Chesapeake Outdoors By C.D. Dollar

 Vol. 9, No. 46
November 15-21, 2001 
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Confessions of a Foiled Duck Hunter

Am I snake-bit or just working through a bad streak of luck?

I asked myself that question after another frustrating performance hunting waterfowl. Three birds in four outings is not what I’d call burning them up, especially when my compatriots are faring much better, some even getting limits. Now I think I’m a reasonably fair bird hunter, but sadly Maxwell Smart’s adage, “missed it by this much,” aptly describes my recent hunts.

So after much creative swearing and crying the blues to my partner, Huck, who makes no bones about who is to blame for his lack of work, I mentally worked through past hunts to find some answers. I analyzed my entire game plan and came to the conclusion that my inefficiency lies within me, not the stars. I’ve had enough opportunities that, if capitalized on, would have easily turned a poor hunt into a satisfying one.

There is no therapy group for struggling waterfowlers. (Can you imagine this scenario? “My name is C.D. and I haven’t taken a duck, not even a sawbill, in six hunts.”) So I had to find my own fault. Applying keen intellect, I was able to discern that the number-one factor causing my mid-season slump is poor shooting. Brilliant deductive powers. Like a baseball pitcher with bad mechanics on his delivery, I have let my technique slip from decent to atrocious. My swing is akin to a golfer’s — a peculiar fraternity of which I am not a member, thankfully, so if this analogy goes awry you duffers know why — who spends too much of his time in the sand trap. Wait, they do that anyway, don’t they?

I’ve missed more birds in the 25- to 40-yard range this season than I care to recall. It’s definitely a mental block. But after a friend compared swinging your gun to sipping good whiskey, smooth and easy, I think I’ve made some progress recently, for I knocked down a hen widgeon last week at Deal Island. At least that is what I tell myself. Huck, however, ain’t buying it.

The second major gaff I’ve been guilty of is what I call ‘puttin’ in your time.’ This broader category encompasses everything from having my boat blind rigged right to preparing gear and decoys properly. I’m only hitting on six of eight cylinders in this area, and I’ve suffered the consequences as a result.

Prime example:
Off Cedar Marsh, a small tight knot of pintails flew low and hard directly to our rig. It was a scene out of the Ducks Unlimited promotional video, an image all duck hunters long to see. The problem was that we got fidgety and, rather than hunker down to wait it out, we decided to move. As my partner (I’m purposely keeping his name out of this mess for fear of incurring a libel suit) was getting the boat, I stood up and, of course, stuck out like a human billboard flashing a neon sign that read in duck language, ‘flair now, do not land here.’

So that’s the woeful tale. I feel much better, really, thanks for asking. I didn’t even have to pay $125 for the session. I have the rest of this split and all of the final season to either make amends or to continue this sordid spiral. But don’t worry; if it continues to go south, I’ll spare you the details.

Fish Are Biting
Stiff winds are still a pain in the backside for anglers, breaking up the concentrated schools of anchovies and menhaden, which in turn scatter the fish. Some large ocean-run rockfish are taking trolled yellow and green bucktails and umbrella rigs, but it’s not gangbusters. Big plump white perch are hitting jigs at the Bay Bridge pilings, West River drop-offs and Choptank River. Eastern Bay still has pods of breaking fish along the channel edges, mostly undersized but a few keepers. Where is the mother lode of weakfish? They are still scattered off Poplar Island, with some in the rivers. Try the Severn, Chester or Patuxent.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly