Volume XI, Issue 47 ~ November 20-26, 2003

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Chesapeake Outdoors ~ by C. D. Dollar


I never did see a bird touch down. Only a muffled “take ’em” from the far end of the blind alerted me to its presence in our spread of dekes. But take them from which direction, I lamented in silence. Left? Right? Straight in front?

As the hunters rose to take aim at the sole Canada goose, it took me a few seconds to see that it was walking among its plastic brethren off my end. Leyland cypress branches impeded my vision, but the report of another’s gun told me to take a whack at it. I hit the Lone Honker in the derrière, but the pellets only tickled its tail feathers, apparently, as it flew out of range and lit out for the safety (for the time being, anyway) of a nearby pond.

Now you tell me how I missed that shot. Sad it is. Yet — as I remind my non-hunter friends when asked in not-so-subtle tones why I kill those beautiful birds — every time afield does not guarantee success. In fact, far from it.

Such occasions of miserable and inexplicable lapse in skill open the floodgates of needling. The key to minimizing the barrage of insults is to quickly shift attention from you. It’s a ploy that rarely, if ever, works. As expected I was showered with goose-blind compliments.

These affronts can only be taken so long, however, without retaliation. I sensed an opening, a fissure in the coalition and immediately went on the offensive. I shot back that the calling sounded like lemmings at the cliff’s edge. I wasn’t done, though, and questioned the effectiveness of our blind, which — once the sun blazed high enough — allowed the curious birds to peer down unfettered upon our moon pies.

I kept at it, insisting if our hide (meaning the quality of the blind) were higher, we wouldn’t have had to place so much emphasis on a single bird, for we’d have had more chances.

But the sad fact remains — I missed. Badly. I had a chance and failed to capitalize. Spilled milk is spilled milk. The only way to rectify this situation is to get back out to there and try again, especially with Thanksgiving around the bend. Oh, the drudgery!

Birds Are Flying
Anecdotal and Internet reports tell of new ducks arriving in recent weeks, despite the warm weather. A trip to Tangier recently revealed an impressive recent influx of brant, mallards and widgeon clogging up a local creek that I sometimes use (unscientifically, of course) to gauge migrations.

Goose hunters are generally having great success. It is not uncommon for hunters to get their limit by 8am. Overall, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service breeding-duck survey showed duck numbers are at 36.2 million birds, up from the 31.2 million birds estimated in 2002. Especially good news is an increase of pintail numbers, from 1.8 million to 2.6 million. This is backed up by the large flocks of sprigtails seen in the marsh and on the grass flats. Still, pintails remain 39 percent below their long-term average.

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Last updated November 20, 2003 @ 12:58am.