’s good news. Other times it just points out that you can’t always figure out what the ducks are going to do.

We reached our choice,  blind 2, a bit before shooting time and settled in as the first shots were fired – a bit surprised that we couldn’t see any working birds, especially teal.

The guys in the blind to the south of us were covered up and Joe and I could see a line of teal that seemed to be bearing down upon them. I later heard that they limited in 20 minutes and we witnessed it.

Meanwhile Joe and I were off to a slow start, so I took a picture of the sunrise, which was spectacular.

sunrise-blind-2

Then we got our first duck, a fast flying teal that went over the top of us at full speed. Amazingly it came down with one shot. That was not a harbinger of things to come. After that, it seemed like the harder we tried, the worse our shooting became. We did pick off a bird periodically and eventually filled our bag. Lucky for us we each brought plenty of ammo.

missed-a-couple

Snapped this photo of Joe with one bird to go. Ended up with 13 teal and a drake wigeon, recovered across the pond after a long chase by Joe and Lola.