Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Seasons come and go

I'm not going to do my annual "the duck season's too short" lament, partly because its getting old :) but mostly because its been a great season. I got to hunt every weekend, harvested good numbers of birds, introduced a new prospect to hunting, hunted with mates and family, ate some of the best swamp meals ever... yup it was great.

Matt and I traveled together, arriving at the landing in pretty good time, considering it was a holiday weekend. At the hut dad, Tom and Paul were all asleep and so after waking dad to ask him where the decoys were set up we grabbed a couple of dozen and went out to set up McLennan's which I picked would be a decent bet with a forecast southerly. We got back, had a beer or two with Andy who'd arrived and after lights-out the pup curled up on my bed. Paul was up early to crack on with breakfast and then we set sail. It was cool and I was glad to have my puffer jacket on. Ducks moved in good numbers, but they were high and wide and had their sights set on safer pastures as it were. Our sole chance came when a flock of teal materialised and set up to land - it was only when they were feet down that I could pick their shoulder flashes and called them as spoonies. Matt who thought I was joking didn't fire as the birds got out of Dodge, my 2 shots dropped 2 birds and the dogs took off after them. 

Layla - out and back with a spoonie

After that we shot a single out of a group of 3 that got too close and then another. We pulled out at 10.30 in what had turned into a sunny day. Matt's job was to get lunch ready which he did while I did a bit of a tidy up in the hut. The other guys came back to the hut for the meal and then we had a wee siesta - I was ready to sleep and had an hour or 2. Matt and I had hatched a plan to get out into a hole in the trees for the evening and see if we could attract any birds. We grabbed headlamps, a few rounds each, put vests on the dogs and set off. Ducks were moving all over the place and it was pretty exciting to be in thigh deep water moving our legs to create ripples while the dogs perched on the only dry area on willow stumps. Over the next couple of hours we each shot a couple of birds as they either committed or passed too close and soon it was too dark to continue and the flight wound down. We decided to do the same again in the morning. 

Walking out of the trees from hunting that spot is something I've done dozens of times - walking in there in pitch darkness with no navigation points of reference - well that's a different story! We managed at the first attempt to complete a semi circle and end up about 50 m from where we started, but luckily Matt had his phone  with Google Maps and soon we were back in the right place and in position. Despite the cold, the journey through broken fallen trees, puddles, mud and holes had given me a good sweat on! Soon the sky began to lighten and we again created ripples. Ducks again moved over the trees, seeking safe spots to land and loaf. We took a brace of spoonie drakes that set up high, swung around and then barreled in. Later we took a mallard drake and that bird signaled the end end of the season for us. We got back to the hut and completely shook the place down. Mattresses upturned, dishes done, the stove cleaned out, diary updated.. the season's tally was 318 birds, the best for quite some time and reflective of the duck attracting quality of high waters.

Its now pheasant time.

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