Friday, October 26, 2012

Maryland Duck Opener 2012

Pink in the morning = Ducks are Snoring
About five Octobers ago, I remember sitting on a baking hot Chesapeake Bay shoreline with my brother T, wondering why the hell we were duck hunting when it was 90 degrees outside.   We were sweating in full camo and neoprene waders that just smelled like burning tires in a high school locker room.  What a way to start the duck season.

In the Chesapeake Bay, the October duck season, also known as "wood duck season" or "first split," is dominated by 75-90 degree high temperatures, and few migratory ducks other than some late teal.  However, around this time, the area's rivers are still generally populated by fat, happy, and warm resident mallards and wood ducks.   Sometimes, you're on them, and they are moving.  Other times, they never leave the roost.  It's quite maddening.  This year, a local guy that I hunt with was "on top of" about 30 resident mallards.  Around here, we don't like resident mallards, except to shoot.  They scoop up all of the food resources that could be used by more valuable (frankly, more important) migratory ducks as they arrive in December and January....notably, the declining American Black Duck.

So with great prognostications of our nearly assured success, I was ready.  "Just bring three shells," he said.  "We'll be done in 20 minutes!" he said.  A quick scouting report the night before the opener came back pretty promising...."25 birds on the shoreline.  Get ready." So, I mean, we got ready.....

Only thing we were shooting was the breeze...

We didn't see a single duck.  Or hear a single duck. I kind of knew it was doomed as soon as I carefully snuck out the front door at 4:45am.  Just 6 hours before, the predicted low temperature for the morning was 46.  46!  That's perfect for October duck hunting."  But as I walked through the front yard, I just saw the warm, wet diamonds of warm weather fog.  It wasn't 46.  Or 56.  Or 66.  That's right, the night's low temperature turned out to be 68 degrees, which I guess is "kind of like" 46 if you are a meteorologist.

I think back of the Octobers I've duck hunted over the years - Western Virginia and North Carolina in the 1990s. Central Maryland and Southern Virginia "big water" in the early 2000s.  Beaver ponds and offshore blinds in the last 5 years.  In those Octobers, I haven't killed a lot of ducks or even shot a lot of ammo.

Maybe October is for getting ready.  Figuring out that your headlamp actually isn't that bright.  That your dog isn't quite ready.  That you should have cleaned your gun in January.  Or March. Or June. Or September.  So perhaps this is another October First Split that's light on memories and heavy on trying to get it right for the arrival of our big flights of ducks and geese in the next two months.



The Reverend Fowl ™ said...

I created a special decoy bag for the early season: 2 Wood Ducks and 2 Teal. That’s it. The smaller ducks are supposedly intimidated by larger ducks and don’t mix.

Last year I never got a shot off.

Steve Kline said...

So you're saying I should clean my gun?

Kirk Mantay said...

LOL @ Steve! I need to clean mine, too!

Rev, there's really no reason to throw out more than a dozen teal and a dozen woodies, mallards, or black ducks. The resident flocks know where to go - you just need to be there on a day when they feel like going there. Easier said than done!

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