WOODS, WINGS & WATER: Opening of duck season is special
It is an understood holiday among camo clad purists, sparking normally groggy actions and thoughts in the wee morning hours to more of a "happy-to-be-alive" bouncing personality. What is it about opening day that puts a hop in your step and rejuvenates the soul?
Maybe it is green-headed bombers breaking off limbs and helicoptering through the timber; fast-flying maroon-caped canvasbacks bombarding blocks; prom-dressed pintails circling flooded rice and coastal marsh ponds; wads of teal buzzing at first light; the "bleet" of a gadwall drake; or, the distinct whistle of a wigeon.
I have spent many a day shooting ducks, chasing deer, fooling turkeys and lying in mud for geese. I have caught a 31-inch speckled trout, lost an even bigger one trying to grab it, and caught too many limits of fish to remember.
Every day I venture in the wild is a special one. I have matured, I guess, to the point where I just enjoy going.
But, there is something special about opening day of duck season.
A pond nestled right smack in the rice prairie between Hungerford and East Bernard was the site of our opening morning hunt three autumns ago.
Since there was little to no wind, we set the spread so the ducks would fly the outside line of the decoys until a breeze gave them reason to set their wings in a hole left between two bunches of decoys.
The first group of bluewings did just that. Then the second, third, fourth and fifteenth. It was one of those mornings - you didn't know whether to shoot or let them pass for fear of the ducks being too close. Needless to say, six of us shot our limit quickly, before the beep of my watch indicated it was 7a.m.
We didn't leave, though. Instead, we unloaded our guns, grabbed cameras, and gazed for another hour as hundreds of ducks plopped into the decoys. It was a sight to behold.
It was a picturesque setting, one I have often heard people say, "you see only in a magazine."
In fact, a photo from that morning graces the back cover of my book, Sunrise Sunset, Devotionals for Sportsmen and Outdoor Enthusiasts.
For coastal hunters, whether it is in the rice or marsh, the prized specie of puddle ducks is either the mallard drake or the chocolate-headed pintail. Gadwalls, teal, widgeons, shovelers, and mottled ducks all fight for second place.
Duck season runs Nov.3-25 and Dec.8-Jan.27, 2013. The daily bag limit for ducks is six, which may include no more than five mallards (only two of which may be hens); three wood ducks; two redheads; two pintail; one canvasback; and one "dusky" duck (mottled duck, Mexican like duck, black duck and their hybrids are closed the first five days of the season in each zone). For all other species not listed, the bag limit shall is six.
I can't imagine fall and winter without rigging decoys, flipping through the latest hunting catalog, blowing a call, getting drenched from a shaking wet dog, or the smell of a rotting marsh.
I just love ducks.
Bink Grimes is a freelance writer, photographer, author and licensed captain (firstname.lastname@example.org).