Three days to hunt ducks is not enough. Considering that I stood in sub freezing temperatures (the heated blind helped a lot) in neoprene chest waders and was warm as possible it took a toll on my legs and back from hours of standing. My legs are still wobbly a week later too. But it was definitely worth any discomfort to experience waterfowling at it’s absolute best. I would do it tomorrow all over again for a few reasons.
First, the people. I was with veteran hunters who knew duck and goose hunting inside out and they were fun to hunt with as well. Without Nestor we would not have called in as many ducks as we did. That’s a photo of Nestor above getting ready to call in some ducks.
Nestor’s a very good friend that I have known and hunted with for over twenty years. It would not have been possible at all without him and his hospitality. His wife and mine were dorm mates at Purdue where all four of us met in the early 70’s. Getting together with them is always a warm and enjoyable experience. We have a lot in common family-wise. We laugh and curse at the same things. Politically we are joined at the hip.
The other hunters in the blind were all my age or older. With the exception of my good friend Nestor and myself all the members of this club are law enforcement professionals. The club president is a retired and legendary Illinois DNR C.O. (game warden) called J.R. He’s either cursed or loved by many hunters in southern Illinois. Funny thing, our other three blind mates at Honker Hilton were all named G(J)erry. Three other G(J)erry's in one place never happened to me before. Here we are.
From left to right: Jerry, (retired miltary), Jerry (correctional officer) Gerry, (pilot for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) and me, Gerry From Valpo.
During slow times I heard a lot of stories. My favorites were from Gerry S., the pilot. He served in Vietnam flying Cobra and Huey attack helicopters. When I asked what his missions were like he said mainly to deliver rockets against NVA positions. He compared the cost of a load of AGM’s to a Cadillac Coupe DeVille. In 1968 a Caddy cost about $4500. His full rocket load cost $4500. He called his missions “delivering Cadillacs” since each time he returned to base the rocket bays were empty. I asked how many V.C. and NVA he may have killed. His response? “Not enough”. He served in the reserves until two years ago.
He served recently in Iraq flying Chinooks while his son was also called up for duty at the same time. He had photos of them in together in Baghdad. What a pleasant, interesting and funny guy he was. At 60 years old and two stints in his arteries he was still flying into remote outposts delivering troops and supplies in Iraq. God bless people like Gerry S.
Now Gerry S. flies small aircraft for federal biologists to survey the migration routes to photograph and estimate waterfowl populations among other things.
Second, There were a lot of birds. Any successful wild hunt involves timing. Timing the rut in deer hunting like timing the migration in duck hunting, both involve a natural occurrence, weather and time of day. Put it all together and all you need is good marksmanship to be successful. We happened to hit the perfect flight day. This happens when tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of ducks fly non stop for hundreds of miles seeking a new food source and open water. The ducks we saw has just arrived at this location within the previous day or so and would be around until snow covers up the food or the water freezes or both. One Jerry said all these ducks had in mind was getting mud on their feet and corn in their bellies. The sky was literally thick with them on day three. I have no images of these flights because it’s hard to hold a shotgun and take photos at the same time. Priorities, you know.
It was flight after flight and most of them worked in close, many not close enough. There was a lot of second-guessing going on. Were they too far to shoot? Too close to scare the rest of the flight? Did too much ice flare them? Were too many decoys out there for this time of year? It did not matter to me, I was having a ball with all the shooting opportunities and the sight of all these ducks flying.
Day three was outstanding. We did not get a limit for five hunters but plenty of ducks came home with me, well, at least their breast meat did. Yumm. Never have I judged an outdoor experience based on the amount of game taken. Limits are fine but the enjoyment goes way beyond the total bag to me. I took home about a dozen.
Nestor has a trip planned to northeastern Arkansas in January to a large corporate hunting lodge near Stuttgart AK., another legendary waterfowling hot spot. He asked if I was interested.
Sign me up!