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Lonesome Duck

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When I arrived at the public access site that late November morning I was not expecting to see a layer of ice on the water. Sure it had been cold for the past few mornings, but I definitely did not think there would be ice. I was there with my kayak for a morning of waterfowl hunting but I was beginning to wonder if I could even get my kayak into water. It was still about a half hour before sunrise, which made it too dark to see if there was open water elsewhere on the lake, so I decided to just sit in my truck until the sun came up so I could see more of the lake.

That following half hour seemed to drag endlessly. Several times I caught myself second guessing my decision to wait for daylight, but then I reassured myself that if this large lake had ice on it and prevented me from launching my kayak, the smaller lakes in the area would surely be froze shut. So I waited, not so patiently, but I waited, just hoping that with the rising sun I would see open water not far from shore. I hoped for open water along some of the shoreline which might have allowed for a few mallards to hunker down for the evening. And I hoped if there was some open water, that the ice along shore near the ramp was not too thick to prevent me from paddling to a hunting spot. I hoped, and that was all I could do until the sun finally peaked over the opposite shore.

With the morning sun slowly making its’ way into the distant sky my enthusiasm for that morning hunt began to grow. There was open water just 50 feet from shore. And as the sun climbed higher I could see what appeared to be a large pocket of open water right up to shore about a half mile to the south. I didn’t waste another second and immediately began unloading my kayak and hunting gear from my truck.

My Native Watercraft Ultimate 14.5 kayak was running on the light side that day as I had only planned on hunting a few hours that morning so I only took a dozen decoys, a couple bottled waters, my calls and ammo bag, and my trusty old Ithaca Model 66 Super Single lever action single shot 12 gauge shotgun. With me in the kayak, there was just enough weight to break through the ice, but it was still light enough for me to make my way quickly down the shoreline to the large pocket of open water that seemed to be waiting just for me.

The sun had been up about a half hour by the time I reached the open water near shore that I planned to hunt and I had yet to see any sign of waterfowl. I was a bit discouraged because there is almost always some kind of waterfowl activity at sunrise, but that day there seemed to be no life on the lake other than me. Just me and my kayak, sitting quietly in a small patch of reeds, watching over my decoys, decoys that seemed to be just as bored, and cold as I was. I swear I could see those decoys shivering in the frosty morning air. They looked so lonely sitting out there in what appeared to be a deserted lake, with a heavy frost covering their backs. But as the sun made its’ way higher, and my frost covered decoys began to thaw, the wooded shoreline behind me began to come to life.

I could hear the friendly chatter of the local Black Capped Chickadee in the nearby pines.

“Chickadee dee dee dee” he said. “Chickadee dee dee dee

The red squirrel that seems to follow every hunter, on every hunt was once again over my shoulder, chattering away as if to warn all living things of my existence. I wondered if red squirrel chatter is a universal language understood by all woodland creatures, as I glanced behind me to see if I could spot the little nuisance. It’s a crazy thing but I really like those little buggers. From the moment they wake up until they settle in for the night, it seems as if red squirrels must have a never ending, secret stash of coffee hidden amongst the trees that they sip from all day long, never allowing them to run short on energy. They always seem to put a smile on my face even if they are often a distraction.

As I watched that little furry red tree rat scurry from limb to limb, I had somewhat lost track of the reason I was hiding in those reeds. But when I stopped looking into the woods behind me, and turned my eyes toward the lake in front of me, a lone dark spot appeared in the distant sky. It was far too distant to identify, but it did seem to have the familiar wing motion of a duck of some sort. The bird was flying from my left to right and going away from me and seemed much too far away to try giving a call, so I just watched.

In what seemed like a fraction of a second I realized that it was definitely a duck that I had been watching and it was not flying away from me, instead, it was flying directly at me and was closing in on my decoys at a high rate of speed. From my morning observations, it seemed as though that was the only waterfowl of any sort on the lake that day and it was lonely and looking for companionship. As the bird closed the distance on my small spread of decoys I could see that it was a beautiful mature drake mallard and there was no doubt it was coming to me, so I held steady.

At about 70 yards away the duck cupped its’ wings and never made another flap as it slowly dropped closer to the waters’ surface in preparation to land amongst my decoys. When the magnificent drake was at 30 yards and closing I stood up from my hide out in the reeds, and in one quick motion, I cocked the gun, took aim and squeezed the trigger.

“Kaboooom” roared my single shot 12 gauge shotgun, shattering the serenity of that November morning.

In an instant the duck folded in the sky and crashed into the water, where it made its final landing in my decoys

An hour and a half predawn drive, breaking ice with my kayak at sunrise, shivering in the reeds, and being harassed by a squirrel, all for one duck, and worth every minute of it.
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