By HUNTER REDFIELD – Student contributor
Waterfowl hunting for Jacob and I has seemed to be our kryptonite. We would go to bed with the truck stuffed to the brim with decoys, waders, and anything else that we needed to go out and kill birds but yet it never worked. We have had groups of guys set up right next to us, boats fishing in front of our spread, and just had times when nothing would go right and we couldn’t kill any birds. That is why we were so excited when we pulled into the lake the night before just to scout and there were around 10 birds. But, with the sinking sun came more birds, flock after flock, dropping in until there were triple digits on the lake, and we were more excited than ever.
With the excitement came a restless night and a total of half an hour of sleep for me while Jacob flipped and flopped all night in slumber. The alarm sounded and we jumped off the couches and got ready, anxious that we had so many birds. The coffee had never tasted better than it did on the drive, but when we pulled in my heart dropped when I saw 95% of the lake was frozen and we would have to bust ice the whole way across.
We put in and crunched our way across until we made it roughly to where we wanted to be and Jacob got out and set up the blind. Meanwhile, I did figure eights and circles in the canoe trying to bust out a hole and, after throwing out around 4 dozen decoys, pulled into the blind with a few minutes to spare before shooting light.
Shooting light came and, out of the hundreds of birds on the lake, there was nothing flying. Just as we had talked about why they weren’t, a black shadow broke over the horizon and locked its wings dropping into the decoys and dying before he had a chance to land. The birds roosted the night before were nowhere to be found and most likely got pushed off by the ice, so the morning drug on and on.
Then a bird crested over-top. I reached for the jerk rig and started yanking before occupying my other hand with my call and letting out a couple hails. He circled and dropped and circled and dropped again, and then he was on a string and with a few single quacks he was in the decoys backpedaling, green head searching, orange feet dangling, not a clue in the world that steel was about to buzz by him at 1200 fps before he made it out alive and hopefully thankful for the tree branches that took the hit for him.
After sitting a little while longer we pulled across the lake only to stash the canoe and hop in the truck to go get some food. Breakfast had seemed to completely captivate our minds and no words were said about the drake mallard that we had whiffed on. Only the sound of happy families and silverware were heard while we wondered why on earth we had wasted our time and why we even wanted to go back out as a couple glances at the window signified the call for rain was here.
Our sleep deprived brains made the decision to go back out. Once back at the lake, we shot a crippled goose left behind by a flock that had managed to make it out of a field alive earlier. We pulled across the lake, through the decoys, and back into the blind with our rain gear on and made it through the most miserable weather of the day. Rain dropped from the clouds by what seemed to be hundreds of gallons and we talked several times about picking up and leaving but the most promising time was around the corner and we knew it was going to get insane in the last 20 minutes of shooting light.
Soon enough our time frame had rolled around and we had a drake merganser feet down in the decoys and dead after a couple shots that seemed to surround him. Then came a flock that circled the lake and with one hail call I seemed to lock their wings and, like something off of a TV show, they drifted into the decoys and most made it out alive but one was dead and yet again we were on the board.
A pair also made there way across the lake and despite their friends laying belly up all over the water they landed and neither left the decoys. We pulled out of the blind and picked up the birds that finished our one man limit of mergansers and as we chased a cripple across the lake more ducks tried getting into the decoys before we made it back to watch the lake that had went crazy within a 7 minute span all of a sudden barren of birds. A few minutes had passed and a honk was heard in the distance, a flock of geese coasted from behind the trees cupped and maple leafing but landing just outside the spread.
Our hearts were pounding out of our chests and our guns were ambitious to bark just as another honk was heard and Jacob said, “Get ready they’re dropping in.” Through the branches we had 25 geese feet down in the decoys. “Kill them!” rolled off of my lips just as my call had fallen from them and my hands reached for my gun. Despite only having two shells in my gun, we had managed to shoot 5 geese and finish off a 1 man limit.
To say we were ecstatic is an understatement and, before I knew it, I was out of the canoe fist bumping Jacob as a bufflehead flew right into the decoys and tried landing in the midst of dead geese and Jacob didn’t let him out. We pulled out a final time to pick up our birds and also to realize that somehow one had gotten away without us noticing. We loaded the canoe with dead birds and watched a flock of 100 geese drop over our heads and a single land in our decoys as shooting time ended. We picked up our decoys, ripped down our blind and talked about how dirty those geese did the the whole way back to the dock before unloading our stuff in a torrential downpour and taking drenched layers of clothes off.
It was the best waterfowl hunt we could have asked for and an 11 bird pile picture made our day so much better than we thought it would be. I will never forget the mergansers, or the geese dropping into the decoys maple leafing, or the celebration we had in the pouring down rain after it all went down. Our kryptonite had been conquered, and we ended our year on a higher note than we could have ever imagined before going to a New Year’s party and the most looked forward to thing all day: bed.