Friday, January 11, 2013

When All Else Fails Pray To Saint Hubertus

The last couple days have been a bust and today was my last try to avoid the skunk on this trip.  While I've seen various waterfowl all have been either out of range or somehow impervious to tungsten number 3 shot.  I started the morning late as I was more tired than ever.  Must have been all that shoveling of snow to get my SUV unstuck.

It was after 9:30 before I made it out of the motel.  My first destination was the pond with the canvasbacks.  When I arrived the birds were already on the water.  Fewer canvasbacks this time but more redheads and scaups and ringnecks.  Crawling on my belly, I made it to the edge and the birds flushed about 80 yards away.  Too far for a shot.  They fled north when I called with them then circled back.  Overzealous, I skybusted them when they were overhead- a cardinal sin.  Idiot.  That's what happens when you get desperate.  But that's a rookie mistake.  I knew they wouldn't be back for hours and I was planning on hunting my way south on my way home so these birds will be safe from this idiot until I come back.

The plan now was to hit the stretch of river that I jumped 40 birds last outing.  When I arrived a group of hunters were preparing to hunt it and after chatting abit I told them I'd go downstream a few miles.   After a few miles I made it to my spot and started hunting.  The hunting was not as hot as last week.  I managed to flush a pair of mallards that flushed too far for a shot.  Afterwards a mix bag of 15 ducks flushed wild all too far for a shot.  One straggler, perhaps a bufflehead, goldeneye, or scaup, flew towards me and I fired when he was directly above the river.  Again, though, bad luck happens to me on this stretch as the bird hit hard glided onto the other side of the river.  As with last week, there was nowhere to cross safely.
I made it to the pond and poked my head over the hill to see if any birds were on the water.  I only saw a couple of coots.  With the sun in my eyes, I didn't recognize the bird in the upper left corner.  I walked atop the hill and the bird flushed.  I couldn't recognized the species until it was around 40 yards out.  I shot once and missed.  After that I headed back to the truck.  I noticed that the elk were still around and all nine watched me cautiously was I walked to their direction.  Once I made it back I had lunch and then headed to Dave's to say hello. 
He was not in, so I decided to take a look at the ponds behind his office.  To my surprise, they were no longer frozen solid.  Since Dave was not in, I headed south to look at a pond I hadn't looked at in years.  The pond looked good but was devoid of any birds.  I was planning on hunting the river here moving southward toward the lake but as I noticed the river and channels were low or frozen solid I decided to head back to Dave's. 

After a quick chat, Dave reminded me of a lake I long forgotten.  I decided to head out there even though the last time I looked at the lake a few years ago, it was dry.  Dave hadn't hunted there in years and could not tell me if there was water or not so I decided to check it out.  The lake is still dry.  So I headed back to Dave's and chose to hunt the ditches near his office.  When I parked, I was too close to the water and as I was preparing my gear two mallards, a drake and hen, flushed.  I was pissed another rookie mistake.  I should have known better.  Earlier on my way to the dry lake, I crossed a bridge along this same ditch and flushed a hen teal and another hen big bird (not quite sure of the species) although it could have been a mallard.
There was a bit more water so I walked it anyways.  With light and time running out, I was getting desperate and with the possibility of the skunk I began to prey for at least one bird.  Being a nonreligious person, I needed all the help I could get.  I asked for help from Saint Hubertus, the patron saint of hunters to look after me.  
After a few yards a ring neck flushed a few yards ahead of me.  I shot the Merkel the first barrel and I saw the shot hit the bird as the outer portion of the spread could be seen on the water.  He looked unphased so I shot again and this time I could see the spread on the dirt.  I knew I hit him twice and he just flew away.  Shocked and pissed I knew I had him yet he got away, seemingly unhurt.  Kaiser and I continued to walk the bend of the ditch a lo and behold the duck was struggling in the water.  I was 50 yards away and debated to make another finishing shot but as I moved forward the duck finally gave in.  It floated with the current toward us and told Kaiser to go get him.  With temperature at about 30 degrees and dropping Kaiser was in no mood to get in that cold water, after all he is Southern California dog used to 70 degree weather or more.  He just waited along the edge until the bird floated in close to the edge and snatched it.
After searching the rest of the ditch I headed back to the ponds and down bad luck road.  The last time I was on this road it was newly built and the dirt hadn't been packed fully.  When I tried to park on the side of the road, it gave and slid my truck into the pond.  I called Dave to help drag me out but I was buried too deep. AAA couldn't get me out so another towing company had to get me out.  It end up costing me, if I recall correctly, over $700 to get me out.  Today some numbnuts with Oregon plates parked at the end of the turnaround and blocked the whole section.  Had he parked just a foot to the right or a foot more forward it would have been easy to get around him and turnaround.  I had to reverse just about the whole length of the road to get out.  With a dog kennel and a truck load to the brim I could look easily through my rear mirror making reversing rather difficult.
Memories from three years ago on Bad Luck Road.
That day was one of my costliest hunts ever, I hope it never happens again. 
With the season fast approaching its conclusion I have at least one more hunt up here until I have to wait to next season.  I only hope my next trip is better than this one.

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