Thanksgiving Week

I took vacation Thanksgiving week to catch up on some chores and, of course, make a few duck hunts! I went out with my son Monday (Nov. 23), and the very high tide from the Saturday storm put water over the transom of my boat. That led to 15 minutes of bailing before we could head out into the marsh.

The water was even higher than opening day, and we were standing in 6 inches of water in the blind. The temperature was in the upper 50s with no wind. Being 15 minutes later than expected, we got settled in just about shooting time. Then I noticed a couple of decoys that were out of place. I figured the high tide moved them a few yards and thought no more of it until my son said, “Dad, there’s two ducks on the water.” I told him they were decoys and blew a note on the duck call to prove it. Needless to say, Dad was wrong and two ducks safely flew away without a shot being fired!

As usual, there were a few flights of ducks right after daylight, and we were on the mark that morning. Hunter made an excellent shot on a single gray duck that came over the decoys: Folded him on the first shot. I heaped on the praise and sipped some hot coffee. That shot made my morning.

A pair came in a few minutes later, and both were added to the bag. We knocked down just about all the ducks that came in, but after 7:15, the skies were empty. There was a dead calm over the marsh, and without any wind, I have found that the birds do not move in the marsh. After enduring several minutes of pleading, I reluctantly let Hunter practice his duck calling. I am certain that it was terror to the real ducks, but it was fun to see him go after it. A little more practice is in order! We ended the day with 3 grays and a teal.

We made another hunt with my brother in the blind on Wednesday. It was about 5 degrees cooler, and the forecast was for north winds at 5 to 10 mph. I had higher expectations simply because of the wind factor.

We got in the blind on time, but seemed to be jinxed from the start. We had a pair of teal come over at first light, and they came in and out before we saw them. While discussing the pair that fooled us, I heard the very distinct sound of multiple wings cutting through the air at great speed. It gives me the chills when I hear the ducks before I can see them.

Once again, a nice flock of about 15 teal came up on us quick from the shadows and exited without a shot fired. Now I am getting a little steamed, and I notice a single teal from the flock had broken ranks and had landed at the edge of the decoys. He flew in fear, but did not make it out. One down!

A few more teal made their appearances, and we were able to find them over the barrels and ended the day with four teal. Once again, there was again fewer birds flying than I expected. The grays did move more than Monday, but not as much as I had hoped. They started landing just outside of my pond, and that is a kiss of death. When the ducks start staging up on a pond near you, your chances of getting others to come your way drop significantly. After a few flocks went down in our area for their morning meal, we finished the coffee in the thermos and called it a day.

My son and I made a last trip on Sunday (Nov. 29) before we returned to work/school. I hoped for decent wind, and had some gusts, but no consistent wind. The result was practically zero duck movement.

We watched the sun rise and, for an hour, we saw empty skies. Our first ducks came through the pond at 7:30 – a pair of teal, and only one of them left. And that was the extent of our hunt Sunday. We called it quits about 8:30, after adding some more brush to the blind to kill the down time.

While putting the boat back on the levee, my son jumped out without seeing a water moccasin soaking in the sun right in front of him. I yelled, “SNAKE!” and he hopped back into the boat like a jackrabbit.

Luckily, the snake was still fairly dormant and wasn’t aggressive, or this hunt could have had a bad ending. I made my best shot of the week, and separated that snake’s head from its body. I then took a moment to stress caution in warmer weather to my son because the snakes come out to sun. Word of caution guys: Even at a cool 60 degrees moccasins are out basking, so watch your kids and labs.

To sum up my Thanksgiving week, we made three hunts and killed four, three and then one duck. We desperately need a good, strong Canadian front to push some new ducks down south. The ones that are here have become wise and are difficult to work. Even though we brought home fewer ducks than we wanted, I still enjoyed the hunts I made this week. It was a good time in the marsh with my son and brother.

I hope you shoot straight and shoot often!