Monday, December 8, 2008

A piercing scream, a black fog and other paths to hunting's greatest lessons

Hunting teaches us many important lessons about life, beauty and the ways of the world.

Unfortunately, those weren't the kinds of lessons I learned this weekend. But here's what my friends and I - OK, mostly "I" - did learn:

1. If you're having a tough pheasant hunt, this'll liven it up: Scream at the top of your lungs when the first bird flushes. Better yet, scream like a girl.

2. If you often find pheasants by tromping through the smelly, black waters of a marsh while wearing inappropriate clothing - because sometimes the birds seek refuge in little clumps of grass there - that trick will not work when you hunt with your new friends. But it will make their clothes smell lovely!

3. If you haven't seen any roosters and your back hurts, sling your gun over your shoulder and walk on a nice comfy road where no shooting is allowed. You'll hear a cackle and see that long tail feather in no time!

4. If you'd like to take a picture of a golden eagle sitting on a sign 15 feet from your car, make sure you just shoot without adjusting the settings - it gives the photos that nice snowblind effect.

5. If you think you might get lost in a dark fog on your way to an unfamiliar duck blind at 5 a.m., don't bring any extra batteries for your flashlight - it's really cool watching that light disappear.

6. If you actually do get lost and settle for any old clump of tules to set up in, don't worry, you'll figure it out. Just listen for the sound of a bird dropping a nut on a metal blind lid over and over. Right behind you.

7. If you try to design an alternative to a duck call lanyard, prepare for it to become the next great conservation tool: It'll work really well until ducks come in shooting range, then fall apart, leaving you fumbling to stuff your call in a pocket, rather picking up your gun and shooting.

8. If you think the surest way to bring in ducks is to drop your waders and take a leak, there's actually a better way: Just bend over like your lower back still aches from pheasant hunting five hours the day before - it screws up your shot just as bad as your pants being down, but without the risk of not finishing your ... er ... business. That's progress!

9. If you buy a new WindWhacker motion decoy, definitely do not poke the pole firmly into the muddy bottom of the marsh. It's so cool turning around and realizing it has tipped over and disappeared in the water, then spending 20 minutes walking back and forth in a grid pattern through murky water trying to find it with your feet.

10. If you got lost getting to your blind in the marsh, don't get too excited - that's not nearly as fun as going the wrong direction on your way out and walking a good mile through the water the wrong direction. In chafing waders.

And if after all that you still come home with two birds, be grateful - you don't need 10 of 'em for dinner. And you learned a lot!

© Holly A. Heyser 2008


Anonymous said...

WOW! Some days your the bug and some days your the windshield. Sorry to hear you had such a rough go of it! Makes for some interesting memories and stories though doesn't it.

Bear slightly north from the sign following the footpath tramped in by other hunters...when you get to the open water the blind is on the island in the middle of the open water. Water is kind of deep in the channel and the blind has some water in it. Don't go up the channel to the north.

I am sure "someone" gave you some good directions? Didn't they? We'll at least they tried!

Blessed said...

Oh yes, that's why I haven't ventured out all on my own yet... now I remember :) But even with hubby we've had some days like that!

SimplyOutdoors said...

This post was too funny, and I think all of us can relate.

I once had to walk back to my truck in the dark because my battery died, and I had no spare flashlight, and no extra batteries. Doh! Thank god for a little moon light and the fact that I knew those woods like the back of my hand.

Another great post Holly.

Anonymous said...

Well, it sounds like you learned a lot of good lessons, so the day wasn't wasted.

I think my favorite was the one about the bird dropping the nut on the blind roof. Too funny.

Native said...

Holly Go Lightly,
You are most certainly paying your dues!

The wonderful thing that is happening is the fact that you are seeing the humor in such things and you are not getting frustrated and quitting.

I have seen some people get so frustrated that they would either take it out on everyone around them or just simply give up.

You are just as GAME as any of the best "Bull Dogs" which I have had the pleasure to own and hunt alongside over the last 40 years!

I loved this post in particular because of the above mentioned reasons!

Holly Heyser said...

Anonymous, you can only be one person, and it blows me away that you happen to be a reader here! My jaw is still on the floor about that, but fortunately, I can write just fine with my mouth agape.

What happened was that I followed the path, which didn't feel like it was bearing north, so as soon as it opened up, I went north, which meant I was walking the periphery of the hole - walked right around the blind island. I think if there'd even been starlight, I would've been fine, but in that fog, it was rough.

Finding the blind wasn't the worst part, though (I've had a much tougher time at LDC) - leaving was, because there are four paths out of that hole and there was so much growth I couldn't see the road (had NO CLUE it was so close). I knew I needed to avoid the north channel, but having never seen the sun, I had no idea which was the north channel. I tried one shallow path directly north of the actual entrance, and saw zero footprints and backed out. Then tried the north channel and couldn't remember if I'd come through something that wide, but I saw footprints, so I tried it. Thought it was going too far, but figured I should play it out...

Now that I've done it, though, I hope I get another ressi because I'd love to hunt that blind again, even though it doesn't have the best average of the 10 on the north line. By the end of the day, I'd learned quite a bit about how to hunt that hole, which - in the spirit of NorCal's finest duck hunters - I will not divulge here!

Thanks for commenting - you made my day! And yes, you tried. I think I was just confounded by the dark.

Josh said...

Oh, man! On the heels of Hogblog's post about McManus leaving Outdoor Life, this one was perfect.

Native, if that's true, then I've been paying my dues for twenty-five years. This stuff never stops, and thank God it doesn't, else we wouldn't have anything to talk about around the fire except politics and trophy animals we've shot, both of which are riveting to the speaker, but not usually long-term crowd pleasers.

Tom Sorenson said...

Too funny, Holly. Sorry - but being an outside observer rather than an active participant, yes, I find it funny! :)

Packed my brother's buck four miles beginning at 10:00 at night this fall - not even a single flashlight between us. Brilliant people we are - if it wasn't for the full moon we'd have been in big trouble in new country - sometimes I wonder how I ever survive the outdoors as unprepared as I am.

sportingdays said...

These kinds of misadventures -- in addition to their hilarity -- are an important part of the overall hunting experience, I think. They make those rare, perfect days afield -- the double on wild cock pheasants 15 minutes into the hunt or the limit of ducks taken in 45 minutes -- just that much sweeter.

Jon Roth said...

All I can say Holly is, been there done that. I'm just glad I'm not the only one whose had days/hunts like that!

Holly Heyser said...

Amen! And Sportingdays, I cherish these misadventures. Hunting is always portrayed as such serious business, when in fact it's filled with levity - if you can just let yourself see it.

(Oh no, did I just sound like Sarah Palin in that interview last month where a turkey was being slaughtered in the background? Oopsie.)

Native said...

Absolutely Josh!
That is the fun part of standing around the campfire at the end of the day.
And Holly most certainly bares her soul here and thats about as honest as it gets.

I am just crossing my fingers and hoping that Daryl doesn't reveal some of the silly antics which I have caused or participated in. (L.O.L.)

Native said...

Holly you did not sound like Sarah Pailin because I did not hear that unusual accent that she has!

Anonymous said...

Holly, if you keep going at this rate you'll be as experienced as any hunter in the field.

How's that for zen?

Holly Heyser said...

Yep, I'm packing in all the experience I can, though I wouldn't mind saving some surprises for my golden years.

And Native, DON'T GET DARYL STARTED!!!! You know how he is. And it's too late; I've already got him on tape telling stories about YOU.

Albert A Rasch said...


And I thought stuff only happened to me...

You are the best!

Albert A Rasch
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

Anonymous said...

how many times have i done old number 9, whirly gig, or e collar transmitter, Oh does God have a good sense of humor, trying to learn us to not take the small stuff oh so seriously.

Native said...

Uh Oh! The cat (Daryl) is outta' the bag!
Was he ever really contained within it? I dunno!

Who is anonymous? Now my curiosity is piqued.

I like what Josh said: Politics or Trophy animals, both of which is riveting to the speaker, but not usually long term crowd pleasers. A sobering statement and a lesson learned from it Josh!

That's what you need here Holly, a constant video feed of a "campfire" right in the center of the screen and "then" the stories really will start to abound.
Call it your "yuletide log"!

Happy Holidays, T.M.R.

Holly Heyser said...

"Anonymous" was the DFG guy at the hunter check station, the one who called out the reservation numbers at 4:45 a.m. When I chose my blind, he tried to give me directions - pretty much exactly what he wrote here. But it's hard to follow directions in the fog.

Tell you what, though: I did buy a little compass to keep in my blind bag now. That would've helped at least some.

And Hoover's Gal, I haven't done No. 9 much yet (except with shells), but with everything I pack, I'm aware of the potential for it to disappear under water.

Anonymous said...

re: the eagle: I think I see it!

Anonymous said...

Holly, get a GPS (if you don't already have one). Doesn't need to be the high-end, snazzy with all the doo-dads on it, but a basic navigational device. Makes finding those blinds (or favorite tule patches) in the fog a much more do-able project... and once you've found them and marked them, you can go right back when you want.

Got any hunts on tap for the weekend? Weather is coming!

Holly Heyser said...

I have a GPS for running - i.e., it tracks time and pace and also draws a little map. It doesn't give me coordinates, but it gives me enough to backtrack - which is why I added it to my blind bag yesterday!

Going snipe hunting on Sunday - a first for me. No duck hunting, though...

HELLEK said...

Good to know that my "pointy voice" will come to use one day... soon.

Holly Heyser said...

Pointy voice? I love that. That's hilarious.