First Split Produced Lots of Firsts

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Well the first half of duck season is over and with it saw many firsts in my circle of manly influence.

My oldest little alpha male got his first duck.

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His friends got their first as well:

Brayden

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Ronnie

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One of the Middles got to go on his first hunt, with his own waders and face paint!

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Even got a new hunter, a work friend, his first duck.

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Fiona retrieved her first duck. 194.JPG

I got my first:

Black Belly Whistler (the brown duck)

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Fulvous Whistler

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and Ringneck.

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Despite the hunting being fairly slow, thanks a lot El Nino, we’ve had a good time.

Sometimes I got bored and we opened up on some coots.  This did not impress Fiona or the oldest boy.   But my cajun buddy is cooking a giant pot of gumbo and we are stockpiling the little water chickens.

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The look of shame says it all. She made me bathe her when we got home.

 

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Shoot a coot?  Dad!

So far here our season totals.

Birds to date

Poldeaux: 32

Blue Wing Teal: 22

Ruddy: 12

Gadwall: 5

Spoonies: 4

Green Wing Teal: 3

Wood Duck 3

Redhead: 1

BlackBelly Whistler: 1

Fulvous Whistler: 1

Ringneck: 1

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So now we give the ducks a two week break, during which I’ll chase some geese, pigs, deer, snipe and perhaps a squirrel or two.

 

Do any of you keep a log of the birds you kill?

 

Young Ducks and an Alligator *Experience*

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“Listen Oliver, let’s just wait till duck season is over before we tell Mom about the alligator.  Ok?”

“Sure dad,” he replied.  Yet, somewhere during the 20 minute drive home this hush-hush agreement got lost in his little memory bank because as soon as we opened the kitchen door at home Oliver loudly announced “Dad almost got eaten by an enormous alligator!”

This is what happened:  Oliver and Braden knocked down a couple birds in the rice canal.  I sent Fiona, my lab, to get the birds.  She brought the first one, but dropped it somewhere before getting to me. I sent her back to get the one she dropped, but instead she grabbed dead bird number 2.  I then step down into the canal, thinking she dropped the first in the grass at the edge.  With my back to the canal, and up to my waist in water, my son exclaims “Alligator!”  I startle and scold him as a look over my shoulder “Oliver, don’t joke about….” I then set a personal record for high jumping with waders, and scrambled out of the canal.  I did not see it’s head, only its tail , which looked about 6-8 inches wide.

This is what I think happened:  splashing from half dead birds and the dog brought a large, hungry alligator to chomp down on something juicy.  By the time the beast gets there, I’m in the water.  The monster, (looking back I figure its at least 14-16 feet long, twice as big as the initial estimate by my friend Brent), started to eat me, but realized I wasn’t bird or dog and left without attacking.

Anyways, other than my second near death experience with alligators, we had a great time taking a couple young hunters on their first gun carrying duck hunts. Despite hurricane Patricia bearing down on us, we managed to get the boys their first ducks (bluewing teal) and their first poule d’eau.  As a bonus, while setting out the decoys, I managed to channel my inner Swamp People and grabbed 15 bullfrogs.

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All in all, exciting start to the waterfowl season.


Thundered and rained the whole time, but lightning only in the far distance.
 The teal were super fat, but this was the fattest.

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Nice amount of fat rendered from just three teal.

Looking forward to cold weather and the arrival of the big birds, but this was a great start.  Any of you hunt the youth weekend?

Duck Pond Planting–Timing is Everything

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Just before I closed on The Hermitage™ I managed to get stuck. To the axle, in 6 inches of water and a foot of mud.  I called my friend to come pull me out, but his truck got sunk before he could even get to where I was stranded.  He’s since replaced his Chevy with a Ford.  Just saying. Nonetheless, in our desperation to become “unstuck” we first tried this trick, but alas it doesn’t work if there is moisture at all.  As a last ditch effort, we spread some wild birdseed hoping to make traction, but all we really did was plant a nice little food plot. 001

Luckily, we were rescued by a couple of youngsters from Michael’s church.

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As a pleasant surprise, it seems the often flooded clay I own is fairly fertile.  A month later, and it’s a veritable milo miracle.

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This led me to plow straight into my grand plans to grow Japanese and Brown Top millet in my fast evaporating ponds.  I say plow, but really, all I did was spread the 100 pounds of Japanese and Brown Top millet onto the pond mud.  There really is no “raking” of the millet because of the sticky mud.  Just good seed contact with the mud is all I was looking for.

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I placed a fence post into the pond to mark the approximate water level as of July 20, the day I planted the millet.  As you will see, the water level will keep receding and with each recession I broadcast more seed.

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It grew quickly, and was soon discovered.

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The ducks and dove are eating the unsprouted millet while the pigs and deer are getting some water and munching some sweet millet shoots.  Bodes well for my deer food plots don’t you think?

The millet grew and grew and managed to produce really good heads of grain and well timed rain really had me excited.

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Then, the Monday after Teal season closed, a flock of 20-30 bluewing teal moved onto my pond.

The little fat brown paper bags managed to eat every last stick of millet.  Within about a week and a half, despite my efforts of scaring them off the pond.  Once the millet was gone, haven’t seen them once.  I’d hoped the millet would last until at least the Youth Duck Opener, October 31, but within a week, the teal had eaten every last bit of the millet.  Not a duck was shot.  Next year, I plan on doing two plantings, July 20 or so and again on October 1.  Lesson learned.

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big crow 2big crow 3 Last picture on my game camera, this dude enjoyed my schadenfreude.

Oliver’s Accidental Duck Hunt

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You hear about quality time, but I’m a big believer in quantity time.  Some of my best times both as a child and a parent occurred as pure luck. The more time you spend together, the more likely it will suddenly turn out great.  This was one of those times.

For my little guys, action is the name of the game when it comes to the outdoors. Duck hunting is a fabulous way to break them into the hunting and with duck season around the corner,  I hope you’ll take some little guys or gals out hunting with you–though it may not seem easy or even practical.

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Some hunts lend themselves particularly well with bringing munchkins.  A dove hunt is simple:  make sure there is plenty of shade, hydration and their BB guns.  Toss in some OFF, sun tan lotion, and long pants and you will be good to go. Even deer hunting, when done out of a spacious box blind shielded from the elements is a good way to hunt with kids.

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My guys love playing with the future food. I encourage it–makes them a little more manly.

But duck hunting takes a little more effort. Water, cold, nasty weather, mud–mother nature doesn’t pull any punches during duck season. Throw in waking up way before the posterior end of dawn, and its easy to see why many Dads just choose to let their kids sleep during Daffy Season.

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Forgetting his gloves cut this hunt short. He was a trooper though.

So last year when my friend John invited me to Corpus to duck hunt I originally planned on coming alone for the hunt.  However, my wife developed a serious case of house-itosis, so she and the boys came along since I was getting a hotel room anyway.  We drove down and that night I left and met up with John for an evening hunt.

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Though he hadn’t mentioned them, John brought his oldest daughter and son.  I didn’t mind at all.   I hadn’t asked if this was a kids hunting trip–being the guest and all–and I felt rotten for not packing Oliver’s hunting gear.  We hunted that night, (more of a scouting trip since no ducks flew over) and I returned to get Oliver as outfitted as I could.

Thankfully, Corpus Christi is not cold.   That night we pieced together the warmest stuff he had:  A fleece sweatshirt on top of his favorite white Longhorn Jersey, a pair of sweat pants under jeans and some blue crocs.   Not exactly what you’ll find on the pages of a Cabela’s catalog.   Turns out you can kill a few ducks without camo.

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Normally, you’d wear a little more camo. However, three limits says its not always needed!

Some 70% of the redhead population winters in the Laguna Madre, and we had several land among our three dozen decoys before legal shooting time.  Oliver was sleepy and Jack was sipping some hot chocolate when John said,

“Take’m!”

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He fired, and I pulled the trigger but forgot to take the safety off.  I was using a new Stoeger double barrel  I’d picked up to be my devoted duck gun and wasn’t as used to it as my trusty Remington 1100.  I flicked off the safety and scared a straggling duck that was probably out of range.  John, on the other hand, took his limit of red heads in one pass and I came up with nothing. After those were gathered and the blind had grown silent Oliver asked,

“Daddy why did you miss so bad?”  The amount of disdain generated in that 6 year old’s voice was impressive.  I chuckled and assured him I was in fact trying.

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Oliver was not impressed

Then, cutting through the wind like squadron of Blue Angels, a flock of bluebills bombed us from behind and I was able to redeem myself in my eldest son’s eyes with a double of my own.

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Just about done…

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Three buffleheads

Action was steady and within an hour we had our limits.  Oliver’s first duck hunt wasn’t well planned on my part, but he loved it.   I didn’t plan on us having one of those great father-son experiences, but it happened. Strangely, every other duck hunt last season included some sort of foul up.  Getting a bit lost on the public land, forgetting gloves, or being kept awayke by a group of rowdies as told here in my inaugural post:  http://wp.me/p3bCKM-d

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Beards weren’t necessary for these duck killers.

Despite some of our misfortunes, I look forward to spending more time with my boys duck hunting this year.  Who took you duck hunting first?  Do you have any advice about bringing little ones along?

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Oh the things you learn public land hunting…

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Hunting public land in Texas is new to me. My first waterfowl hunt is at a local wildlife management area (WMA). This place is a first come first choice, so you line up outside the gates in advance of the 4:30am gate opening . I was in line camping with my son, Oliver 6, and since we were getting up early we turned in about 7:45.

Around 11:30 it got real for the fellows three spots ahead. First, there was celebration. When the coyotes started howling, so did they. Then, apparently, a rattlesnake joined the fun. This led to the sounds of crashing lawnchairs, I believe a BBQ pit fell onto some decoys, which would explain the faint burning plastic smell. Crisis resolved, but they soon ran out of the good stuff, bud light, and had to crack into the Natty. Around 12:30, two of the party turned in.

At this point, the conversation turned rather dour. See, the first fellow was apparently a good family man. Which had been celebrated ad nausea in the prior hour.

Though once married the second chap apparently had trouble maintaining monogamy and apparently he now only sees his kids on the weekend. At this point he was sobbing loudly, uncontrollably, and with a strangely guttural moan sprinkled in at times. Even in my dark camper in a sleeping bag, I felt really awkward.

I’m no Frasier Crane, but maybe the married friend shouldn’t have stated, “You know your ex wife was such a beautiful, sweet girl before you were married. You really screwed that up.” There was now angry shouting, then SLUT repeated in decreasing volume, about 50 times. The sobbing grew more intense. At this point I made sure my BB’s were handy, I thought 4s might be a bit light if I needed to intervene.

As luck would have it, they apparently hugged it out and everything was copacetic. UNTIL THE BIG DIESEL TRUCK SPED PAST THEIR CAMP.

This put the sobber in a state of rage and he cursed the speedster with a flare really only fitting at an SEC football field. This lasted a good 10 minutes. By now the previously bedded companions of theirs rallied after their 15 minute nap and managed to stoke the flames a little by commenting on the overall lack of civility of today’s drivers.

There was a little hushed mumbling, and this gem was sprung: “that’s the thing with you man, why I don’t like drinking with you, you’re always getting drunk always making homosexual advances towards me.” I’m not passing judgment, I just didn’t predict this sort of conversation taking place while waiting to get a good duck hunting spot. I can’t verify this, but my son claims he heard the sound of a fleshy slap.

Then some yelling ensued.

I’m not sure what the sobber’s role in the latent homosexual behavior was, but someone in the group noticed he was gone. Apparently he left to straighten the speeding truck guys out and it was mentioned how he always looks for a good fist fight after drinking. It was agreed he had to be stopped and the sound of stumbling, swerving running could be heard outside of my popup. I didn’t hear gunshots, so I assume everything was fine.

When they returned it was almost 2, and now the natty light was gone and they decided they should get to bed. So they went. And I was asleep soon after.

Strangely, I awoke at 3:30 fresh and ready to hunt. So no harm, no foul.

Anyways, it was an interesting prelude to a great hunt. We limited out on ducks within 15 minutes, missed some specklebelly geese, and added 6 pouldeau because we’ve heard they eat well.

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