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A First For Me

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I finally managed to get my hunting license purchased and get after some waterfowl yesterday. My buddy Mike and I had the planned to float one of the local rivers and do some jump shooting for ducks. The weather was perfect, slightly cool in the morning with not a cloud in sight. We started the day by paddling 3 hours up stream while making mental notes along the way about where flooded back bays off the main river were located so that we could paddle along the cattail edges of all of them hoping to jump some ducks on our way back through. The paddle upstream was extremely peaceful as the sun began to rise over the cattails and silhouette Mike in his kayak. We saw several ducks that were out of range, while we shared conversation during the three hour paddle, reliving good times and hunting tales from over 35 years of hunting together. At the end of our paddle up stream we stopped for a short break before heading back down stream and actually hunting.

At the entrance to the first bay of the main river I told Mike to hold tight right at the mouth and I would go into the bay and paddle around, being sure to go into every little nook and cranny, or water filled pot hole that might be hidden amongst the cattails. I always keep the cattails on my immediate right and open water on my left so that when any startled ducks take off they are most likely going to head out over open water giving me a better shot opportunity and less chance of losing them in the cattails. I had only gone about 100 yards around the corner from Mike when a couple nice looking wood ducks burst from a little pocket in the cattail edge and out into the bay open air above the bay. I quickly drew my gun, took aim, judged them to be just at the edge of my personal range limit, and squeezed the trigger. A loud boom filled the air as my 47 year old Ithaca Model 66 lever action single shot 12 gauge came to life. And.....nothing. I missed, plain and simple, but as I watched the fleeing ducks, I noticed that they were banking rather quickly and might be heading in Mikes direction.

Boom, boom, comes a reply from Mikes direction and then I see both birds flare off and head for the horizon. Well it was misses all around but it was still a great start to the season for me and I was definitely looking forward to the few hours of hunting which remained in my first day of the season.

As we made our way back down stream Mike and I alternated between going into the bays to push the birds and hanging out at the mouth of the bays waiting for birds to fly by. We only had a couple other opportunities to shoot but still neither of us had connected and as we neared our launch site I knew it was crunch time if I were going to be successful. I told Mike about the last bay on the left, just across from the boat launch, and how that particular bay always seems to hold a few birds and usually offers me my last shot of the day. He said he would hang out by the launch and watch for birds while I went searched the bay.

When I first entered the bay I was expecting a flush of birds, which is usually the case in that area, but there was nothing. I scanned over the water’s surface and from what I could see, there was not bird in sight, but I wasn't giving up that easily. I made my way to the north east corner of that bay where I knew there was a little path through cattails that actually led to two other bays that were well hidden. I could see that a few other boats had used that path recently so any hopes of seeing waterfowl in those bays was beginning to fade. Then out of nowhere a coot.

"OK, this is it" I thought to myself, as I took aim. At least this would be a guaranteed bird in the bag, considering coot the proverbial sitting duck when it comes to hunting. They don't like to fly, you can get really close to them, and when they do fly it is slow and easy, so when I squeezed the trigger on that coot, and he just kept going, I was dumbfounded.

As far as I was concerned that was it. My day was over. Just wasn't my day for shooting ducks. I decided to go ahead and paddle the rest of the way through the cattails into the secluded bay so that I could get my kayak turned around and head back to the landing to meet Mike.

When I exited the little path through the cattails and entered the bay, I was only able to make two paddle strokes before an unseen duck sprang from the water’s surface just 15 yards to my left. Without a second thought, my Old Ithaca Model 66 shotgun was at my shoulder and I squeezed the trigger. The duck instantly folded and crashed back to the water, putting a smile on my face. I immediately paddled over to retrieve my downed bird and when I lifted it from the water my smile was replaced by an ear to ear grin, for there, right before my eyes, attached to the bright orange leg of a mature hen mallard, was my very first waterfowl band.

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Updated 10-23-2013 at 08:20 AM by BratsNMustard

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