Eric Rachel’s success in the woods has brought him a fair amount of fame and notoriety.
The scene was nearly too much to take in.
A flock of seven gray ducks rode a 15-m.p.h. tailwind from east to west about a hundred yards to the south of our blind. Their flapping silhouettes were the perfect accent to the rich-blue sky that served as a canvas far more beautiful than anything ever painted by man. They were surely too far away to hear our calls, especially with the wind blowing at our backs, but still we tried. My hunting partner and I let out a series of hail calls that rivaled the volume of Tijuana’s most-festive mariachi band.
The birds turned to the right. A moment of satisfaction and triumph leaped in my heart, and surely it did in that of my buddy as well, but more than likely the birds were merely obeying their capricious whims, and would have turned anyway whether we blew perfect notes on our calls or attempted a raspy version of “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.”
But still, they were angling our way, and for a waterfowler, there simply is no better feeling. Though the birds were still far out of range, we instinctively hunkered down a little more in the grass. Some flocks tease you by looking your way, then turning away, then looking your way again, and turning away again. But this flock had that feel. We knew they had seen our spread, and they apparently couldn’t think of any better place to spend the day than in our pond gorging on the thin, lanky stalks of widgeon grass.
My buddy and I dropped our calls, which clanked against the half dozen others on each of our lanyards. We’re both firm believers that you don’t call at approaching ducks. If you do, only bad things can happen.
And besides, these birds clearly didn’t need any extra encouragement. They were coming, and some of them would soon belong to us.
We peeked from the grass, just under the brims of our hats, and watched the flock cup their wings and twist like Chubby Checker trying to lose altitude. At that instant, another flock of four, which neither of us had seen, soared in from behind us, nearly over our heads, their curled wings issuing the hoarse roar that sounds like a hurricane and always seems too loud to emanate from mere duck wings.
They instantly mingled with the flock of seven, and all stuck out their legs to alight with our decoys.
In unison, my buddy and I thumbed our safeties and rose to each shoot a bird that was hovering in front of us. They fell dead, and we turned our attention to individual members of the rest of the flock, all of which were doing their best to catch as much of the wind as possible.
Four more trigger pulls resulted in two more ducks spinning in spastic circles on the water, and we were almost grateful that more hadn’t fallen. We were a third of the way to our limits, and two more out of the flock would have made us halfway there.
There was a time for me when a limit was the goal, and I would have focused more on the shot that didn’t connect than the two that did. But hunting is no longer about dead ducks and numbers and early limits.
It’s about the 10 or so seconds of indescribable joy when you realize a flock of ducks flew all the way from Canada to Louisiana, and thought so highly of your spread and your pond that they’d risk their lives to get in there.
Ten seconds is an insignificantly small percentage of your life, but those 10 seconds mean so much.
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