I went hunting for the closing weekend of duck season 2004 with my hunting buddy John. We've hunted everything together. And had determined that we couldn't stop until we'd tried ducks too.
The last day of a so far duckless hunt had arrived and we were hunting in the early evening. It was time to make it, or break it, and the sky was fire orange with beautiful dark clouds and a good wind. Our decoys are out and we had “cammo’d” the aluminum boat with burlap and driven it into the reeds. Standing up we could only see 3 of the 14 decoys. I was using a teal / pintail whistle with no success. Understandable, because I’ve never heard a pintail or a teal, and I was trying to guess what they’d sound like. All we had to go on was a 3 sentence description of their call that came with the whistle: “Short trill, quick, quick.” Yeah, whatever that means.
We’d been standing in the boat for over an hour when we finally heard an answer to my varied attempts at calls: “Quick, quick.” John and I made eye contact, a shocked look on our faces. Complete disbelief. I calmed myself as best I could, and answered “Trill, quick, quick.” The immediate reply – closer than before “quick, quick.” We were almost shaking with excitement. Standing with 12 gauges shouldered, fingers on the safety. Shallow, rapid breaths and a racing pulse. Another “Quick, Quick” and out of no where a beautiful white tern comes around the tulles and lands right next to one of our large Pintail decoys. He swims cockily towards the decoy, chirping at it. As the innocent little bird got closer he must have realized the plastic duck he was making advances towards was not real, because he actually popped up 2 or 3 inches out of the water in surprise! His puzzled expression (I swear his eyes got wider) was almost human. He almost jumped clean out of his feathers with fright! In an obvious state of confusion, he lifted off and flew about 10 yards away, again probing for the location of his new friend: “Quick, Quick.” Due to shock and high strung nerves I was unable to reply to him.
He never even saw us, but John and I had both drawn a bead and flipped off the safety, his death a trigger pull away, when we simultaneously realized “Hey, this isn’t a duck?!?” That slender little white bird only survived a massive hail of steel shot by about ½ of a second. After he flew away we burst into fits of laughter and amazement. It wasn’t a duck, but it was still an awesome experience to “call in” our first bird. And the look on his face when he realized he was swimming over to a plastic duck was priceless. It was simply priceless.
We “Broke our cover” and laughed and talked about it for about 5 minutes. Then decided to start calling again. We hadn’t called in any ducks, but we’d duped a tern, and couldn’t imagine a duck being much smarter.
We had relaxed again and started to really enjoy the beautiful sunset when our eyes drifted to the south. It was almost as if a sixth sense directed my eyes towards something in the sky, very far away. Three tiny specks on the horizon instantly formed into three flying ducks moving at high speed. I still can’t believe how fast they were moving. It seemed as if they appeared from nowhere and then in the same moment were only 100 yards away. I managed a “Trill, Quick, Quick” to the best of my ability, and was instantly rewarded when they banked in perfect formation, descending from 60 feet above the reeds to a mere 8 or 9 feet above the water in a maneuver that would make the Blue Angels cream in their pants. We had almost enough time to shoulder our firearms and the ducks were already strafing through our blind. It was too perfect. Three bright green heads, amazing blue-gray coloring on the wings, bright white chests and long black bills disappeared and reappeared between the reeds as they came screaming through the air.
Our decoys were to the left, and they were approaching from the right, into the wind. Exactly the way we’d imagined it. And too perfectly, directly in front of us they put on their airbrakes and dropped their landing gear. John and I opened fire simultaneously as with one thought. It sounded like a single, long gunshot, but was in reality the sound of 6 contiguous ignitions. The plastic and brass shells landed all round us. The reeds bowed over, filled with hundreds of tiny holes. Two magazines emptied in one and a half seconds. As we truly were of “one thought” - It turns out we had both targeted the same duck, and evidently, we both hit him… at the same time. Blew the freaking crap out of that bird!!! A lot of feathers, and a sizeable high speed splashdown. One dead duck. I beaded down, pulled the trigger on the second duck and in complete amazement watched him kick on his afterburners and start to fly away. I lowered my empty gun and couldn’t help but think: “How in the world could I miss that shot? I know I hit him. I had too… I can hardly call myself a hunter! After blowing a shot like that!” I didn’t see what happened to the third duck – he had passed behind some reeds, but evidently John said he was able to scoot out the back of the pond thereby evading our quickly reloaded firearms. As for my duck, he climbed about 40 feet higher into the air when his flapping slowed and he spiraled back to the water, dead on arrival, and struck with a solid splash!
Add to that an hour of cleaning and plucking, and you have the tale our first two ducks, two spoonbills. HERE'S THE MOST REWARDING PART. We roasted one in the oven. The other we cut into strips, wrapped in bacon with a slice of jalapeno, coated in tangy BBQ sauce, marinated over night, and grilled over mesquite charcoal. And do you know what they tasted like? Butt. Yes sir, I said booty-hole! The old bung dropper. Poop shoot. Turd pincher. Now I’ve NEVER eaten booty-hole BEFORE, but I do think that’s pretty close to what those winged rats tasted like. Straight-up Butt. Oh well. Next time we’ll have to hold for mallards and canvasbacks – or go ahead and shoot the spoonies but turn the meat into jerky. That’s right, Teriyaki-butt flavored jerky.
Until I kill again,