Monday, December 21, 2009

Turning my misfortune into a contest

So yesterday I went back to the Delevan National Wildlife Refuge to see if I couldn't end this crazy streak in which I get only one duck per hunt, and it's usually a duck already wounded by someone else.

It was a dark and misty day with little wind and not much shooting going on. I decided it was time to explore "free roam," which is a vast central area where hunters can go wherever they want, provided they get there first. The potential rewards are great if you don't mind the potential conflict.

I've been avoiding it because I'm not a fan of conflict between people who are all carrying guns. But Bob, one of the guys at the hunter check station, has been urging me to try it. "All the real hunters go to free roam," he said yesterday. Read more (and get to the contest part) ...
I got some advice from a hunter on his way out of the refuge with seven birds, and went straight where he told me to go. When I got to the edge of the water where I'd head in, I met his friend on his way out. I had just started asking him for advice when a spoonie hen who had been hiding in the grass in a tiny puddle between us broke her cover. She lifted her wings, but couldn't take off. A cripple.

"Want her?" the hunter said.

"Yeah, I'll take her." I'm not going to let a duck go to waste just because it's a spoonie. Those ducks have a bad rap.

The hunter set his dog on her, then dispatched her quickly and handed her to me.

For a moment, I thought to myself, Wow, if the shooting's really good out there, this means I can shoot only six ducks.

Then I put down the crack pipe. What are you thinking, Holly? This'll be the only duck you get today.

And I was right. Of course.

There's no need to bore you with the details of what it was like trying to learn how to hunt free roam - let's just get straight to the contest:

Whoever can guess the date that I break my streak - and by that I mean the date that 1) I will get more than one duck, and 2) at least one will be a duck that I came by honestly, not someone else's cripple - will win your choice of one of the following three books:

Lift by Rebecca O'Connor - a riveting look at one woman's entry into the world of falconry.

Heart Shots: Women Write About Hunting, edited by Mary Zeiss Stange.

The Sacred Art of Hunting: Myths, Legends, and the Modern Mythos by James A. Swan.

When choosing dates, consider this: Hunt days on public lands where I hunt are Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. But occasionally I get the chance to hunt other days. For example, I might go goose hunting tomorrow, and while geese do not count in this contest, I'm told I might get a shot at some wood ducks. I'm pretty sure I'm not hunting on Christmas because my mom would kill me, but if I can sneak in a quickie ...

Each person can choose one date, and the closest date wins. If there are two picks that are both close, e.g., one is a day before and one is a day after, the person who picked his/her date first wins.

Make your pick by leaving it in a comment below. And remember, you may need to try several times - I actually have to hit "post comment" three times to get it to work. (Was it really worth it to move the comment form into the post when it worked fine in a separate window? Jury's still out on that.)

Good luck!

Wait, what am I talking about? You people should be wishing ME good luck...

© Holly A. Heyser 2009


31 comments:

Chris in Music City, USA said...

Holly, I gotta go with the 26th. It will be a belated Christmas present.

Phillip said...

You'll break your streak on Wednesday (12/23). You'll only shoot two birds, but at least they'll both be yours.

Speaking of Delevan free-roam. My first trip out there found me floundering around in the tules, trying to find a spot to set up. I finally hit a spot that the birds were just pouring into. Unfortunately, the water was chest deep and my poor dog couldn't tread water. I built a raft out of tules that worked long enough for me to miss a couple of shots, but the raft broke apart. I figured the poor dog was gonna drown if I didn't head for shallower water.

I sat on the bank and watched bird after bird pitch into the spot I'd just left. When I packed up and headed for the road in frustration, I looked back to see that I'd dropped one decoy out there, and that's what was pulling the birds in.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Oooooooh, that sounds great. I'll have to have you show me on a map next time we see each other!

kmurray said...

I am going to go with January 2nd.

It's going to be a great way to start off a new streak in the 2010 season. Best of luck to you Holly! (I always like things in groups of three, so maybe 3 ducks for you that day....do I get extra brownie points if I'm right on that??? lol!)

NorCal Cazadora said...

LOL. I wonder why no one's picked a number like five ducks. Or six. Or seven! So sad :-(

Matt Ames said...

Matt Ames says... Sunday the 27th. Btw, I don't want one of the books. The dude just wants to get his winduck back. It really tied the decoys together.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Matt, holler when you're in the neighborhood - it's waiting here for you. We'll both be around this evening.

Kat said...

I vote for December 30.

hodgeman said...

OK Holly-

I'll take the 28th of December.

Of course you'll have to cooperate and actually go that day and score by busting woodies while looking for geese but I'm a sucker for the long odds... Figuring the Monday after Christmas might not be a popular day in the marsh, but what do I know?

Shewee woman said...

I'm going with January 3rd. Lucky for you that you can hunt on Sunday's. We just got 10 inches of snow two days ago and I am going to have to plow my boat out if I want to get out. So January 3rd it is and you will definitely get five birds. I figure by then you will be so frustrated that you will really stop to think about why you are missing and then when the time comes to shoot they will just be a reaction shots and you will drop them. Good luck.

Tracey said...

Gee Holly, I am just going to bet that lucky number 13 will be your day. (but I hope it happens much sooner!!!)

NorCal Cazadora said...

Yeah, Shewee Woman, California doesn't have many blue laws - for which I'm grateful. Those laws are clearly unconstitutional and I don't understand how they can still be around.

Tracey, I hope it's sooner too!

I'm not goose hunting today, but I am going to go see my gunsmith. I think my stock might need a little adjustment...

eric.measles said...

Holly....gotta go with Dec 30th... close the year with a winner..... I got faith in ya.
Eric....

Sarah said...

It's going to be an early Christmas present on the 24th and I think it will turn out that you end up with 5 birds on the strap.
Happy Hunting Holly!

Lori Ambrosino said...

Holly I think it will be the same day I get more than one, Saturday, December 26th. I'll be at Kesterson as my boyfriend got #1 draw that day! Thanks for the challenge and the enjoyment of reading your articles.
Lori Ambrosino (newbee)

Bill said...

I'm betting that you can sneek in a quick trip on Dec. 25... Mom's a late sleeper, right?
Bill

Rebecca K. O'Connor said...

I won't hazard a guess for fear it will encourage my own losing streak. (at least you're seeing ducks!)

However, I will happily sign the book if the winner chooses LIFT. I'll even keep it impersonal in case I rob a bank and become famous someday and the winner wants to sell it on eBay...

The Hunter's Wife said...

Oh Holly I know nothing about when duck hunting is, the times allowed hunting, what duck is legal...I could go on. I don't think anyone said January 3. So that is what I'm going with.

Live to Hunt.... said...

I'm going with New Years Day. I know that's not a refuge day, but I think you'll get an invite onto some awesome private club and slaughter a limit in record time. Good luck - sending good vibes your way.

Phillip said...

So, it's 10:00 on the 23rd. Any ducks yet?

NorCal Cazadora said...

Sorry, Phillip, I had to stay home today. That cold I've been fighting is fighting back, and I've got to give this body a rest :-(.

Phillip said...

Well, dangit. I still think you did it on purpose so I wouldn't win.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Yep, it's a conspiracy for sure.

Kat said...

Well, I am still pulling for Dec 30. I am thinking after the cold and stress of the holiday you will relax and pop a few ducks as a way to end the year on a high note.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Sorry, Sarah, you are OUT! We went out in the rice in Richvale today and got zippo (well, our host scratched out ONE). Horrible flight. I didn't even get any cripples! I'm offended.

NorCal Cazadora said...

OK, Matt, today's your chance. I'm goin' in!

NorCal Cazadora said...

And the winner is Matt Ames! More details later. But I've had three hours' sleep and was out for nearly 16 hours today and I'm a bit WIPED OUT.

Anonymous said...

Yey. Glad you got some birds. And on my brother's birthday.

Karyn

Anonymous said...

im guessing the strap was 2 greenheads (one crippled), 1 gaddy, one wigeon and a bull sprig!

NorCal Cazadora said...

Check back later tonight - I'll have a blog about the whole story!

NorCal Cazadora said...

OK, the whole story is finally up here.

Anonymous, I did come home with those birds you mentioned, right down to the one crippled mallard. But they weren't all mine. And you missed one...