Burton on the Bay
Armed and Dangerous
Reminiscences from many seasons of hunting
For the lure that calls us from comfortable beds in warm homes and sends us into lonely blinds in the dark cold hours of predawn is as mysterious as the quarry we seek.
John O. Cartier: Getting the Most Out of Modern Waterfowling, 1958
Many have been the wintry days, I must confess, that I found mysterious indeed the lure that called me from a warm bed to sally forth in the chase for ducks and geese in Chesapeake Bay Country. At least with an early rise for fishing, the weather is warmer.
I have known some hunters who scrubbed trips due to particularly foul weather, though usually the worse the conditions, the more fowl to be had. So its snooze and you lose.
Pity the poor guides and outfitters. They have no choice; business is business. When they snooze, they lose big time.
Those who cater to waterfowlers spend much time riding roads after the hunt to determine where fowl will be feeding on the morrow. Theyre usually up long before their clients; theyre the ones who have the frigid and wet chore of putting out the decoys, often changing their setup when winds change.
No early to bed for them. They get the late phone calls when their hunters call to double check if all is set for the hunt or to ask directions to where theyre scheduled to meet. If it all comes together, they spend a day in a pit or blind hearing things like this:
- Sorry those honkers flared off when the cell phone rang, but that was my wife reminding me that its my turn to drive the kids to hockey practice. Ill have to leave early.
- Mind if I help you call?
- Hey, its 6:50am, and we havent had any shooting.
- Federal duck stamp: Whats that?
- When do we go to town for breakfast?
- Okay if we use my dog Mitzie? She doesnt get much practice, and no sense leaving her in the car all day.
- Sorry, but my Labrador has to shake dry someplace.
- Sorry, but my Chesapeake messed in the corner of the pit while you were picking up those birds.
- Wow, wowee, did you see that shot? I got that big white goose with that awfully long, skinny neck.
- I cant keep my head down. I get a stiff neck.
- Got any extra shells? I forgot mine.
- Whats wrong with this red plaid jacket? Its warm, and besides my wife gave it to me for my birthday.
- What do you mean those geese were out of range? Im shooting a 10-gauge, and if I can see em, it usually reaches em.
- A lot of fowl are flying, so can I shoot your limit, too?
- This is my eight-year-old son Pierpont. Hes never been hunting before, but its a father-son thing. Maybe the stock of the 12-gauge is a bit long, but somehow hell manage.
- Hmmmm, lets see now, how do I load this gun?
- Red means the safety is off, doesnt it? Or is it the other way around?
- Have a nip. Itll keep the chill out of your bones.
- We should have shot when they flew by the last time.
- How come they get all the shooting over there? Whos their guide?
- Youll have to alert me sooner next time ducks are coming in. Im reading Playboy.
- Son, dont tell me what to do. I was hunting ducks and geese long before you were born.
- Wheres the john?
- Can we get another limit after lunch? Whos to know?
- Sorry I was late, but I have a hard time waking up.
- That red car thats my wife. She said she might join us to find out what we do in a pit all day long.
- What do you mean they saw us and flared? I was just pushing some corn stalks out of the way so I could see the geese.
- How come theres frost on everything but the corn?
- Got any extra coffee in your thermos? Black and with sugar.
- Gee your thermos doesnt hold much. Next time Ill only take a swig.
Crash. Gee. Im sorry, but if you used a stainless steel thermos, things like this wouldnt happen.
- Is that a drake or a hen goose?
- How can your head be ringing? I was swinging to the left when I shot at that bird.
- Dont you think those decoys on the outside of the rig should be spread out more?
- Decoy? I thought it was a crippled goose.
- I dont need anyone to shoot my cripples.
- I leaned to load my own shells.
- I use only low brass shells for geese.
- My feet are cold. Can you take me back to my car to warm up?
- First time Ive missed all season.
- I think Ill do better shooting from that hedgerow.
- Why dont you get in the boat and scare some of those birds up so we can get some shooting?
- Whats plugged gun mean?
- I dont believe in using steel shot. I still have some of that old lead shot left. No one will ever check us.
- Whats that orange and white float plane circling up there? The one with the big insignia on the side.
- Mind if I take one of those decoys home? My son could have fun playing with it.
- Are you absolutely sure that these are the ducks and geese I shot?
- Your fee includes picking the birds doesnt it?
- Seeing we didnt get our limit, can you pick us up a few geese somewhere?
- Boy, youve got the life. Hunting every day. Need an extra guide on Saturdays and holidays?
- Ordinarily, Id give you a tip, but youre a professional and I dont want to embarrass you.
- You take American Express dont you?
- Send me the bill.
Maryland Waterfowl Seasons
- Migratory Canada Geese: Nov. 15-28 and Dec. 18-Jan. 24.
- Late Resident Canada Geese: Nov. 15-28 and Dec. 10-Feb. 14, Western Zones.
- Snow Geese: Oct. 18-Nov. 28; Dec. 6-Jan. 31 and Feb. 2-March 10 .
- Brant: Nov. 8-28 and Dec. 10-Jan. 20.
- Sea Ducks (scoters, eiders and old squaws): Oct. 4-Jan. 24 in official Sea Duck Zone.
- Most Ducks, also Coots and Mergansers. Overall dates: Oct. 25-Nov. 1, Nov. 8-28 and Dec. 16-Jan. 24.
- Canvasbacks: Dec. 22-Jan. 24.
- Pintails, Oct. 25-Nov. 1 and Dec. 30-Jan. 24.
- Black Ducks, Nov. 8-Nov. 28 and Dec. 16-Jan. 24.
- Special Junior Hunter Waterfowl Hunt: Oct. 11.