Volume XI, Issue 44 ~ October 30 - November 5, 2003

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Chesapeake Outdoors ~ by C. D. Dollar

First Waterfowling

The 2003-2004 waterfowl season was barely two minutes old when the report of shotguns from farther up the pond smashed the eerie silence. Moments earlier, as I leaned against the big oak, seeking concealment in its profile, a wood duck’s telltale eeeeccckk ricocheted off the water, resonating like a pre-Halloween moan.

The slap of a resident beaver’s tail echoed as well, telling of the rodent’s irritation at the interlopers. Too bad; he’d have to share for at least another hour or two. I always have a fleeting and irrational thought that some rogue beaver will decide enough is enough and charge me. It’s a distracting false worry, one that averts my attention from the task at hand.

As this mental charade played out, pandemonium struck on our end. A flight of woodies came busting through the trees, which cast shadows like henchman in trench coats across the new dawn light. I trained on a low-flying single that broke from the pack, fired and missed. My dog, tethered by his lead to a fallen limb, lurched forward in anticipation of downed prey, then whined his disappointment as I hushed in a frustrated tone, “no bird.”

But just across from me, Kevin Colbeck said softly “I’m done,” indicating he’d shot straight and felled his bag limit. A little later his brother Chris also swung on and shot dead a woodie.

“Good work,” I muttered half-heartedly, disgusted with myself rather than jealous of their aim.

But what did I have to be down about? That kind of attitude takes a lot of nerve, especially on a beautifully crisp autumn morning on the opening day of duck season. My good fortune was due to the generosity of the Colbeck patriarch, Big Jim. For the fifth straight year, I got the nod to join him and his sons, Kevin and Chris, to romp hip-deep in this magical menagerie of water and wood.

A short time later, I got the chance to redeem myself. A trio of wood ducks that had been roosting on a slough of the beaver pond barreled in toward the open water in front of me. No doubt in my mind: Wood ducks are one of the hardest game birds to take on the wing. These woodies were fearless and threaded the massive oak trees at breakneck speed. How they avoided tearing off a wing on the branches or nailing a tree trunk beak-first is a marvel to me. I popped the hen as she lilted just over the water.

My patience was again rewarded when a lone mallard eased into range and never made it out. All morning, good numbers of them remained above the treetops, wary of it all, until they plummeted down in some other unseen part of the pond, as if they were sitting on a hair-trigger trap door.

Of course, waterfowl addicts aren’t the predators they need worry about. Well out of shotgun range, the ducks exited our airspace only to have their trail picked up by a hunter of much greater skill: a hawk. It’s a tough world out there for ducks, especially this time of year.

Fish Are Biting
High wind is the bane of fishermen, especially if you have a small boat. Still, tempting you out are a fair number of breaking schools of rockfish from Thomas Point north past Love Point. Fred from Rod ’n’ Reel tells me that chummers at Stone Rock and the Gooses are getting their limit, or close to it, of rockfish, but only after weeding through smaller ones. He says that trolling is a better bet for big fish and is set to bust loose, as the first ocean run of rock, replete with sea lice, have been taken.

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Last updated October 30, 2003 @ 1:57am