Sunday, October 5, 2008

The One that Almost Got Away

There is a little spot where I love to hunt squirrel. It's a little track of state land that has been very good to me. And nestled a ways back in my little haven is a small pond. A small pond that almost always has ducks on it. So, if my waterfowling adventures aren't going too well, I usually make the hike back and try to take a duck there. It's the same every time. I approach from the trail coming from the south, sneak down the bank, and they get spooked and fly from the east side of the pond to the west. And as they start to fly over the west bank, I take my shot and they come down in the woods just past the bank. I go and retrieve them and all is well.

Well, after an unsuccessful hunt early last year, I decided to make my way back towards my secret little duck pond. And as I crept down the bank there, as always, were a few mallards swimming on the east side of the pond. I got into position then stood up, and they took off as according to plan. They reached the other side of the pond, I pulled up, squeezed the trigger, and BOOM! The mallard hen trailing the others did a nose dive into the woods. Perfect! I was giddy as a school kid as I made my way towards the other side of the pond (I still get the same feeling that I got with the first animal I harvested every time I take game) and into the woods. And there she was, just waiting for me to collect her. I got about five yards away, and she started to move. Heck. I winged her. Oh well, what's done is done, so I'll go finish the job. I took a step then BAM! I'm on the ground cursing the root I had just tripped over. Then, I look up, and she is making her getaway. I raise my gun and squeeze the trigger to take another shot before she can make it to the water and, wouldn't you know, I had the safety on. Now cursing my self, I take the safety off, but it's too late. She's in the water and swimming away. So, there I stand with my gun in hand, staring at the duck I winged swimming in the middle of a pond, and no way to go out and get her. This will not do. Now, I had pulled the trigger, so it was my responsibility to retrieve this animal no matter what. But how? That's when the light bulb lit up. I have an inflatable raft in my trunk! Awesome! But the car is a 15 minute walk away and I don't want her wandering off and then I won't be able to find her. So, I sprint back to the car. Keep in mind that I am in my full hunting wardrobe complete down to my 1000 gram Thinsulate hunting boots. Also keep in mind that I am 6 foot tall and weigh in at a robust 310 pounds. So, I get to the car and I am now drenched from sweat. I open the trunk and pull out the raft and one small oar and start to make my way back. To save time, I get the brilliant idea to inflate the raft as I am running as to save time. After almost blacking out a few times, I finally make it back to the pond and my prize is still waiting for me. Rock on. I finish blowing up the raft and think to myself "funny. I remember this raft being a lot bigger". The raft I had was one of my kid's pool rafts. I look on the bottom and laugh as I read the label proclaiming "100lb max". This should be fun. So I take my boots off along with most of my hunting gear because I know how this is going to end up. I put the raft into the water and start to ease myself down onto it. As I settle down I wait for the water to start coming over the sides, but nothing. This might work after all. Then I push off , and it just gets bad from here. The moment I leave the safety of the four inch deep water, I feel the cold rush of water all over. Now, imagine this. A rather large hunter in a little red and grey play raft in the middle of a pond, legs dangling in the water (so I can keep my balance, and because the raft is only about three feet long) with one paddle chasing after a downed duck. It was quite the sight. And every time I would try to paddle, I would have to reposition the way I way laying to be able to row on the other side. So, amidst everything else, I was spinning in little half circles. I was in that water for almost 20 minutes before I caught up to that duck. When I finally did, I ended it quickly, then headed back to shore. I couldn't help but laugh as I paddled back in. I sat on the bank for about 30 minutes drying off in the sun and contemplating what had just occurred.

The one that almost got away

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