Well for duck season this year I actually didn't start until January 16, 2006. That's Martin Luther King, Jr. day and I was off of work. Because our deer season ran until the 15th, I waited until Monday the 16th to go duck hunting.
I went with a friend of mine, Mike, a member of Muckalee and one who likes to duck hunt there too. Unfortunately, he had not been seeing any ducks on the ponds. Earlier in the duck season and during our deer season, I tried duck hunting a blown out beaver pond with no luck so I also knew there wasn't much going on. I had hoped the ducks would be coming in later in the season. The one advantage gained from the hunt of the blown out pond is that I scouted another pond and saw about eight ducks swimming around. That is where I was planning on heading the morning of January 16th.
When Mike and I made plans for the remainder of our duck season, we decided to hunt the Muckalee beaver ponds on the 16th and then spend the rest of our time hunting my Stewart County property. On the 16th, Mike wanted to hunt a pond below where he deer hunts and I decided to try and hunt the upper most pond since I had seen the eight ducks on it.
We met early in the morning and I loaded up my Kayak, decoys, camo netting, and other necessities. The thing I love about this pond is that you can drive almost to it. It makes launching the boat quick and easy. I was in the water and putting out decoys in no time. I then paddled over to the dam, pulled the boat out and set up in some brush right in front of my decoys. As legal shooting time came in, there were no ducks. Boy, now I was real worried because normally you get to see several ducks prior to legal shooting time.
A little bit after that, three or four ducks landed up stream from me and then paddle further up the creek and into the reeds. I kept watching for them just in case they came back down stream. I could hopefully jump them up and get a shot off. After a few minutes three more ducks came in and landed in between me and the original ducks. These were within range and I had my gun shouldered trying to pick a drake out of the bunch. I looked at one, then swung to another and then to the third as I could see it the best. With all that swinging the gun around, trying to make sure I was on the drake before they flushed, well you guessed it, they flushed anyway. About the time I got my bead on the third duck they all took off. I shot and got the third bird as he was about five feet off the water and heading out of Dodge. I never could pick up the other ducks as they flushed in the dim light of an overcast day and early dawn shadows.
The duck I hit splashed in the pond and kicked and flapped a little. I kept my gun trained on him in case he got up. Ducks have an amazing ability to mysteriously disappear and because I did not have a retriever; I decided to wait with my gun at the ready.
While standing there with my gun shouldered and pointing at the duck doing the its water ballet, two more came in from behind and landed right next to me. They were no further than ten feet away. I turned my head when they splashed down and they quickly took flight. I swung around on them and fired, but I was nowhere close and I new it. It was more of a, “and don't you ever come back to this pond again!” statement.
Well, after about thirty minutes and no more ducks coming in, my one duck I had down expired. I took down my camo netting and jumped back in the boat. Once I had everything retrieved, I believe I was done by 7:30 that morning. Not a very interesting morning to start off with, but better than nothing at all.
January 21, 2006
Up at 5:00AM and getting ready it was raining outside. Another lovely day for duck hunting only this time we were on my way to the roosting pond I have leased in Stewart County. Legal shooting time would be about ten minutes after 7:00 AM and the way it normally works on this pond is all the birds, and I mean hundreds of birds, leave about ten minutes before legal shooting time. If you are set up there in time you get to watch them all fly away.
Some may ask why you don't just shoot a little early. Well, there are many reason and too many to name here, but I'll just put it this way, its illegal. I got to the pond at 6:30 giving me plenty of time to set up. Mike and his son, Rusty, were there unloading their little boat. They were going to paddle down the middle of the pond and tie up just as the brush starts. I like to walk down the pond's edge with waders and then I walk out into the water some twenty feet. The water comes up to my belly there and the whole pond isn't much deeper than that.
I was set up by 7:00 and could hear the birds just inside the brush line calling. At about five minutes after 7:00 it started lightly raining some, but didn't last long. Birds started getting up and I kept looking at my watch. Precisely at 7:10 I got ready for the next set to fly over. Sure enough within fifteen seconds a group of birds was coming my way. I picked one out and shot. It fell through the tree branches and hit the shore. I quickly ejected the shell and put in another shot. By the time I got the breach closed, another group was flying over. I let loose, but did not get anything. I heard Mike and Rusty shooting too. Several shots rang out from all of our guns as the birds just kept coming. I heard several splashes as ducks dropped from Mike and Rusty. I was able to drop another duck in the water out from me. After that I yelled at Mike to let him know I was done. It was about 7:45 by this time and as I started to get out Mike yelled back to check my ducks because one of theirs was a Hooded Merganser.
The duck I dropped on the shore was a hen Wood Duck and I had to go get my boat to see if I could find the other bird. While walking out I continued to hear Mike and Rusty shoot although not as much as they had earlier. I paddled out and found it was a Drake Wood Duck. I had my limit for the day. I then paddled out to Mike and Rusty who had two Hooded Mergansers, and three Wood Ducks. While sitting there and talking I thought I heard a goose. I asked Mike if he heard it too and he did. He spotted two geese coming in and they loaded their guns. Now Mike, even though we are hunting wood ducks, uses BBs for his duck hunting. He is trying to compensate for weight loss with steel shot. It definitely paid off with the geese. As they flew over Rusty and Mike let loose. The birds continued on, but then circled back. Big mistake because the second time was the ticket. Mike and Rusty let loose another volley and one goose fell. A broken wing caused it to plummet, but it fell in the thickest part of the beaver swamp. I knew I'd be the one to try and finish this poor thing off. The remaining bird circled wide again calling for its mate, but then left. I paddled into the backcountry towards the area I marked as the goose feel. Finally I saw feather on the water and then I saw the goose. It was wedged between a eight inch diameter tree and a bunch of smaller one inch brush growing next to it. The bird was dead, only inches above the water, and I had to pry it out of the entanglement. On closer examination we found the goose had its chest split open. Likely from the fall and hitting one of those beaver sharpened pungy sticks.
Well, that was one heck of a day on the pond. In all we had five Wood Ducks, tow Hooded Mergansers, and one Canadian goose. The bad part is I did not bring my camera. Mike and Rusty had camera phones, but they had not used them so the pictures we did get are real blurry. I'll see if I can post them anyway just to prove we did get these birds, but it will likely be another Big Foot phenomenon in that the photo is so blurry you can't tell what we shot or that it is even us.
January 22, 2006 we were pumped and ready to go. After the shoot we had the day before we knew it was going to be great. It was just Mike and I this morning. We went back to the same places as before only we didn't have to contend with the rain. In fact it was supposed to be clear. Legal shooting time was going to be 7:09 and I was in position at 7:00. Ducks were already getting up. They were flying right over me. By the time it got to be legal shooting time I never got to shoot. Mike was able to shoot a few times at stragglers. He ended up with another Hooded Merganser and one duck he could not find. The one he lost I saw fall and heard it splash for several minutes, but by the time we got to it, it was gone. I looked and looked, but found nothing. Needless to say, this shoot stunk compared to the first. I tried to scout out another spot to shoot from, one not so deep and a little further up as the ducks I did see leaving after legal shooting time were turning before they got to me. I want to get in there with them so I marked a trail about thirty yards further in.
January 28, 2006 Legal shooting time was 7:06 and I wanted to get to my new spot. I moved in without a light and when I got to the waters edge near my marked spot I flushed two ducks that were right there. After they flushed I heard more all over the pond getting up and we still had five minutes before we could shoot. Rusty was in the boat and Mike elected to come in from the other side of the pond from me. In all, most ducks left again before legal shooting time. I ended up with one hen Wood Duck. I don't remember how many ducks we got, but it wasn't more than two. I think Rusty got one Wood Duck and that was it. We ended up going back to the camp to rest a little and then go back to the pond for an evening shoot.
After piddling around some I heard some crows so I loaded up and headed off into the woods with my crow call. Rusty accompanied me and we took shots at crows with our steel shot. We didn't do much damage, except one time I tried to shoot with the call still in my mouth. The damage was when the recoil of the shot gun jammed the call half way down my throat and bloodied my lips. Dam that hurt. I kept calling and we kept trying, but we didn't get any.
After that, I loaded up my duck boxes and we headed back to the pond. Mike and Rusty put one box out for me on the island in front of the dam. I put out the other two, one in the pond across the road and then another in the corner on the main water. I'll likely build some more and put them out too.
After that we went out, put out the decoys, called, and waited. Sunset was 5:55 and by the time I got set up it was 4:45. I was also looking right into the setting sun. We didn't see anything and at 5:45 I collected my decoys and headed towards Mike and Rusty. At 6:00 we were loading up. We sat on the dam waiting on birds to fly in, but nothing started arriving until about 6:15. From 6:15 to 6:30 we watched as groups of ducks came in to roost. In all there were probably 100 birds that we could see, but there were likely more that we couldn't see. This got us all excited for the morning hunt and it was supposed to be raining so hopefully the birds would hold later for us.
January 29, 2006 and the last day of the season. Legal shooting time was set at 7:06 and we were ready. Mike and Rusty were heading out in the boat to the middle and I was going back to my regular spot, not the one I had marked and spooked birds at. I eased in the water and was half way to my spot when Mike and Rusty started shooting. I looked up to see a bird directly overhead and took a shot at it. Mike and Rusty fired a couple of more time later and I could see a few birds leaving. Again they were turning prior to reaching me and leaving me with no shot. We didn't see many birds that morning, hardly anything really and we couldn't figure out what was going on. Mike and Rusty dropped two birds that morning, but again one was lost. I looked as did they way longer than we actually shot, but we found nothing. I think I may have jumped the bird as one got up and took off out of the woods close to where they said it fell. It may not have been too hurt.
Well, by the time we packed up it started raining. We stopped and got something to eat and then headed to the camp. There I broke out the electronic crow call and we made a couple of trips to areas to shoot crows. We got three in all, not many, but we did get to shoot some and it was fun. After that we headed for home. That's it for my 2006 duck season.
Updated: January 30, 2006