Saturday. Oct. 8th, 2011
Nick was running late. Not surprising. I called him just hours before to make final plans for the south zone waterfowl opener. It was 8 pm and he was on his way to the bar with some buddies.
That leaves me, dad, my brother and Zeus waiting in a dark parking lot. Staring at ancient barns in slow motion collapse. A rusted out Ford ranger, a camper trailer and a backhoe to keep us company. I’ve hunted this farm a couple of times. A misty Wednesday morning that put a 3 man limit of geese on the ground in 20 minutes. A Saturday morning shootout when my dad crushed a goose at 65 yards with his Super Black Eagle. The anticipation was killing me when Nick finally showed up with 40 ounces of gas station coffee in hand.
Wasted soybeans littered the ground as we set 40 goose shells and 10 full-body decoys around the blinds. The plan was simple. Start at the back of the property and shoot a 5 man limit of ducks in some wooded potholes. Then head-off the geese in the field to finish the morning.
They showed up right on time. Wood ducks dropping through the trees like snowflakes. Some good shooting and some great retrieves quickly stacked up 10 blue and gray beauties. At the truck I changed out of my wet clothes and we rushed back to the goose spread.
The sprint from the parking spot left me sucking wind. I dove into the layout blind, took a deep breath and started calling. They wanted in real bad but something had them spooked. It could have been my truck keys laying in the field. Or our makeshift blind of fence stakes and grass mats. A few comeback calls got them to reconsider. Again, they flared at 50 yards so we tried them anyway. 5 guns. 3 shells each. We didn’t cut a feather.
After another flock hung-up out of range so we dismantled the blind. The guys laid on the ground under the grass mats instead. Between flights my dad and my brother fell asleep. Nick, Tom and I talked about the salmon, walleye and perch that filled our time between hunting trips. The temp quickly rose to an unseasonable 80 degrees. With no geese on the ground we called it day. Besides. I had a Sunday morning date with Harsen’s Island to get ready for.
Sunday. Oct. 9th, 2011
I laughed out loud when I read his email. Dusty predicted he’d win. That damn statewide lotto has snubbed me for years. At least I got the invite.
We filed into the DNR shack at Harsen’s Island for the 5:30 drawing. Dusty’s lotto win made us one of 30 lucky parties in “duck bingo”. Another drawing for the best hunting areas in this well managed duck hunting mecca. Flooded corn fields are what we came for. We were picked 3rd overall. So flooded corn is what we got.
Fog rolled low over the water as Dusty’s outboard started making a funny sound. He cleaned the weeds from the prop and started her back up. That was the last time I heard that motor run. The paddles hit the water in unison as we tried to beat the sunrise. His lucky streak temporarily on hold.
The pink and purple horizon was stunning. I sat motionless listening to hundreds of birds leaving the roost. Then the thunderous foghorn of freighters in the channel. Everything was still. The water looked like glass. Then the distant shots from the big water of Lake St. Clair stirred up more birds. Within minutes of shooting time we had ducks on the water. Zeus enjoyed his work.
A mallard, a black duck and a wood duck each hovered over the decoys until the shots brought them down. But a lull in the action left us congregated at Mike and Geno’s canoe for chocolate coffee, packzi’s (giant jelly filled donuts) and cigars. We really made no attempt to hunker down and conceal ourselves. We were just having a good time. I was shocked when we looked up and saw a mallard locked onto the decoy spread. I grabbed my call, blew a few low single quacks and watched Dusty and Geno drop that bird. While Zeus was swimming in the decoys on the retrieve the boys dropped another.
We joked around about the odds of that happening again. Until a pair of mallards swung low over our row of corn. I put my head down and went to work on the call. With wings cupped and eyes locked on the mojo they never saw it coming. The boys went to work to make the official count 7. 3 ducks when we were “really trying” and 4 just standing around bullshitting.