I was sitting in a duck blind last October with my partner, Fledge, quietly chatting about dogs. He figures it’s time to get a new pup. We also talked about guns and boats and some of the other things guys talk about when they’re gazing at the sky waiting for shooting time and trying not to drink all their coffee too early in the day. In gathering light the decoys came into focus and when one of us said, “we’re legal,” all chat stopped. Moments later the ducks came low and fast right out front. Shotguns blaze and blast and old gray-whiskered Mac, my favorite Labrador, gets his chance to do what he loves most – retrieve ducks.
Fledge, Mac, and I shared quite a few blinds last fall. The places we hunted varied, but there was a certain unchanged routine to it all. We’d boat out and set dozens of decoys in the dark and then sit and try to get comfortable in the blind, pulling our collars up against the wind that was, hopefully, at our backs. The shooting was usually good first thing and we’d bag some ducks every time out. Long about 9 o’clock things would slow down. We’d start talking again and be surprised when a trio of woodies passed right over our heads, or a high pair of mallards that would look down at us and say, “Hey look! That guy is shooting an old A5. Haven’t seen one of those in years!” or “That fellow could use some help with that duck call.”
Sometimes the geese would come just when we thought it was over. And they came often enough to keep us in the blind for another hour or so, but sooner or later one of us would say, “well, whaddya think?” That meant we’d give it another half-hour. I don’t recall, right now, the last time we said that but we ended in cold, snow and ice.
It’s a New Year and most of the hunting is over for another season. Sure, we can still go out and chase rabbits or take predator calls for fox and coyotes. We can set traps until spring, and go ice fishing, too. Those are the things that keep us from cabin fever and going stir-crazy, but Jim Harrison once implied that we accept “the months when no suitable sport is available.”
I’m looking at my fly-tying desk as I write this. I’ve got an idea for some new bass bugs I’ll be eager to show the boys, come spring. For now I guess it’s time to settle in for winter. It’s about time to wrap it up.