Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How to act like a major ass when hunting public land

The public land where I hunt ducks is incredibly crowded, but for the most part, hunters there get along just fine.

Every once in a while, though, you get a hunter who thrives on being a major jerk. And if you're lucky like I was last week, you get to watch karma slap him around a bit.

I was hunting surrounded by friends last Wednesday. Hank and Charlie were in my tule patch. Our friend Don was a little to the west of us. And Rick, a friend who's a relatively new duck hunter, was in a patch to our north.

It was a pretty typical day: Everyone in our area was getting shots at ducks. Not that picture-perfect shot at birds coming in for a landing in your decoys - that doesn't happen too often in crowded public land - but shots at ducks flying over or past your tule patch within shotgun range.

Apparently, that wasn't good enough for the two guys hunting a patch to the northeast of Rick.

I was back at the parking lot when Rick came into the marsh mid-morning and settled into his patch, so I missed this part, but Hank and Charlie told me that the guys hollered at him for being too close. He wasn't too close - hunters occupy those two spaces all the time without any problems whatsoever.

Then one of the guys started hollering at Rick for taking shots he thought were too high, and he called Rick an asshole.

Later, I got a duck on a second shot that I usually can't make and I raised my shotgun with both hands in triumph. "I never get that shot!" I yelled to Hank and Charlie.

I couldn't hear it because I was sloshing through the water to pick up my duck, but Don later told me that one of the jerks started ridiculing me, something like, "Look, I'm a girl, I got a duck!"

Then when Hank and Charlie took shots at (and missed) some gadwalls that came straight over us, one of the jerks came unglued.

"Let 'em work, asshole! Maybe if you let 'em work, you wouldn't sail 'em so far!" (For the non-waterfowlers out there, "sailing" is hitting a bird that then sails a long way from you before dropping; the ideal shot is one that drops the bird right there.)

This was the first verbal assault that I'd heard from them that day, and it really pissed me off. I responded poorly: I yelled some unkind things right back at 'em, and we traded insults back and forth for a minute.

Why was this the wrong thing to do? 1) It's bad to escalate, and 2) it's especially bad to escalate when everyone is carrying loaded guns. I know this, but I let my temper get the best of me, and fortunately we all settled down.

Rick, on the other hand, was about to become a saint.

One problem with yelling at fellow hunters for shooting at birds that appear to be too high, or sailing birds, or shooting at birds that you think are coming your way (instead of "letting 'em work") is this: We all do it from time to time. It's not ideal, but any hunter capable of being honest with him- or herself has to admit this.

So you know what's gonna happen next, right? You got it. One of the jerks hit a bird and sailed it, and it landed right in front of Rick, still very much alive.

The hunter started sloshing out to pick up the bird, and Rick shouted cheerfully, "Want me to anchor that bird for you?"

"Yes!" the hunter answered, so Rick shot the duck before it could escape into grass where the other hunter might never find it.

I marveled as I watched the scene unfold, and yes, I delighted in watching someone from the hostile hunting party eat crow.

The jerks didn't dish out any more crap during the remainder of my time there that afternoon.

I wondered if they'd learned an important lesson, or if they'd just been temporarily silenced by karma. I'm inclined to believe it was the latter - bullies aren't that easily chastened.

But I sure learned my lesson: Next time that moron or anyone who's an ass tries to wreck my day in the marsh, I think I'll be content to keep my mouth shut and let the bastard hang himself with his own words. It sure doesn't take long.

And even more importantly, I learned that we are all far better off when we cheerfully help those around us. A little bit of nice goes a long way in the marsh.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012


Frankie L said...

I was so expecting you to say, "Rick blew that bird clean in half".

NorCal Cazadora said...

No, but that's a really funny alternate ending!

River Mud said...

I hate ruining my hunts with those disagreements, and it's one reason I don't spend much time hunting public land anymore.

Our hunting pressure on the east coast is (I imagine) similar to the west coast, but our migrations are probably 10-15% of what you get on the Pacific Flyway. So if 4 groups go out in one public marsh, it's very typical that 1 group shot 2 ducks a piece, and the other 3 groups never even saw a duck. It's like that.

So when you add in people who act like assholes (which, to be honest, often includes skybusters who either can't call birds or are not set up on the right hole), a hunt can go from "not great" to "horrible" in about two rude shouts.

Ignoring them is probably the best way out. The second best is to pack it in and call it a hunt.

NorCal Cazadora said...

We are very, very blessed here - half the birds in the Pacific Flyway winter in our hunting grounds (the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which has several separate refuges).

And in the free roam area where we hunt, 50 hunters are allowed at any given time, and easily half of them can be in our immediate vicinity. The flight is so good, though, that it's worth the hassles. I did leave early on the day of the jerk, but I was shooting poorly and my neck was killing me, so the asshole was the third strike - I was outta there.

etfremd said...

I am more inclined to wait them out. We have had guys come so unglued they have come down and stood next to our decoys and tried to shoot ducks off of our spread- not to mention physical treats of violence. I never escalate- however I ran over to the guy who decided to hunt our spread and stood next to him and had a chat. These guys finally left in frustration and we then continued to finish our limit. It helps to be 6' 4" and 280 lbs and a former defensive lineman. But I never shoot off my mouth.

In fact one time a guy encroached on us and set up 30 yards away- I had a talk with him and he agreed to only shoot ducks in his spread- he did and we invited him over to finish his limit after we limited out- and I hunted with him again once when we met at random in the sweat line.

I love your no Spam warning. So I will keep my short- I found a natural supplement that actually helps improve your shooting. I think I need to do some more product testing this year on the sporting clays range...Let me know if you would like to sample some and do a controlled experiment...Keep up the interesting stories...

Rick said...

What a nice surprise to come here to see what is up with you, and see my own name!

Really, though, I haven't thought about those guys nearly as much as I think of you seeing me get my first duck double! THAT is what really sticks with me about that day! It is all about perspective!

Rick said...

What a nice surprise to come here to see what is up with you, and see my own name!

Really, though, I haven't thought about those guys nearly as much as I think of you seeing me get my first duck double! THAT is what really sticks with me about that day! It is all about perspective!

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Holly, those of us who enjoy reading you would prefer that you not antagonize jerks with guns. Please. Live to write another day.

Rick, I love it that what you remember is your double.

NorCal Cazadora said...

LOL, what I remember about Rick's double is that I'd hoped those ducks were coming to us, and if we'd been jerks, we would've shouted, "Let 'em work!"

But seriously, I was very proud of you for that double, Rick. Don't know if you heard me, but I shouted "Nice shot!" at the time.

I think the morons have been there again, but I haven't heard much yelling lately, so perhaps they've gotten the message. I found out after that shouting match that there's a refuge rule that if you cuss at other hunters, the refuge will banish you for a year. Maybe they found out too.

Tamar, I know, I know. I've never been good at turning the other cheek, but after watching Rick's performance, I know that it's just best to kill 'em with kindness, which is far more fun than turning the other cheek. This whole episode has made me act a lot nicer to hunters around me. Not that I was being mean or anything, but now I'll go out of my way to be helpful.

ETFremd: I wanted to go over and have a chat with them, and I even thought about it at the time, but they were so riled up that I was worried they might fire a warning shot. Besides, I'm nowhere near 280 :-).

And email me about the supplement!

steveo_uk said...

great post, really enjoy reading your exploits !

SimplyOutdoors said...

Man. I love it. Karma can so come back and kick you right in the ass.

I love it, and I'm sure that guy felt like a total dip wad.