It’s June and the 2011-12 Waterfowl season has been over for some time, but we would like to take a moment to look back on one of our favorite aspects of the sport. No matter where you choose to hunt, you never know what your going to end up with. Whether it is a mixed bag, rare species, band or hybrid, we love to see the variety in ducks and geese. Every year we seem to get a few odd-balls and they make for great stories around camp. We would like to take this chance to share three of our favorite hunt experiences from this last season.
Coal and Steel
We have always targeted divers when the conditions just weren’t right for puddler’s or when we wanted to get some friends into good shooting. This year though, we wanted to set up for Surf Scoters. We have shot a few in the past while going after bluebills, but we never specifically target the skunk heads. On a weekend where the whole group was free. we decided to head to the coast to film a mixed bag hunt. The tides were great for the morning, so we started off targeting mallards, pintail, and wigeon. While targeting the shallow water dabblers we ended up taking a beautiful drake canvasback through the thick fog. The shooting was consistant, but eventually the tide dropped and we ran out of hunting room.
Watching a few Scoters against the skyline, we were excited to move to bigger water and decoy a few divers. It wasn’t long before they were hooking into the long lines. We were taking turns picking out drakes, when Jake handed the cameraman (Scott) his gun. This is one of those situations where it is better to be lucky than good. The next bird that fell sported a shiny steel band that contrasted the birds coal black belly. The surf scoter was banded two years prior as an adult on the edge of Washington and Canada. If you would like to take a second and watch a film of the day, Click this link.
What the hell?
The spring goose season was winding down and we could see the end in sight. We got out every chance we could, in order to make the most of the season. On this particular hunt, the birds decided to fly late. Storm clouds were rolling in from the distance and we couldn’t help but to think how nice it would be to finish up before we became wet rags. We already had a few tav’s in our blinds, so when a small flock was heading our way we thought this might be our chance to finish up. Sure enough they banked hard at the sound of our high pitched cackler calls and started their decent.
The lead bird let out an awful sound that can only be described as a mix between a specklebelly and a lesser. All three of us mumbled “what the hell…” as the group continued to glide into the spread. Silhouetted by the bright sky, it wasn’t until we saw the yellow feet drop that we were assured they were actually specks! We don’t see too many in the Willamette Valley so we all got a little excited at the prospect of something different. We sat up and dropped all four of the specks and another cackler, which rounded out our limit. When the dust settled, we all looked at each other confused. “Did those specks of cheek patches?”
Sure enough, when we went to pick up the birds, the sound they made matched their appearance; a perfect blend between a lesser canada goose and a specklebelly. If only they had a tar belly to round out the gene mix.
Nothing embodies duck hunting quite like sitting in a corn row waiting for hungry ducks to start flying. Sometime the birds can drop in so fast that you only have moments to identify before your shot opportunity vanishes.
A flock of mallards was circling and circling. Every time they would start to get close a distant shot would flare them upwards. Eventually they had enough and disappeared over the horizon. Unbeknownst to us, there was a single duck cupped up and commiting from behind us. That all too familiar jet sound alerted us to the approach and had us reaching for our guns. Even though it was silhouetted by the sky, it was unmistakably a mallard. With one shot Kyle dropped the bird into the cold muddy water.
Sitting on the water, something wasn’t quite right. Sometimes their not pretty, but even an ugly duck like this can engrain a memory and provide some laughs. We all gave him a hard time for shooting a park duck, but I think he knew that deep down, we were all a little bit jealous…