[SinglePic not found]As mentioned in my previous post I’ve decided to take a break from whitetail hunting. I’ve been hunting hard since the season started and the lack of quality encounters have started to take a toll on motivation. What could I do to fill the void left by whitetail hunting? That’s an easy question, try to duck hunt.
For the last two years I’ve purchased a state duck stamp at the time of purchasing my hunting and fishing license but never got around to purchasing the federal stamp. As such, I didn’t duck hunt. This year, while purchasing my fishing and hunting license, I purchased the state stamp. And after a quick stop at our local sporting goods store I purchased and signed the federal stamp. For the first time in two years I had both stamps in hand at the beginning of the season. Now I’d be forced to give the sport a try. Quite honestly, given the results of my whitetail hunts, it didn’t take much to force the issue. Admittedly, trading the bow for the shotgun was a tough pill to swallow initially. However, after my first hunt, the blow was lessened.
Thursday evening, 03 Jan, I drove to my dad’s house to continue work on tanning a deer hide. After washing and rinsing the hide well we placed it in a pickle to sit for three to four days. Anticipating we would make short work of the tasks I brought along my shotgun and 2 ¾ – 1/8 oz # 4 shot loads to take a limit of ducks on the farm. After a quick cleanup I changed into my hunting gear, loaded and shouldered the shotgun and told dad I’d be back in 20 minutes.
Like a toy soldier wound and set to march I began the walk to the pasture. The rhythm of the march was maintained by an internal metronome and within no time I had reached my destination. I skirted along the side of the tree line looking for activity inside the pond. It didn’t take long before I saw 16 or more wood ducks circling the interior of the pond. In an effort to remain inconspicuous I backpedaled a bit but it was futile. Without warning, the sounds of flapping wings beating the water and air filled the area. That coupled with the sights of elongated necks pointed skyward and feet, dripping with water, retracting underneath tail feathers provided a startling experience.
Thinking the hunt was over I started to call it but I noticed the ducks fly out approximately 75 to 100 yards and circle back around in an apparent attempt to land in the pond again. I quickly knelt underneath the canopy of a cedar tree and waited until the group flew into my window. BOOM!!! The ducks blew out of the area, all but one. With its chest out and wing limp it sailed behind me. I turned around and watched it until the point of impact. I sat for a couple seconds replaying the order of events. Did this really happen? Did I just take my first duck? There was only one way to find out. I walked toward the area of impact and recovered my trophy.
Words cannot accurately explain the beauty of this drake wood duck. Its head was adorned with a vibrant gradient of black, teal green and black. The sides of its head were outlined with white pinstripes. Its throat sported a white throat patch while an amalgamation of colors made up its cheeks. Its beak consisted of transitioning yellows and reds along with patches of blacks and whites. Its black and brown eyes were encapsulated in a ring of red eye lids. The breast was covered in a dense coat of brown feathers with random patterns of white speckles throughout. Its back and wings were almost jet black with hints of grey and brown pinstripes along either side of the tail feathers. Every feather glistened. I don’t think I spotted a single flat feather. Satisfied with my trophy I picked it up and headed back to dad’s house.
As I walked by the mailbox dad looked out the screen door and saw I was carrying something. As he opened the door I gave him the thumbs up. He, like me, was amazed at the beauty of the drake. I recapped the hunt with him, took a few photos and headed home to breast out the duck. On the way home I decided to have it mounted. I typically like to commemorate my hunting firsts and this would be no different. I contacted my taxidermist and headed his way. In 6 to 8 months my duck should be ready to proudly display in my office.
The next objective is to experience a morning fly in. I think I may have found another sport!