Arriving at the landing, on a late season outing, I discovered ice had shutdown my primary hunting spot. In the ensuing pre-dawn panic attack, time began slipping away at an alarming rate. As legal shooting approached, flocks of migrating ducks cruised the horizon and I cursed my mistake at not having started out earlier. Quickly driving to another landing I was pleased to find partially open water on one of the larger lakes. Though certainly not as favorable as my more remote hunting haunt, I had decided that the situation could have been much worse.
Paddling across the lake surface a thin layer of ice creaked and crunched as the kayak slid through the water. The sanity of my actions came into question as I pondered just how effective a life jacket would be in water temperatures hovering just above freezing. I believe that life expectancy can’t be much more than 10-15 minutes so at that point a life jacket only serves as a body recovery device. I determine that I needed to make sure each paddle stroke was made with care.
Frantically searching, I finally managed to find a spot on the end of a small island that looked promising. Though I had to remove a large “For Sale” sign that was blocking the swing of my shotgun on my right hand side I still felt confident in my set-up. This positive outlook in the face of the impossible seems a trait of most hunters. Where it is better to try and fail then not to try at all.
I could feel the tension in my neck building, as I was now surrounded my half million dollar lake front homes. Despite this fact, I refused to believe that game wardens would find me all that interesting. As the morning wore on, however, I began playing various scenarios through my head inducing a level of paranoia that had the National Guard storming the island and taking me in as an international terrorist. Suffice to say the authorities never arrived.
Flights of 45-50 geese could be seen in the distance moving slowly south. I hold the goose call to my mouth and blow a couple honks knowing full well that my chances of having a flock turn and investigate are about a million to one. Still there is always that remote chance.
As my sixth shot echoed down the frigid lake, I began to ponder the mathematical complexities that had magically caused me to continue to shoot worse as the waterfowl season progressed. Shouldn’t the laws of statistics dictate that a hunter’s expenditure of rounds be directly proportional to an increase in hit percentage? Unfortunately, my multiple sessions a field throughout the last two months had somehow worked against me and I was firing worse now than on the season opener. Didn’t the old adage say something about practice making one perfect?
Pulling the mangled hen mallard from the icy waters, I noted a full shot of #2s had penetrated the duck directly in the right breast. The resulting bloody mess was reminiscent of what would occur by combining red meat, gun powder and an open flame. Paddling my predator kayak back to the island, I vowed that my next shot would be more “accurate”. To help me in this endeavor, I began to run the waterfowler mantra over and over through my head . . . “shoot where it eats not where it sheats”.
Another duck did not come to me this day and numb fingers and frozen toes finally indicated that it was time to return home.