A Memory to be Treasured!
The sky was dark after the moon left the horizon, with the night sky exhibiting her wonder as we awaited the opening bell for legal shooting time within the constructed duck blind. The trip out to the blind for the boats’ three occupants was possible only in a boat powered by a mud motor and by following the reflectors attached to the willow poles stuck in the mud to guide our path through the channeled mud bottom of the lake eroded by previous trips. The anticipation of a successful hunt this morning was palpable; if it were not this activity is not for you! The first birds, a flock of mallards, worked over our decoys prior to shooting time, further stoking the fire of desire!
Guns loaded and ready we awaited the onset. Once past legal shooting time, three mallards worked to perfection with Billy Pinkston, the youngster of our group in his forties, taking the drake mallard on his end, myself shooting the front bird, a hen mallard and JJ Sykes dropping the third bird climbing for altitude and safety behind the blind with one shot! Perfection to start on this first group of birds!
Obviously, the years the occupants of this blind have shot ducks have honed their prowess with a shotgun to a knife’s edge! The next group of mallards, larger than the first escaped unscathed as our prowess proved fallible! Maybe old age and eyesight hampered our shooting skills to some degree! The beautiful sunrise through the clear skies presented a challenge as caught looking directly at the sun would nullify your sight picture just long enough to lose track of the birds’ line of flight.
Birds would work to our spread from a distance confirming the effectiveness of the numerous Robo-Ducks spinning their wings to mimic a landing bird. The wind was perfect for our set up and strong enough to keep the water movement noticeable to the birds. Several large group of pintails would investigate but skirt to our left before entering shooting range. One bird of the next flock following the same game plan ventured a little too close, my Benelli functioned to perfection as my side of the blind was nearest the bird on a low trajectory, a single shot tumbled the bird!
Banter in the blind was of the usual fare, besmirching those scalawags known to us, particularly since they were not present to account for themselves! Choke tubes, decoy placement and number, blind position and effectiveness of shot size all were debated in a civilized manner. A scrumptious breakfast sandwich consisting of bacon, egg, cheese and bun topped by a southwest sauce was constructed in the blind by Billy on the Blackstone griddle for such purpose.
Several more ducks fell as a result of shooting skill while some evaded their fate due to quick decision making or other excusable reasons. As the sun rose in the morning sky, the temperatures quickly climbed as well, slowing the flight activity somewhat. This group of hunters know to not give up until the final deadline at one o’clock on the Sanganois Waterfowl Area, as often a late group of migrators will reward our patience!
Suddenly, the sound of a Speckle belly broke the silence – sure enough a pair was flying down the lake parallel with our blind. I could hear JJ’s bands rattle on his call lanyard as he grabbed for his call. The pair of birds responded to his call as if on a string and made one pass before setting up for the approach – the second bird of the pair was not as eager and hung back making the focus of the blinds’ occupants directly on the nearer bird resulting on this being the end of the line for this tenderloin of the sky’s existence!
A fitting end for this days’ hunt was as exciting as the anticipation awaiting daylight hours earlier. The blind this year will not see one of this groups’ long-term members, Gary Doyle, due to his passing earlier in the year. Gary was a true friend of the Sanganois as evidenced by his support for this organization over his lifetime. My mortality was foremost on my mind as my battle with Melanoma, although successful to date can easily be resurrected by this evil foe! This morning’s hunt with fine company and the memory of those gone was more than its parts as one is reminded of how short our existence can be – but being able to experience the outdoors in such a manner is priceless for both the prince and pauper alike, a memory to be treasured!