Volume XI, Issue 40 ~ October 2-8, 2003

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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 it’s 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. They’re usually up long before their clients; they’re 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 they’re 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 it’s my turn to drive the kids to hockey practice. I’ll have to leave early.”

  • “Mind if I help you call?”

  • “Hey, it’s 6:50am, and we haven’t had any shooting.”

  • “Federal duck stamp: What’s that?”

  • “When do we go to town for breakfast?”

  • “Okay if we use my dog Mitzie? She doesn’t 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 can’t keep my head down. I get a stiff neck.”

  • “Got any extra shells? I forgot mine.”

  • “What’s wrong with this red plaid jacket? It’s warm, and besides my wife gave it to me for my birthday.”

  • “What do you mean those geese were out of range? I’m 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. He’s never been hunting before, but it’s a father-son thing. Maybe the stock of the 12-gauge is a bit long, but somehow he’ll manage.”

  • “Hmmmm, let’s see now, how do I load this gun?”

  • “Red means the safety is off, doesn’t it? Or is it the other way around?

  • “Have a nip. It’ll 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? Who’s their guide?”

  • “You’ll have to alert me sooner next time ducks are coming in. I’m reading Playboy.”

  • “Son, don’t tell me what to do. I was hunting ducks and geese long before you were born.”

  • “Where’s the john?”

  • “Can we get another limit after lunch? Who’s to know?”

  • “Sorry I was late, but I have a hard time waking up.”

  • “That red car — that’s 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 there’s frost on everything but the corn?”

  • “Got any extra coffee in your thermos? Black and with sugar.”

  • “Gee your thermos doesn’t hold much. Next time I’ll only take a swig.”
    Crash. “Gee. I’m sorry, but if you used a stainless steel thermos, things like this wouldn’t 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.”

  • “Don’t you think those decoys on the outside of the rig should be spread out more?”

  • “Decoy? I thought it was a crippled goose.”

  • “I don’t 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 I’ve missed all season.”

  • “I think I’ll do better shooting from that hedgerow.”

  • “Why don’t you get in the boat and scare some of those birds up so we can get some shooting?”

  • “What’s ‘plugged gun’ mean?

  • “I don’t believe in using steel shot. I still have some of that old lead shot left. No one will ever check us.”

  • “What’s 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 doesn’t it?”

  • “Seeing we didn’t get our limit, can you pick us up a few geese somewhere?”

  • “Boy, you’ve got the life. Hunting every day. Need an extra guide on Saturdays and holidays?”

  • “Ordinarily, I’d give you a tip, but you’re a professional and I don’t want to embarrass you.”

  • “You take American Express don’t 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.



© COPYRIGHT 2003 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.
Last updated October 2, 2003 @ 2:37am