Great offshore decoy rig and a snowstorm moving in.
Perfect late January morning.
After a fun duck hunt the previous week and a courtesy return-invite from my host, I called T to see if he could make it up to Maryland during the waning hours of duck season to possibly get a crack at his first canvasback. After some scurried phone messages back and forth between parties, we had a date.
The day before the hunt, and 48 hours before the end of duck season, we received a foot of snow. Suddenly, northern Maryland began seeing tens of thousands of new ducks and geese who could no longer pretend to survive in NY, PA, and NJ. Unfortunately, our planned duck hunt was in southern Maryland. We moved forward with our plans anyway - partly in an effort to not screw up my new relationship with the guy who's blind we were going to be hunting. Yup. Once again, we would be stuck with smart, wary birds with plenty of local knowledge. Let's do it.
Trouble lets off some steam, literally
We had an early shot on a canvasback, and took it (an unplanned group shot). Apparently too early - a hen. In the early light, it looked like a drake. Still legal. Not preferable. We passed up dozens of shots on buffleheads, if for no other reason than to watch them zip in and out of the decoys over and over again. A lesser scaup made a turn into the decoys and paid the price, which was fine. Reminded me of a lot of Virginia diving duck hunts!
This was another one of those days when all conditions were perfect for an epic hunt, but somebody forgot to tell the birds. The divers were staying farther downstream. The puddle ducks and geese were far too well patterned to their "safe havens." Then finally, T had his chance. A lone canvasback circled the decoys once, twice, and on the third pass, T and I both shot, twice each, within about 2 seconds. I am pretty sure he killed it - crushed at about 50 yards! I don't know for sure, but you know how when you have a great shot on well, anything, you just know it? Yeah - I didn't have that feeling about my shots. And judging by his reaction, T did have that feeling about his second shot (the 50 yarder). That's enough evidence for me. In the snowfall, Trouble had a little...er....trouble...locating the bird, but ultimately got it back to us. It was T's first ever Canvasback, and that alone was worth the price of admission. Because he was moving on to hotel accomodations for the last day of the season, he was kind enough to leave me his Canvasback for me to process for him. Gee thanks!
We ended up having breakfast at the local diner, and we ate a ridiculous amount of food. And it was delicious. So delicious. It wasn't a legendary end to the season, by any means, but I think it was fairly indicative of my season in general. Lots of work to get a little piece of mind and a few ducks and geese. I hunted some new spots, met some new hunting partners, and learned a lot more about how game species use the farm where I usually hunt. On those counts alone, it was more productive than my previous hunting season. And as I've said before, I've had worse seasons, no matter which metric by which you measure it.
So I'll take it.