For the Birds
Opening Day Recap
Indiana’s Northern Counties started the waterfowl hunting season yesterday (Saturday) and Junior and I were participants. Along with hundreds of other adventure seeking individuals, who just can’t sleep, love wet feet, and enjoy the call of the wild.
We rose at 3 a.m. Made a pot of coffee, ate a bowl of *Wheaties*, grabbed the shotguns and jumped in the truck. Our 14′ john boat with oars, life jackets, goose and duck decoys and swamp stools was already loaded in the bed of the truck. Our wader bags were in the back seat since Friday evening- these contained chest high waders, camoflage hunting jackets, hat, gloves, flashlight, shotshells and even a camoflage headnet.
On the Road…
by 3:30 a.m. in some pretty thick fog. The temp was around 39, and the stinkin’ heater in the truck didn’t work. The windshield kept going opague, either from our breath or from the patches of dampness in the air on the outside.
We arrived at the Pigeon River Wildlife Area about 5:15 and entered the headquarters building to get entered in the lottery held for selection of hunting fields. We chose our field, got directions, and headed off into the fog. Upon arrival at the designated parking lot, we chatted with some other fellows who were going turkey hunting, got our waders and coats on, and hoisted large bags of decoys onto our backs, picked up our gun and swampstool, and headed off into the foggy riverbottom, in full dark.
When we arrived at our designated area, we set the stools, set the guns on them, and proceeded into the water to set up our decoys. This involved approximating the maximum shooting distance (40 yards) from our stools, setting the first decoy, and then working the rest of the decoys back in closer to where we would be hiding. Upon completion of this task, I poured a cup of coffee from the thermos, only to discover that it was no longer hot.
And then the wait began
Waiting for 7:24 a.m. the legal starting time. It is generally not that hard to tell legal time, because gunfire erupts on all sides of you. This sounds scary, but the shots are being fired from other designated fields, that are a safe distance away, and this is one of the major advantages of hunting on a managed waterfowl area. The fog was thick, and we could hear ducks flying overhead, the whistle of their wings giving a hint of where they were, occasionally catching a glimpse of them (just before they disappeared.) We could hear ducks quacking off in the distance, and geese giving their *ker-honk* as they recognized that today was different than it was yesterday.
The first ducks to be spotted were wood ducks.
These beautiful ducks are tree nesters,
and they were the most commonly spotted ducks for us. We shot at some, and missed,
and poured another cup of cold coffee. We had some mallards come out of the fog, and shot at them, and scared them real bad, but missed. Oh, this is a good time to mention that in the field that we chose, hunters are limited to 15 shells per person, so as to eliminate folks shooting at excessive distances. Guns are plugged so as to only hold 3 shells at a time, so if you “unload” (a technical duck hunter term for firing all 3 shells in one volley), well, if you *unload* each time a duck comes by, after 5 tries it is time to go home, as you are now out of shells.
Junior shot the first duck, which was a male woodie. The feather patterns on these little fellers are just amazing. I continued to miss, and drink cold coffee. Then he shot a female woodie, and I was wondering why I hadn’t done more target practice before the season. The fog showed no signs of a pullback. Two flocks of canada geese announced their intention of flying past, one group veering to my right, and the other to my left. Firing three times I managed to drop two from this flock, which is a limit, so I was done hunting geese right then. Junior had missed on this bunch, but the next flock that came he dropped one, as he went into the brush to look for it I called in a drake woodie and dropped him. Junior called for help to find his goose, and as it worked out, I was forced to shoot his goose again on the ground, as it was able to run faster than this old man could go. This hunt continued with Junior whacking another goose, and both of us missing on another flock of wood ducks, with the last our 15 shells spent.
And then the real work begins
Yeah, we picked up our decoys, and then arranged our kill and a couple of layers of clothing inside the decoy bags, where we would carry them on our back. With each goose weighing 8 to 10 pounds, this became quite a burden. Even with the removal of a couple layers, we still worked up a pretty good sweat getting back to the truck.
One of the challenges after a day of adventure like this is keeping your eyes open on the ride home. Junior failed on this task, but at least he wasn’t driving! The other BIG CHALLENGE is getting motivated to clean the game when you get home, as the couch keeps calling one’s name in inviting overtones. We managed all right, and will be enjoying some great wild game dinners in the coming weeks. More on that at a later time.
For more information on wood ducks check out this link: