Wednesday, October 22, 2008

1st Duck Hunting Trip to Fish Point of '08

My morning started at 2:15 a.m. Man, it's been a while since I've seen this time of the morning. My warm bed is sitting there, trying to persuade me back to it's comfort. But not this morning. This is the morning I have been waiting for all year. This is the morning I head to Fish Point, a managed state game area by the Saginaw Bay. I head downstairs where all of my hunting gear is ready and waiting for me. It was all organized and arranged the night before to help ease the excitement and give me something to do before it was time to sleep. 2:50 a.m., the car is packed and I'm on my way to meet my hunting partner for the day, Brent. Brent is an electrician that was contracted to work at my school. A couple of talks about hunting and I knew I had found a new hunting partner. 3:30 a.m. and I am in the Meijer parking lot switching all the gear from my car to his. He is as excited as I am. Inside the truck, Lilly, Brent's golden lab, sits waiting. This is going to be her first trip out. 5:00 a.m. and we are in Unionville, where Fish Point is located. We drive around a bit to see if we can hear any ducks or geese that maybe found a nesting spot for the night outside of the refuge. Nothing. So we head over to the headquarters and register. We are party #31. After we get registered, we head to the maps and the number charts to try to make a more educated decision about where we want to hunt. The number charts are put up every Saturday morning and they tell you how many ducks and geese have been taken in each spot up to the current date. We made our list of the top 20 and waited. It was hot in there. It was the first open weekend at Fish Point, and the crowd that gathered inside affirmed that. 5:30 hit and they started to read off the rules and regulations for the areas, then they started to call party numbers. Fingers crossed. It seemed like they were reading forever. Well, we're not in the first 10. Or 20. Or 30. Man, this is getting bad. We were picked 65th. Well, do we want to see what we can get or try one of the open marshes? Most everything is gone, but we decide to go with an area of newly flooded corn in an area that hasn't been hunted that hard. 5:55, we are in our spot and it's looking nice. About 16 inches of water atop a corn patch about 120 yards long by about 25 yards wide. We start setup immediately because we only have about 20 minutes until first shot. We throw the decoys out in a sideways "J" pattern with our mojo in the middle front and the geese on point. My new Heron decoy is at point and slightly off to the side. Hopefully, he works out the way I had planned. We turn the mojo on and check the time. It's two minutes after first shot! Load up and sit back. I position myself on my swamp seat and wait. I can hear the other hunters around trying their best to swat whatever is flying by out of the air. With our eye's fixed on the horizon, we wait. I look down to grab my water bottle and take a sip. As I look back up, two mallards right overhead, now flying out of range. Damn! Can't drop my guard for a second. Okay, here we go. Eyes fixed. A couple of minutes go by and I hear Brent yell, "dang it!". A small flight of three right over his side. Okay, no more playing. We discuss what went wrong in the last five minutes and re-affirm what our sentry duties entailed. I scan the eastern horizon and listen for any sounds. All of the sudden, Brent yells out "Crap! Out front!!". I spin around and there are about 15 teals landing in our spread, maybe 10 ft. in front of me. Taken by surprise, I pull up and fire. Damn! Missed! So I pop off a second one. Damn! Okay, I'm just excited. Calm down. Take a breath. Focus. I squeeze the trigger and I see one drop. Alright! First one of the season! At the same time I hear Brent take two shots and he drops them both. Lilly bounds out with Brent, but has no idea what to do with the downed ducks. After some coaxing, she got the idea. So, back into the corn and wait. A bit later, a single flier came over top, but after two shots, she was still flying. A bit later, three mallards came over top. A couple of seconds later, the duck count was one greenwing teal hen, two greenwing teals, a mallard, and two mallard hens. For a spot that was taken out of the scraps left over from the morning, we're doing pretty good. As the morning grew longer, we heard the occasional shot here and there, but the morning flight was pretty much over. It was 11:00 a.m. so we packed up and registered our ducks at the station and looked at what was left from the afternoon draw. There wasn't hardly anything left. So we decided to go to a marsh that Brent knew of. So, after a hearty all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet at the lamplighter cafe, we did a little exploring around the refuge. Then it was off to Brent's spot. All cattails with an opening on the east side and a trench going around the perimeter. We get about half way out there and Brent says that it's getting too hard to row so we should jump out and drag the boat. Well, after a couple hundred yards of walking through knee deep muck, I was starting to wonder about Brent's spot. But, we were already on our way so no turning back now. We finally got to our spot and I could not wait to get the decoys out so I could rest on my swamp seat. Just after getting settled in, Brent decided he was going to walk over to the cattails and see if he could jump shoot some birds. And if he missed, maybe they would fly over me. Well, an hour an a half passed and no word from Brent. So I try to call him. No answer. A couple of minutes later, I call again. No answer. After four or five times of calling with no answer, I was starting to get worried. The trench that went around the perimeter was over eight feet deep. So, I started to call out for him. No answer. Just as I started to make the call to get the police involved, I heard splashing. Here came Lilly. And shortly behind her was Brent shaking his head and a big smile on his face. I ask, "well, any luck?". And he replies "Yeah, I killed my phone". He then proceeds to tell me how he tried to cross the trench in a shallow spot. He got about half way across before he realized that he couldn't make it. And at some point in this crossing, the water was high enough to spill into his pocket where his new cell phone was (two weeks earlier, he had lost his cell phone while out deer hunting, so this was the replacement phone). So, we sat for another hour or so, and not a single sign of birds. Sunset was upon us and nothing. Then, about 10 minutes before last shot, a single duck came flying by. It was a woody and he was on a mission. He was not looking at our spread and he was making a fast break for the refuge. It was a long poke, but at about 40 yards, I drooped him like a rock. We waited until shooting light was over to retrieve him. On the way back, I opted to stay in the boat and push with the oars. That was a tiring trek for this husky hunter. When we got back to the makeshift launch, we chatted with another hunter that had camped out there most of the week and done quite a bit of duck hunting and had been out that day hunting deer. As we drove home, we were already starting to plan the next outing. The sport of waterfowling is an addicting one. It is the closest I will ever come to knowing what a drug addict must feel like. Always thinking about the next time. Always setting up the fix. Now my mind is set to the next waterfowl outing. And it can't come soon enough.
The three I brought home from Fish Point

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