Volume XI, Issue 4 ~ January 23-29, 2003

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| Burton on the Bay | Chesapeake Outdoors | Sky Watch | Tidelog |

Chesapeake Outdoors by C. D. Dollar

Widgeon in the Wind
The pair of baldpates just hung off the left side of the blind, suspended in the wind on a string, nervously looking over the stool. Perhaps they’d seen a similar ruse before and wanted to double check before they set down. They were so close that the drake’s crown shined brilliant white against the dull mid-day sky, set off by a swath of deep green that wrapped the head.

The birds were easily within range, and we could have knocked them down without much effort. But Kevin Colbeck leaned over and whispered, “Let’s give it a minute and see what the big bunch does.”

In front of the blind, perhaps as many as four dozen widgeon approached, their wings cupped to catch the air and slow their descent as their webbed feet dangled like kids’ feet kicking air as they sit on a dock.

But it wasn’t to be. On the final approach, the big bunch of birds came within 40 yards but no closer, and the pair escaped unscathed. We could have tried them, I suppose, and though it would have been a shot I’ve tried before, lately I’m of the mind to let the birds work and wait until they’re in the wheelhouse before I pull the trigger.

Later that day, we had several more opportunities and took full advantage. (I write we liberally, as Kevin’s percentage that day was nearly perfect while mine was, shall we say, passable.)

A few days after this hunt, in the same general area — the marshland of the lower Eastern Shore — Willy Agee and I set out a spread of gadwall, pintail and widgeon in front of a stand of high-tide bush. The wind was howling from the north, turning Tangier Sound into a furious tempest of frothing whitewater.

Birds flew all day, coming to Willy and me in pairs and groups of three. As Kevin and I had, we waited until they were in close before firing. The pinnacle came when a pair of pintails circled us three times before committing. A bit of hyperbole, certainly, but it seemed that I could have scratched their white bellies with a garden rake and plucked the drake’s long tail with tweezers, they were so close.

On both of these occasions, we chose patience over immediate gratification, and it made for two great hunts. We took plenty of game, and my Chessie, Huck, got more than enough work, making several strong retrieves against strong winds that tried to spirit downed birds away. To my way of thinking, it doesn’t get better than that.

In both of these examples, a good number of hunters I know would’ve taken a crack at those birds much earlier than we did. And I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a few comments from them about how we should have tried the ducks earlier, particularly this late in the season. Well, fair enough, that’s their choice.

But killing birds just to kill them isn’t the objective for me. I have too much respect for the birds and the sport. By picking your shots, I believe you take more game and avoid cripples. In the end, few experiences rival a hard-charging duck or goose crashing your spread. The adrenaline rush of fooling wild game is well worth the wait, even if it means coming home empty handed on occasion.



Copyright 2003 Bay Weekly
Last updated January 23, 2003 @ 3:13am