When the Tide Rips, Rip the Tide (Day 3)

Sunrise over breeze lake

The next day was a whirlwind. Not only pertaining to the madness of the day, but the wind was blowing a continual 40 miles per hour with gusts up to 60-65 mph.  Sure, I’ve felt helpless against Mother Nature before.  Whether it was paddling my Alumacraft ducker feverishly against a good squall, or having my long line drift before I could even set a decoy, but this wind was a cruel demon of the ancient world.    To make the most of the morning, we traveled back to the far northeast to try our luck on a slough holding enough water to hopefully attract some ducks.  When we approached the edge of the slough, I knew this was going to be a logistically tough excursion.   With 75 pounds of gear in tow, I sunk down to my knees in heavy mud.  Working my boots out slowly and methodically, I was able to set the decoys down on the crusty surface and make my way back to the solid ground.  When I apprised Andy and Mike of the situation, we devised a quick plan to get as many decoys as possible with minimal effort.  I would trudge out 15-20 yards with a walking stick to help my progress, and Mike would toss me decoys to set in the three inches of water.  Constantly wiggling my boots to free them from their wicked captor, my tired calves and quads begged for relief.  After turning on the last lucky duck, I tussled with the wind and mud to get back to the makeshift blind on the shore.   Even though it was 45 degrees in the morning, it felt like 20 with the wind chill scrapping at our backs.  I grasped my gloves that I had yet to wear on the trip, and nuzzled into the cattails.

The strong winds ended up being a blessing and a curse. Ducks that did not want to land in our previous hunt, were keen to find refuge in our spread today.  The problem was the heavy wind slowly pushed their flight backwards, and they spun to find an easier landing locale.  The other drawback that we encountered was the strong gusts of wind were tossing my heavy Dakota decoys on their sides.  Already emerged in shallow water and muck, I brainstormed new ways to keep them upright.  I ended up rooting a few of them in the solid mud, with the keels firmly locked into position.  We were going strong with three mallards and a gadwall in hand, when an unusual pair skirted our spread. A larger duck lead the way, while a tiny friend followed closely behind.  I shot the gadwall out front, and winged the green-wing teal behind.  This little teal ended up being my Achilles heel for the week, as I exhausted over an entire box of shells just trying to harvest the saucy minx.  When I  had expended the last shell I was willing to risk on the seemingly immortal teal, it slowly faded into the brush in the northeast corner of the slough.  Mike and Briar made the trek to the area, as he had dropped a drake mallard in the same location earlier in the hunt.   When Mike and Briar pushed through the edge of the cattails, the scene was hysterical.  Both the drake mallard and green wing teal quickly skirted out of hiding place.  They slapped the water with their wings, pushed feverishly with their feet, and set off a quacking bonanza that echoed across the marsh.  Briar was apparently turned off by the muck and darting ducks, and stopped half way in the water.  Mike fired one shot bringing the drake to a standstill, and the green-wing headed  my direction.  It stopped short and sat in a heap on the water, obviously exhausted by the shenanigans we were conducting.  I waded out through the wet-concrete muck and retrieved her.  The morning ended with one of the most bizarre encounters that we experienced on the trip.  While Andy and I discussed the movement of birds and what our next strategy should be, two brilliant black and white drake bluebills rocketed across the water skimming our spread.  Completely shocked by the ghost-rider flyby, we didn’t have time to grab our guns and chance a shot.   They slickly sliced through the wind that had given puddle ducks trouble, and headed north to a larger body of water.

To be continued…

Windy slough hunt2

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