Saturday, December 5, 2009

Our Last Day of the Early Season

Duck season has come to a close. Thankfully this was only the early season and the longer season is coming up soon. This past short-season has been pretty difficult for us to get out and hunt. Right now our jobs are forcing us to work night-shifts, which are 12 hours long. It's very exhausting and there is no physical way for us to come home after work to get out in the swamp. Bummer. Next season however, we'll be working days. That means every day off we'll be up at the crack of dawn (actually before that!) to get out in the swamp!

Anyways- as I mentioned earlier, we had a lot of rain. Torrential downpour is more like it. RNH and I decide to forget about our much needed sleep, and wake up to get out there on our day off. It was the last chance before this early season ended. We're allowed to start shooting at 6:39am. We make it to the boat by 6:15. We'd be doing well time-wise if it was just a normal hunting day. But today when we got to the boat, we found that the boat was upside down in waste-deep water.

The boat is usually propped up against a tree, on dry land with the paddles tucked up underneath it. Instead it was floating upside down in waste-deep water! It was a crazy sight if you ask me! RNH's waders have a hole in them past his knees, so I had to venture into the cold water and drag the boat to the embankment that I mentioned in the previous post. From there we up righted the boat, trying not to fill it with water and let it sink. Thankfully the paddles were still inside! Otherwise, we'd have to cancel the hunting trip that morning and buy new paddles!

We got into the boat from the embankment and paddled out. We paddled about a length of a football field in water that would normally be completely dry land, or not deep enough for the boat not to drag. And the even crazier thing was that we really didn't need to paddle. The current that was rushing through the swamp carried us (very quickly!) to our regular hunting spot. We usually have to navigate around several stumps, floating logs, and trees. Most of the stumps were covered in water so we didn't have to worry about them. The current was taking us pretty quickly, the only problem is that we weren't able to steer around trees as easily as usual. Instead the current would take the end of the boat and swing it around, slamming it into trees and other debris.

Once we finally made it to our normal hunting spot, I like to affectionately call the duck's "Fatal Funnel," we were amazed. The reeds that we sit in, with water ranging from up to our shins to our knees, was gone. No reeds, just water and a few trees. It was almost past 6:39am, and I began to hear the whistle of duck wings overhead. We watched as about 10 ducks flew overhead while we were trying to figure out what to do. Eventually we paddled the boat over to a clump of trees off to the side of the Fatal Funnel. The anchor in RNH's grandpa's 1970's boat mysteriously disappeared and I tried to tie the boat to the trees. I also put the boat against the trees so that the current was pushing the boat into the trees, securing the boat as best possible. RNH moved across the Fatal Funnel to the other side. I stayed near the boat just in case my anchoring job didn't hold up. If the boat got away- we'd be swimming!!! I had the best view of all the ducks flying overhead. This was the best duck hunting day EVER!!!

I have never seen as many ducks in the swamp as I did that day. They were flying and circling around. There were a few times that I think the ducks were circling and considering landing in the Fatal Funnel, which was now like a Fatal Pond. The problem was the boat. I consider my camouflage job pretty good, but then I've got this huge john boat that sticks out like a sore thumb. RNH thinks the boat was keeping the ducks from landing right on top of us. We both got several shots off and I was beyond excited. I felt that this was the day I was finally going to get a kill.

After an hour and several spent shell casings later, we decided to take the boat and float with the current towards the secret pond. I was a bit hesitant because of the power of the current flowing across the swamp, but I had seen about 15 ducks land in a spot that I was familiar with and wanted badly to see if we could jump them. RNH and I get drug across the swamp in the boat. That current kicked our butts, throwing us into beaver dams and plunging us into trees. Finally we make it to the river where the water opens up a bit and there are not as many obstacles. We still have to paddle some to keep ourselves on track. This means that we're not quite as ready to shoot as we'd like to be. RNH and I are both steering the boat when we near the spot where I had seen several ducks land. We're going very quietly when all of a sudden, WHOOSH! Those 15 ducks that I had seen, all come up off the water.

I have a sort-of freeze-frame in my mind of the ducks coming off the water. At one point, a beautiful Drake (not my dog!) comes up off the water, its wings completely spread, with its chest puffing out in our direction. If RNH hadn't been paddling, he would have had that duck for sure! It was a beautiful sight.

RNH and I both got a few shots off. I even hit a duck. It didn't go down, however, and I was crushed. After running out of luck, we decided to head back in. While going back through the same spot, three more ducks came off the water out of their hiding spots. RNH was able to get a shot off. I wasn't, I had a big human in my way! (Oh the complications of hunting from a boat!) RNH yelled out in excitement "I peppered his ass!" Haha! And again, the bird didn't go down. We were both really disappointed and exhausted at this point. Now time to paddle back in.

The current was so strong the boat was almost impossible to paddle. We couldn't take any breaks or we'd be swept down stream. The mixture of disappointment and exhaustion was not a good thing. I became a frustrated whiny baby and we still had a long way to go. Eventually the boat got turned around, we were going backwards and we pretty much crashed into some trees. The current was pushing the boat into the trees and the trees were keeping us stable. We decided to take a break there.

Needless to say we had a pretty good workout and I was happy to see dry land. I'm excited for the colder, longer duck season. With temperatures reaching 60 degrees on most days, we should have known that this short season would be difficult. I'm excited though, because I'm seeing improvement in both RNH and I every time we get out there. Hopefully during the break between season's we'll practice some skeet shooting. We'll see.

I can't wait for the end of December when the season starts again!!!

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