Easy to shoot but not to retrieve
The ducks were thick in western Oklahoma. Quail were even more plentiful. Of course there’s no cinch to any hunt even when game abounds in quantity. Weather conditions, habitat diversity, and even ever-looming human “errors” always have an effect on the outcome of the excursions outdoors. I’ll explain.
We crossed the Red River just in time to do a little scouting before the sun set the skies ablaze in color. From a high bluff we scanned the river and numerous potholes for resting waterfowl. We weren’t disappointed in what we saw. Hundreds of mallards, pintails, teal, and widgeon were scattered up and down the serpentine tributary. Hopes were high for a wonderful hunt the next morning but we did face a major obstacle. There was no water to set decoys in. Not even the fastest current in the shallow basin survived the single digit temps. Everything was frozen solid. Not to worry though as we had all night to come up with a plan. The mesquite fire and the sizzling steaks created the perfect atmosphere for devising a strategy.
I looked at the thermometer as we left the next morning for the location of the highest concentration of ducks that we observed the evening before. Surprisingly it had warmed during the night.....12 degrees. As suspected, there was no open water for the blocks to rest in. It was pretty comical setting decoys on dry soil and propping them up with cow patties. You know, as dawn began to crack, our spread looked pretty good. We praised ourselves for our ingenious plan but we were brought back to reality as whistling wings were heard overhead.
I love watching ducks land on the ice. It reminds me of a bowling alley. Big fat greenheads, with necks stretched and boots down, seemed to accelerate as soon as they touched the slippery surface. Many would spin out of control crashing into the other resting birds. They were well within gun range, with only one minor problem. There was no way to retrieve any birds that fell on the ice. I didn’t relish the idea of falling through the ice trying to pick up our prizes. I swear, we could have taken limits in less than five minutes as they piled onto the river.
We flushed the first group and watched them leave for safer places. By this time it was light enough for arriving ducks to see our innovative decoy spread and as they circled for a look, we could drop our birds onto dry land where retrieving was “duck soup.” We did this several mornings and it worked like a charm. The rest of the day was spent following pointers. Of course, there were challenges with this as well.
We found our first covey within minutes of releasing Gus and Annie. You couldn’t ask for two wild pointers to run through 20 partridge sending them to parts unknown any better than these two did. I just looked at the dog’s owner and he just shrugged his shoulders. We came up with several excuses though very quickly. The dogs hadn’t had time to settle down, it was too dry for them to pick up the bird’s scent, the wind was wrong, were just a few examples of why we weren’t successful. Things began to improve shortly. The next covey arose wild before the dogs got to them. They made a mistake though by flying back over us. We dumped three. I must give the dogs credit for they did settle down and pointed covey after covey. Sometimes we made the grade with our scatterguns, sometimes we didn’t. As the afternoon progressed, our game bags became heavier with birds and lighter with shells. Our shooting improved and even a couple of those local Oklahoma boys commented on our shooting, in a good way that is. I never told them that we brought our heavy dove loads carrying an ounce and a quarter of number eights. Hey, we couldn’t go out there and embarrass our state by having those professionals talk about those “no-shootin” Mississippi boys. What they don’t know won’t hurt them.
Each afternoon we would build a fire out of the dried mesquite. I’m not sure if the steaks and fajitas are really that much better when cooked over these coals or if was just the setting that created an over the top experience. Regardless, given our circumstances, we couldn’t have asked for a better hunt. Of course I knew the call would come as they always do when you leave from a place like this. Don couldn’t wait to tell me that as soon as we left the lakes and river thawed and you couldn’t put another duck on it. He described it as watching blue water turn green with the iridescent heads from drake mallards. He told us to come on back. Of course I replied, be careful what you ask for, you just might get it. We might just do it too.
Until next time enjoy our woods and waters and remember, let’s leave it better than we found it.