Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Favorite duck ID book: On life support

One of the most serious casualties of my duck hunt in Sunday's ferocious storm was my very favorite waterfowl identification book: The LeMaster Method.

This spiral-bound 74-page book isn't necessarily the best for learning how to identify birds on the wing - I've found that ability comes from experience: connecting the image of the dead bird in hand with the flying bird in your memory.

But if you drop something truly weird that you've never seen before - as happens almost everywhere at least once in a while - this book is perfect for identifying it.

The first few pages are life-sized images of ducks' bills. You can literally hold your duck over the book and match it up by size and color.

Then there are pages for each type of duck, complete with male and female head close-ups, and images of the birds in flight. And at the end, there's a really fun section on their feet. I guess that's there in case you hit the bird with your full pattern and obliterate all other identifying marks.

The only flaw with this book is that it isn't waterproof.

It got a mild soaking around the edges once last year when I left that flap of my blind bag open in the rain. Duh. I dried it out and ironed the formerly soaked pages.

But this weekend the blind bag was all zipped up and covered, and the rain was so intense that the book still soaked through completely. Seriously, three days later I still have gear that hasn't dried out all the way.

I could totally afford to buy a replacement, but I was raised by parents who grew up in the Depression, so I have weird spending habits. I'll drop a couple hundred bucks without hesitation at Cabela's or Amazon, but I just hate tossing something I already own.

So on Monday morning, after seeing it was salvageable - I could still separate the pages - I inserted butcher paper between each page so they wouldn't stick together. (Waxed paper would've been better, but for some reason, we had none.)

Then, after it was partially dry, I started hanging it from a clothes hanger near a heater vent.

Though the book is still drying, I think it'll be OK. But while the images are clear, the pages are going to be really rumpled. Oh well.

With any luck, they'll dry completely before I go duck hunting again this Sunday, because I hate hunting without this book.

And you bet your ass I'm going to put this thing in a Ziploc bag. If I don't just decide to laminate every page. We'll see.

© Holly A. Heyser 2010


M L said...

LOL, as I was reading your story laminating each page is exactly what I was thinking. Then you can punch a hole and put them thru a ring clip.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Actually, this is one of those flexible spiral binding thingies (technically, not a spiral I guess), so I could just re-thread it. If it would still fit the pages - they'd be three times as thick.

But really, they should just make books like this waterproof!

Phillip said...

You could choose to only hunt bluebird days.

Laminating and re-binding would probably be your best, long-term bet. I agree though, you'd think a field book would be waterproof, or at least water resistant paper.

Hil said...

Laminating and rebinding would be sheer insanity for a book you could buy entirely new for less than $9. :) But I understand the compulsion to save what you already have. I am a confessed ziploc bag washer and re-user.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Yes, total insanity! But I may do it.

But probably not. I swore I was going to darn my duck hunting socks after the end of last year's season, but that never happened either. I had 265 days to get around to it, and it didn't happen.

Yeah, Ziploc it is...

slm313 said...

If you laminate it, I'll send it through our repro group to re spiral bind it for you so you don't have to try and thread it through. Or...reuse it for something (coasters made out of the pages or something like that), and get a new one.

Live to Hunt.... said...

Holly, now 4 years into duck hunting I bet you could leave that old reliable bible at home and be just fine. It is so iconic to my early days of duck hunting as a 10 year old. Ah, the good old days...

NorCal Cazadora said...

Oh, there's a LOT I haven't seen in four years. Never killed a goldeneye, Can't tell the difference between a lesser and greater scaup. Never killed a black duck, any kind of scoter or eider,a harlequin duck, a whistling duck. And I hear about these odd birds drifting into our territory just enough to know I want information in the field, not when I get home. :-)

Phillip said...

I was a late-in-life duck hunter... I think I must have been almost 14 when my buddy and I first paddled that canoe across the Intracoastal Waterway to a sweetwater pond. From that time on, for many years, I was a duck hunting addict. The passion finally cooled, but in the meantime, I shot at and saw a lot of different birds on two flyways.

And still, from time to time, I find a bird I've never seen before. Or I hear about one where it just doesn't belong. I'm just glad they've done away with the point system.

With the climate change happening on the pace it's happening, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if we start seeing more and more "odd" birds in our flyway before I'm too old to shoot at them anymore.

Anonymous said...

Hi Holly! I just picked mine up this morning from kinkos--we loving laminated every page and got it spiral bound-it weighs like 3 lbs but it'll stay dry.

Didn't get drawn for any date yet--we're itching to go for our first time. Wanted to buy a case of Heavi-shot from cabela's before it's illegal to get it shipped. What size do you recommend? I have a Beretta urika 12 g... Jacqueline and Keith in SF