This weekend I participated in my annual Utah duck hunt hosted by Jeremy and Robert Hunter…I’ve worked with Jeremy for almost a decade and we share a real passion for hunting. He’s appropriately named, for sure.
We met at 5:00am at the park and ride – I was waiting as the Hunter’s pulled up with their boat. They have a great little john boat with sides that popup as blinds. About a month ago, Rob’s wife painted the outside of the boat in a cammo pattern so it looks real sweet. It’s got three seats and although a little unstable for three people to hunt from, but it is perfect to use to get out to where we are hunting. They’ve got a very large number of decoys, mojo’s and feeder-butts, so they added a sled this year. They pull the sled full of decoys behind the boat. Additionally, Jeremy jerry-rigged a step on the front of the boat so you can step up and get into it without fear of tearing your waders. I don’t know what they will have next year, but some kind of chair for standing/sitting in the water or some kind of stabilizer to shoot safely from the boat is a good bet. Oh, and they were waxing wishfully about something called a muddy–buddy motor to get them through the shallows much more quickly than the 5-hp lawnmower engine they have today.
Ultimately, I was just happy to be in a boat. My Texas-based experience of duck hunting is that it is very hard work, often trudging through waist-high water or knee-high mud for an hour to get to your spot. And, after getting to your spot, not seeing any duck not to mention shooting at any.
So, it doesn’t much matter to me that we went out three times over two days and got skunked twice.
On our first morning we got out into the water and set up pretty late. In fact, it was after 7am by the time we were ready to go. However, the duck that flew into our decoys while we were setting up told us we were going to have a great day. It was to be a lie.
Jeremy and his brother are great hosts and allowed me the first shot. A swimmer entered our decoys. Most of the time, the ducks that swim in are coots; a duck that forages in the mud and tastes appropriately bad. This time, however, this was a real duck. As the duck took off I shot. We had blood in the boat, a golden-eye hen. As I retrieved my duck, I got stuck out in the open. As it usually happens, when someone is not prepared, the ducks come. In fact, two came in a buzzed right over Jeremy and Rob back near the boat. Unfortunately, they flew right in my direction and no one could safely shoot. The circled and crossed us again, everyone taking a shot but all of us missing. They flew off and I hurried back to the boat.
As you would expect, as I returned, the ducks stopped showing up. For a while, ducks would fly around the perimeter of our set up, ignore our calls, and fly off. Rob got bored and took the boat to see what else was going on. While he was away, a flock of gadwalls flew directly overhead. Jeremy and I dropped one each. While he was scouting, Rob bagged a pintail. Later on, I took a coot figuring I would try and eat it – but I was dissuaded from my plan.
We stayed out for a little longer enjoying the beautiful weather and the amazing scenery. Even if the hunting is slow, I can just look around and enjoy the beautiful mountains that surrounded us on every side. We decided to call it a day and motored back to the car.
We decided when we were finished in the morning to return for an evening session. We were a little disappointed with the showing, so we thought we’d try again. Last year, we scored three in the boat, so our five actually an ok day one.
That evening however, and the next morning, for that matter was more of the same – ducks either completely ignoring us or taking a look by flying the perimeter, but never coming in. It was a completely foreign frustration. Last year, Rob was able to turn any duck and convince it to flair into our spread for a good shot. In fact, we killed fifteen ducks on day two last year…this time? Nada. Nothing even came close. The only interesting thing about our evening was a couple of flights of Canadian geese that flew overhead. We shot at them – all of us unloading our weapons, but they were out of range.
By then, the sun was beginning to hide behind a mountain to the west. A beautiful site for sure, but one that also let us know our day was over. Beside, the mosquitoes started swarming by that point, so it was time to go.
The morning of day two (our last hunting opportunity) was more of the same without the geese or the mosquitoes. We gave up early and decided to call it a day.
That was before we realized it was opening day of pheasant season – but that is a story for another time.