It went like this. The day before the hunt I purchased a small game license along with all the requisite conservation stamps and a box of game-load steel shells. On the morning of, I bundled up with two pairs of long underwear (one lightweight capiline, one expedition weight fleece), three shirts, two jackets, waders, Everest-worthy mittens and a brimmed wool hat. After a few slugs of coffee, I grabbed my Mossberg 20-gauge, put my head down and followed friends into the swamp.
After placing a dozen duck decoys in the water, the boys in the group set down on the waters edge to wait it out. When I asked if our friends wife was hunting, the reply was, “No, she cries. That’s why I bring her- she brings the emotional aspect.” Since this was my first interlude into shooting anything other than a target, I decided to start by sitting back under the willows and quietly chat with our emotional aspect while I watched how things were done.
Ideally, when a duck is sighted, the barrel of the gun should have a wing on either side, which is to say the duck needs to be close. Besides the decoys, this involves extensive camouflaging and a number of small kazoo-like devices that can produce duck sounds. I found the sounds somewhat comical, but apparently this is very serious business as proper duck hunting should result in one dead duck per shot fired. With this pressure, sitting and chatting turned out to be more fun that sitting at the ready with a gun, so I didn’t move from my place in the willows except to periodically brush the snow off my rifle. I would hate to lose it. It had started snowing shortly after we arrived at the make-shift camp and was coming down hard enough to make the landscape around us look quite different.
At least that’s what I told myself later.
After a few hours, the emotional aspect of hunting and myself decided we were getting cold and wanted to go back to the trucks. Traipsing through the snow, we headed the general vicinity of the parking lot. However, as neither of us were paying much attention on the walk in, we failed to remember the dry path through the marshy cattail maze that stood between us and petroleum fueled heat. With my waterproof waders, I intrepidly decided to wade into it to ‘see how bad it was’. The black manky-mank replied by sucking the Velcro sandals off my feet. I made a mental note that my fly-fishing setup of waders and sandals may not be cross-compatible with duck hunting in the snow.
Once the manky-mank had infiltrated the miniature hooks and loops of Velcro, they were pretty much useless and only loosely stayed on my feet. At this point, we admitted we were screwed. I told the emotional aspect that if we got really lost, I did have three rounds in my pocket. She laughed at my suggestion of using bullets as signal flares, but I thought it was clever. We ended up following our footprints back through the snow to find the boys and admit defeat. They may have been slightly amused when we wandered in and asked to be walked out to the maze entrance. We did have a little hiccup coming out of the maze, but eventually made it back to the cars about 30 minutes before the boys (about 1.5 hours after left them for the first time). We ended up driving away with three small, tasty ducks and a new appreciation for the male directional sense.
Cook of the Day: Ted Nugent is a culinary genius and I highly recommend his book, Kill It and Grill It. His recipe was the first time I genuinely enjoyed eating duck.