"That's a spoonie," Charlie said.
We were watching a duck that had just been shot at - unsuccessfully - by a hunter in a tule patch to the south of us at the Delevan National Wildlife Refuge. It was now flying toward us.
Many duck hunters spurn spoonies. They can taste pretty foul because their diet typically includes a lot of algae and invertebrates. Add to that the fact that they're surprisingly small and they have the dorkiest bill in all of duckdom (think clown shoes) and you've got the single most unpopular duck in our flyway.
Of course, Boyfriend and I have found that most Sacramento Valley spoonies gorge on rice and taste just fine as a result, so normally we have no qualms about putting them on our straps. We couldn't care less about killing only prestige ducks - we're all about the food.
But on Sunday, my buddy Charlie and I were having an epic shoot, one of those days when the ducks just kept coming. The teal - one of the best-tasting ducks I've ever eaten - had finally arrived in the valley, and they were swarming around us like mosquitoes on a Minnesota hiker who got stranded at the lake without DEET.
"Definitely a spoonie," Charlie confirmed.
My strap at this point included five teal and a wigeon. I needed one more duck to fill out my limit. As that just-shot-at duck arced toward us, I thought to myself, "Do I really want to risk putting a duck that might taste bad on such an immaculate strap?"
I kept my eyes on the bird, but I could just feel my pinky almost levitating off of my gun.
The duck drew closer, a dark silhouette against the gray sky, coming in at what would've been an excellent angle for me. I'm an average shot at best, but this was a shot I knew I could make ... if I wanted to risk tarnishing my strap.
My gun stayed in my lap as the duck entered shooting range. As it passed in front of me, I finally got a clear look at the bill and body. And I did not see the clown-shoe attachment on the front of its face.
"That's not a ...."
My mouth agape, I stared at Charlie.
"That wasn't a spoonie! You said that was a spoonie!"
He was getting up.
Wait a second. I'd just heard a splash.
"Did you kill that bird???"
"Yes," he said, sloshing away. Shortly after that, he brought back a gadwall. Boyfriend and I love gadwalls!
Charlie was chuckling to himself. He hadn't even been holding his gun when the bird got close enough to ID. Right about the time I was informing him that he was mistaken when he called this duck a spoonie, he was grabbing his gun and pow! Duck down.
Charlie was gloating.
About shooting what should've been my seventh duck!
Of course, I did end up getting my seventh duck shortly after that - another wigeon, and quite the fatty. And I did swap one of my teal for that purloined gadwall, so I got my bird after all.
But somewhere in here is a lesson. It might be that snobbery doesn't suit me well. It might be that I should never rely on others to identify incoming ducks. It might be that it's more important to shoot quickly than to correct your hunting buddy quickly.
However, would I admit any of the above to Charlie? Hell no! I'm having a much better time carrying out the threat that I made when he returned to our tule patch with that gadwall.
"You are never going to hear the end of this!"
© Holly A. Heyser 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
"That's a spoonie," Charlie said.