It’s that time of year again when we all more or less wish we were somewhere else. Somewhere we could be hunting. Or fishing. Somewhere we could be outdoors without freezing our keesters off. Some warm sport filled paradise we could spend our winters at. Yes, I think I’d stay around here through deer season and then head to my winter quarters where there would be wingshooting available and water to fly fish. I’ve been to the southwest and southeast parts of the country, but I’m thinking someplace a little more exotic. Like Cuba, for instance. Hemingway wrote about the good shooting he found when it was safe to be there. I wonder what that would be like? I’ll bet I’m not the only one who dreams about such things either, and I’m betting lottery ticket sales go up in the winter for just that reason.
It was 15 degrees below zero on Valentines morning. If I remember right it was about the same last year. I suppose that can encourage some V-Day cuddling and no worries about melting chocolate hearts, but otherwise…. C’mon, it’s mid Feb, the days are getting longer so how ‘bout a warm up?
I went to town for some home supplies, stop by the sporting goods store to see who was about, and then the coffee shop for a snack and a cup for the ride home. I ran into an old skeet shooting acquaintance who is also about the most duck huntingest guy I know. Ducks and geese, that is. He told me he’d just made the long drive to the nearest Cabela’s to pick up a couple hundred more snow goose decoys to add to his trailer-full of more than a thousand. Well… if you need ‘em, you need ‘em. He likes Winchester auto-loaders and has 5 or 6 of the two models he likes best. I kinda wonder about that but have never asked. He has a lot of other gear, too, like layout blinds, stand up blinds, sit down blinds, sneak boats, and big boats. He doesn’t have a dog, but he likes hunting over someone else’s if the dog is really, really good. Heck, we all like that.
We compared notes about last season and I enjoyed recalling the times I spent in a duck boat or sneaking along a river with my spaniel at my side and my new camo-clad shotgun in hand. I’ll always have a soft spot for the old A5, but my new gun is much lighter to carry and a good shooter to boot. It’s also the kind of gun you could use for a walking stick, a wading staff, or a canoe paddle without worry if you had to. I’ve already used it once to catch my balance in some tough marsh and stuck the buttstock in the mud to the trigger. I sloshed it around in the river to clean it off and never gave it another thought. Then I took it to Dakota and shot ducks with no trouble. I didn't give it a decent cleaning until the end of the season, and I’m not sure it mattered, then.
I broke my new gun in on the river north of here, shooting wood ducks chased off the upstream lake by other hunters. A dog is essential for this kind of hunting, and Molly does the job well and loves it. It’s a mile hike to get to the river so I carried a few rounds of 7 ½ steel shot loads for any grouse along the way. It’s the only full camo, synthetic stocked gun I’ve used and I’m impressed with its versatility. I’ve always been something of a traditionalist, but it seems right to grab this gun, my spaniel, and a pocketful of different loads to hunt whatever we come upon. I’m not giving up my double-gun and pointing dog, of course, but fitting in a little “rough shooting” now and then is just right.