Looking for Ducks

On a rise above the lake, I watched as the duck turned.  I had been sighted and it started paddling to the opposite shore.  It was early June and I was out duck hunting, hoping to get something before the season ended.  I had made my way south of the mountains to flatter country, where lakes and ponds were more plentiful.  The traditional means of hunting ducks and geese involves sitting in a blind, behind cover, where one waits for the birds to arrive and come close enough to provide a good opportunity for a shot.  I found this lame.  I wanted to stalk my prey, sneak up without being seen and make the shot unnoticed.  Romantic or badass as it sounded, it clearly wasn’t working.  The areas I was travelling were lacking in adequate levels of brush to provide cover for that tactic.  Time after time, the ducks would sight me and either paddle out of range or fly away.  On one occasion, I even attempted to hunt from my packraft.  The idea was that the birds wouldn’t be as frightened with me travelling on the water.  On the one occasion, I paddled slowly towards a small cove, where there were about a dozen ducks and a couple Canada Geese.  At roughly 70 yards, I stopped and took aim on one of the geese.  The bow of the boat slowly swung around as I tried to steady myself for a shot.  The goose stood up.  Crack.  The birds took to the sky, including my goose.  I had missed.  Further attempts in the packraft weren’t any more successful, instead only seeming to make the ducks scramble for shore or fly away.

A new approach was in order.  Before trying my luck again with a friend, we studied which lakes and ponds would offer the best cover for a close approach.  The first lake we chose is one of the largest in the area.  Spruce trees extend all the way down to the shoreline.  Once within view of the lake, we glassed the area and were able to see a large group of ducks a few hundred yards distant.  We eased down towards the lake’s edge, passing by the spiny spruce trees before resting amongst the tussocks. Now we would wait, hoping one of the ducks would pass close by.  We refrained from making any movements, or noises for that matter.  The only sound was the buzzing of the mosquitoes flying around our heads.  Within a few minutes, a pair of ducks had begun to move towards our location.  Some birds in this area are off limits for hunting, notably some of the eider species.  One of the species we had been seeing frequently bore a striking resemblance to one of the eiders that was off limits.  Unsure whether or not our interpretation was correct, we deemed it off limits.  One of the ducks in the approaching pair looked to be that same species.  Though after flipping through photos, the other duck (although small), was not found on the list.  They continued paddling closer, finally coming within about 20 yards.  My friend, Brody, was readying himself this entire time, us having agreed prior that he’d have the first opportunity.  Looking down the sights, he fired.  Pop.  The duck stopped in place, slowly turning over, until it floated on its back.  The eider like duck didn’t fly away at the shot or even after the other duck had perished.  It stayed close by, likely unsure what was happening with its partner or friend before it decided to paddle away.  Brody dropped down to his skivvies and swam out to retrieve his kill.  Now it was my turn.  We walked around the lake’s edge staying just off shore.  The one duck I tried to stalk quickly sighted me, paddling away before taking off for a more distant spot on the lake.

Before leaving for home, there was one more pond I wished to try my luck.  I set off on my own, moving through brush and over tussocks with rifle in hand.  Between the pond and me, was a small knoll.  My hope was that I could sneak up there and there would be ducks on the near shore, just beyond the other side.  I crouched down as I moved upslope, moving into prone and crawling the final distance close to the top.  I was in luck.  60 yards distant on the near shore were about a dozen greater scaup and eider like ducks.  They were feeding along the shore, moving back and forth amongst the grasses.  I picked out one of the greater scaups and placed it in my sights.  It moved into an opening between the grasses and I fired.  There was a great commotion as the rest of the bunch took flight.  The duck I had fired at remained.  It made its final movements as I made my way down.  Located just off the pond’s edge, it would seem to be an easier retrieval than what Brody had to deal with.  Though as I stepped on the grass clumps that rose above the water I lost my balance and fell in.  Retrieval didn’t prove to be an easy process for either of us.  Yet, I had my duck.

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