Duck season starts with an early-morning bang
As the darkness started to fade and the shooting hours approached, an unidentifi ed duck landed on the edge of the spread, popping my senses awake. That means I almost slept through the start of shooting, but when you work nights, zero dark thirty whatever hours are brutal on your days off.
The loner duck flew off and I adjusted the skiff a bit. The start of shooting came and went. It took about five minutes before birds started flying — wood ducks mostly, with some mallards mixed in and — I even thought I heard some widgeon pass behind me but I didn’t turn to watch. No teal.
Finally, about 10 minutes to eight, two teal passed through the spread from the right coming into view and over the decoys in less then a second and out in another. They flew out of view to the left, and I was kicking myself for digging in too deep since they clearly didn’t want to land.
It wasn’t that I was sleeping at the switch so much as I didn’t have time to raise, mount, and point the shotgun before they were in and out of sight. I just about started picking up and heading home for breakfast when the sun lit up
a flash of wings about 200 yards in front of the decoys.
I watched and, in a second or two, the wings of three incoming ducks started flashing. I raised the gun butt to my shoulder and identifi ed the ducks as blue-wing teal just as they entered the spread.
They set their wings as I focused on the bird my eyes selected, pulled in front of it and snapped the trigger.
Two birds fell to the water, one dead, one winged. I used my other two shots to finish off the wounded bird. Diving for teal in weeds early in the season is tough, but without Sienna, it would become almost impossible. But I was hunting, as are so many others. The early teal season, dove season and early goose started last week on Tuesday and the bear hunters start today, the Wednesday after Labor Day. Bait sitters go first, which means the dog guys have to wait until Sept. 16.
Literally speaking, archery deer, small game, fall turkey and grouse season open up before the dog hunters get a crack at bear. That’s the latest start I can remember for bear. This may be one of the most anticipated hunting openers in a long time. I’m assuming a lot of the bear hound guys are chasing some geese right now, plan to hunt some turkey or archery deer this weekend, or are enjoying some fall fishing while they and their dogs wait for their season to start. I can tell you after seeming like a summer of 5 to 15 mph winds, I’m pretty much over that. Now wind makes putting waterfowl in the pocket easier, but it makes just about everything else more difficult. My guess is by the first of October we will be seeing bluebird days that are warm and the wind still, mostly because duck season will be open. But that is why we call this hunting instead of killing.
It’s here and by Saturday you can take a walk in the woods and simply chase squirrels if you don’t hunt with a bow or have a bird dog. The plans for my fall are coming together. Grouse hunting trips, duck hunting trips, and even the gun deer season is all planned. The anticipation of those trips is still there, but the waiting for this season is over.
Sienna made short work of most retrieves. At 13 and a half, she was doing well, other than being almost deaf, until she wasn’t and the “wasn’t part” lasted less than a month. And I’m hunting waterfowl without a dog to retrieve again. But the truth is, I’m not ready to start over. And, by the time I picked up the ducks, I decided to just pick up the decoys as well.
I had a good hunt and the wind was picking up. Rowing back to the landing point would require a lot of energy. I saw few birds as I picked up the decoys.
The row back to the landing point wasn’t quite as difficult as anticipated. I had to smile, because by the evening, I would be sipping a good scotch and enjoying some teal breast wrapped in bacon off the grill.
Good luck everyone and let’s remember “Safe Hunting is No Accident!”
K OLAR THROUGH A