Foul Weather for Waterfowl
A lovely day keeps the ducks away
The Upper Corsica River is breathtaking this time of year. The riot of autumn colors in the leaves of the big hardwoods lining its banks creates a palette any artist would envy.
Lounging at early dawn in a protected cove just off the main stem, we had the best seats possible as the sun rose, burned through the light morning mist and set the trees to glowing like the stained glass windows of a cathedral.
The winds were calm and the temperatures already in the high 60s. Water rings from feeding fish bulged as far as we could see, and some of the fish displayed considerable bulk. Had we casting rods in our hands, the circumstances would have had all of our hearts racing. But this November day was different.
We were hunting waterfowl, and while the day was stunningly gorgeous, our particular perspective made appreciation of that difficult. Our decoys sat stark and lifeless on the still water in front of our blind, but it was likely that the warm glow of the rising sun would make duck and goose activity slow in developing if it came at all.
Today the entire Bay would be a calm and comfortable resting place, and few birds would be moving anytime soon to seek out the refuge that our prime location might offer under other circumstances.
But we persevered. Our host, Roger Sexauer, maintained a disciplined vigil from our blind and alerted us to the most likely directions of approaching birds. With this bluebird weather, we had to make the most of any opportunity. That meant seeing the birds well before they were on top of us.
Resting geese talked in the distance from every direction and had us straining our necks and eyesights with hope of action. An occasional flock would rise and trade up or down the river at altitude, but all apparently had destinations in mind other than our spot on the river.
Then Roger tensed up, locking his eyes on a spot in the distance. Giving a soft, feeding chatter with his duck call, he slowly lowered his profile in the blind. The rest of us edged back under cover of the roof to minimize our exposure and reached for our shotguns.
As our host worked his call, six or seven mallards came wheeling overhead just out of range, then faded. Roger’s call pleaded their return, and return they did, circling closer, then climbing higher before inexplicably dropping in 200 yards farther up the cove.
Perhaps the birds would swim back down into our spread, we whispered, and give us a shot. But they remained aloof and out of range. Our attentions drifted elsewhere.
Our Shot at It
Our party was composed of four guns: Roger, our host; myself; and Mike and Wilkie, mutual sporting friends. We had hunted or fished with each other for years, and all of us were comfortable with the long waits and anticipation these sports demand.
Then, as the morning matured, that entertainment was interrupted by a distant clatter of wings on the water.
The mallards that landed up in the cove had jumped and now were rocketing down the shoreline directly toward our set, heading to open water. Within seconds they were upon us. Hardly prepared, we rose, shouldered our guns and tried to catch up to the hurtling shapes.
The first shots were hasty and merely served to alert them. They flared and accelerated into swift, twisting climbs. The flock was nearly cresting the treetops and completing its escape when our last shots crumpled two birds, sending them arcing down into the still water.
We were fortunate indeed to knock any birds at all in that wild melee. But that is waterfowling: long periods of boredom and anticipation, short seconds of extremely intense action sweetened by incomparable camaraderie and a lush landscape. Sporting folk live in a wonderful world.l