I rely on the August through January stretch to get my exercise in for the year. I’m not a gym guy and I’ve never been interested in riding a bike in my living room. I prefer to put on some miles each fall in search of something to put in my freezer.
Recently I found myself on a couple solo waterfowl hunts-honestly I feel guilty calling them solo since my trusty companion, Mika, was by my side. You may have heard me talk about her riding shotgun and stealing bed covers; she’s my partner. 2 of my solo hunts have found me filling my bag limit of ducks fairly quickly. A sense of satisfaction and accomplishment always follows a successful solo hunt. But it isn’t always about limiting out.
I don’t mind hunting alone. It offers a chance to enjoy the outdoors on a more personal level. That may sound like something out of a self-help book, but it’s true. Not only can you challenge yourself, but you can tune out all distractions and just enjoy a day in the cattails. A funny thing can happen slough-side: the pungent aroma of a backwoods swamp that can cause nausea, is suddenly comparable to roses. It’s all in perspective.
On the flip side, you can still be driven crazy if the ducks aren’t flying. As much as one can enjoy the sights and sounds, you are there to hunt. Plus, you have to carry all the gear.
One particular solo duck hunt, I ventured to an area that I hadn’t been to before. Some friends had scouted the area and saw a heavy concentration of wood ducks, teal and mallards. They couldn’t come along, so I decided to head out in the dark by myself.
I considered it a challenge.
Normally if I’m going to hunt an area, I like to see it in the daylight first. I can formulate a game plan and mentally map out my hide, decoy placement and the walk in. But going in blind to an area that would require a brisk mile-long jaunt was not my ideal situation. It was, however, my best opportunity to get on some birds.
The weather called for wind and rain-perfect duck weather, right? It also makes seeing things in the dark that much more difficult. I found what I thought was my target destination. I took off my decoy pack, and set down my gear. This would be my home for the next couple of hours.
As I was setting up, (way back off the beaten path), I noticed a bright light across the slough. Sure enough, someone was right on the other side of my pond. I chalked it up to being on public land and finished getting ready. Shortly after legal shooting time, 3 wood ducks came right on the deck. One of them would splash down and get a free ride to shore courtesy of my young lab. Then it was like someone flipped a switch and the ducks shutoff. Strings of migrating birds could be seen along the horizon, but none came within calling distance. I also started to realize that I might not be on the pond I thought I was. The area was dotted with ponds and swamps and I took a little nature walk to find out if I’d wasted my morning in the wrong location.
I was only one slough off where I was supposed to be, maybe 100 yards to the north. That’s the risk you take hunting blind.
As I packed up began the journey back, I saw a whole new landscape. Amazing how different things look when it’s light out. My face was being pelted by a sideways rain, but it didn’t keep us from working each pond on the way back-including the one I was supposed to hunt. It wasn’t full of ducks, but a quick double gave me 3 ducks total to carry back.
It’s not always about limits and this day proved that. Sure, I would have rather carried 6 ducks back, but hunting solo and still giving my dog some birds to retrieve, will go down as a successful hunt in my book, even if I don’t ever go blind again.