|Me, not looking at ducks|
On Sunday, though, I got a big, fat reminder that I still have a lot to learn.
My buddy Charlie and I were hunting at the Delevan National Wildlife Refuge, and it was not a great day. We were not on the "X" that morning, and it was growing more sunny and still by the hour - the kiss of death for good duck hunting. Before long, the flight had petered out so much that most hunters had abandoned the marsh.
Not me and Charlie, though. We are insane.
After watching birds carefully avoid our decoy spread, we decided it was time to abandon the dekes, so we moved to an area the birds seemed to be flying over a bit more, taking nothing but our seats, our guns and our calls.
A couple birds came near me, and while they weren't as close as I like, I was feeling desperate, so I wasted a couple shots on them.
"That was dumb!" I yelled to Charlie as the ducks zoomed away unharmed.
Then a big group of wigeon flew over Charlie's tule patch and he knocked down two of them. I charged over to help find the one that wasn't DOA, and after we'd recovered both birds, we decided I should just stay there.
It wasn't too long before a trio of mallards appeared in our airspace. We started calling to them furiously, and they started circling our tule patch counterclockwise.
On the third circle, I knew they were getting close, and I hid my eyes under the brim of my hat, cranking my eyeballs as far to the right as I could so I would see when they'd be close enough.
Bam! Duck down.
But I hadn't shot. They hadn't come into my field of vision yet. It was Charlie's bird.
I fired two shots at one of the two ducks making a hasty retreat, missed, and got grumpy.
When Charlie got back into the patch with his duck, I worked through my failure out loud.
"I always worry about flaring them with the glare off of my glasses," I told Charlie.
"Someone told my my sunglasses were doing that once, but I just don't believe it," he said. He has a point. If the sun is hitting water, you can be guaranteed that light is flashing off of it somewhere.
I moved onto my next excuse.
"I worry about flaring them by moving my head too much," I told him. I've always been told that the best camouflage is holding still, so I always try to hold my body and head still, and I miss out on a lot of shots because the ducks are too far away by the time they re-enter my field of vision.
"You notice how I am constantly moving and keeping my eyes on the ducks?" Charlie asked.
It's true. When ducks are working, he is off his seat, crouching, and rotating on his feet, keeping his eyes and body facing toward the birds.
"Yeah, but I don't want to flare them."
"Well," he said, "it doesn't do any good to call them in if you're not facing the right direction when they're close enough to shoot."
Oh. So that's how it is? You mean, you're telling me that 2 + 2 actually does equal 4?
Yeah, it was that obvious. Duh. Charlie rotates to keep facing the birds. Charlie is a way more successful duck hunter than I am. Therefore, rotating can't be a bad tactic. He probably flares some, but he's also getting ducks I would never get.
I never got another chance Sunday to mend my stupidity and try it out - we didn't get any more ducks circling us.
But hey, there are 83 days left in the 2011-12 duck season here. And plenty more time than that to become the grande dame of waterfowling. Check back with me in a couple decades on that.
© Holly A. Heyser 2011