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The silly things duck hunters do

WATERFOWL / 3.21.2014

Folks get a little nutty when seasons open. All the pent up scouting pressure can't wait to release. Gear is prepped. Boat is loaded. Anxiety over somebody getting to "your" spot first ruins your sleep. So my duck obsessed friend Brian cooked up the genius plan of slipping the kayaks in the night before the opener into his "secret" spot, setting up decoys, camping on a muddy hump in the marsh, and waking up before anybody else had a chance to get there. Sounded pleasant enough.

The particular local and route of entry required motoring  two kayaks upriver, and paddling, portaging, dragging, breaching beaver dams, and brush busting our camping and hunting gear into a pot-holed backwater of the river, in the dark. We left the boat ramp with full bellies and charged headlamp batteries.

Reaching the mouth of the small creek that defined our path, we secured the boat and hopped into the kayaks, the prefect tools for this sort of mission. Knee deep mud led to logs, beaver dams, and other obstacles relatively easy to maneuver or muscle the loaded kayaks through. Minimal consulting of the GPS led to open pocket waters and clear skies. Orion graced the stars.

We set up our decoys in a marsh pothole about eighty yards offshore, hung a glo-stick from a spinner so we could easily find it after a few hours of sleep, and started the search for higher ground. Not long after the tent was pitched, brush was cut to add some natural decoration to the kayak decks, and into the sleeping bags we went.

Headlamps on shore at 4:30 woke us up . Brian was in his kayak and racing to the glo-stick before I knew what day it was. A couple lost hunters with soggy waders soon stumbled through marsh and into our camp, seeking "the point". I left them to their quest, and hopped in the kayak with my signature peppermint schnapps cocoa to join Brian for breakfast in deeper water.

Headlamps began to line the shore like Christmas lights. I now understood Brian's plan, yet still found humor in the obsessive behaviors unfolding before me. Duck love in full effect. We cozily sat in our Jackson Kayaks, like floating layout blinds, sipping minty cocoa, watching the soap opera of headlamps spreading out, clustering, moving, arguing over who was there first, as shooting time crept ever closer.

The first birds were in our pothole before shooting time. Thick fog now graced the marsh. The magic minute came, and with a nod, we broke the silence of Vermont's 2013 duck season. Non-stop action ensued, with woodies, teal, pintails piling into our setup. Six down, Brian paddles a sweep run to collect the first round and check species. More fall while he's collecting. By the time he's back and settled, we're down to two teal. Pass, pass, pass, and two teal come in and land. We wait for them to fly. 2013 Opener is in the books.

Conversations turn to whether or not it was good idea to leave the tent and how many pellet holes there would be in the rain fly….

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