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Old, Fat, Slow

Friday, February 06, 2015

Yute Hunt

I took a young man and his father out
to the Youth Waterfowl Hunt this year.
Unfortunately, I didn't get him a reservation
at the WMA so we had to head out
on the St. Johns.

We all went out Friday and scouted a
good 10 miles of river.  We saw a few
mottles and one group of 8 ducks that
I wasn't sure the species.  But they
were way down river and I didn't
think we wanted to get up at 0230
and brave the sandbars to get to
the spot.  Instead, I fell back on
Fog Hunt.  That's an area that
has history of being productive
in both prior years and this
year.  We also had a skunk
there this year.

After the scout, we came home
and cut palmettos.  I also gave
them some cold weather gear,
face masks, and gloves.  Since I
was the only one going in the
water, I was the only one with

The water, habitat, and weather
were perfect.  I put 6 bwt and
one mottle out as decoys.  For
motion I put the mojo teal and
three pinners on the jerk string.

It was dead at sunup.  There weren't
even many shore birds around. No one
else was out on the marsh.  We heard
no boats or shooting.  We did hear
a distant hen mottled duck.  I hit
her with the drake mallard call.
That went on all morning.

I commented that mottled ducks
sometimes fly around 0800.  Sure
enough at 0804, the calling finally
paid off and a pair of mottles swung
out wide in front of us and came
straight into the decoys.  The young
man got off a couple of shots with
the pump, but the ducks were awfully
close and he may have nipped one
of them.

I was amazed that they went behind
us and then back up to the far end of
our pond and landed.  I intended to
sit still in case the one was hit and just
took time to succumb to the wounds.

Oddly, a third modu showed up and
they all took off.  The original two
flew one way and the singleton another.
I wailed on the hen mallard call and it
turned and followed the same track
back across the dekes that the first
pair did.  I felt so bad that both shots
missed that bird too.  With some
experience, that young man would
have had a trophy bird.  They were
big old ducks.

In the boat:
 photo IMG_1743_zpsea556b86.jpg

View behind us:
 photo IMG_1745_zpsc99db405.jpg

View of the decoys:
 photo IMG_1744_zps9b0d9fda.jpg

Action shot:
 photo IMG_1748_zps1ee78d36.jpg

I was very proud of the young man
for listening, sitting still,
taking the shots, and cycling the
gun.  He did great.  I just wish I
could have put him on more ducks.

His dad did yeoman's work with the
jerk string.  We topped the day off
with a good breakfast at IHOP.



No Whimpering, This Season Went Out with a BANG!

The last hunt of the season proved to be a
winner for the Clan.  LT hit on a draw to
Broadmoor WMA.  We were 8th pick and
figured to get a good wade spot.  We
would have tried the Broadmoor Reservoir,
but my little truck can't launch and pull out
the boat from the unimproved launching

LT went up and scouted one Thursday
by driving around.  The next Thursday
he took his bike and got behind areas
that looked unhuntable.  What he saw
was amazing.  The primo spot was
covered up in ducks - specifically

We figured that the reservoir was so
hot during the season that the early
picks would choose there.  We also
learned that the draw order was wrong
on the FWC web site and that we were
actually pick 5.  We figured that we
were set.

We brought along one of my Army
Medic son's buddies who lives locally
and had been a 240 gunner in Trashcanistan.
He'd hunted on the St. Johns River with
us once where we couldn't make the
retrieve on a mottled duck that he
shot.  We needed to make it up to him.

The word was out that guys were
parked in the walk in line from
the previous Wednesday.  At the
check station, I didn't see a familiar
face.  There were a lot of hunters
there, but it wasn't as packed as I
would have expected.  Maybe, it
was because the forecast that morning
was for 30mph gusts, driving rain,
and lightening.  Maybe, folks were
just tired of getting up so early that
late in the season.

When pick time came, we waited
anxiously.  The first four spots
chose wading over the reservoir.
We were quite surprised when
the best spot was still available for
us.  It pays to have LT scout.

As soon as we had our draw, we
drove out there.  I brought the works:
palmettos, decoys (teal, pinners, modus,
ringers, and coots), sleds, walking sticks,
stools, ammo bags, and guns.  We had to
walk along the whole south edge
of the impoundment, but didn't have
to head too far up the levee when we
turned north on the east edge.

We used our Qbeams to spot a reed
island that looked like good cover.
We faced north, but the wind was
from the west - and hard.  There
was an occasional flash of lightening,
but it wasn't close and I've hunted
in far scarier conditions.  [Although
there's nothing quite like holding a
big old lightening rod and being the
tallest thing in the marsh for a long

LT was on our left side facing into
the wind and rain.  I took the right
and put the 240 gunner on the
center seat.

When shooting time came, ducks
were everywhere.  They came through
our spread with the wind at mach
speed.  When they headed into the
wind, they practically stopped dead.
It didn't matter, my shot string was
all over two counties and I had to
lead the birds by a time zone.  I
had one fulvous directly overhead
facing the gale.  I fired three shots
and didn't even phase him.  That
wind was strong.

Out 240 gunner, shot lights out
which wasn't bad for a guy who
used to rifled bullets and not a
scatter gun.  He was limited in
less than an hour with two hen
pinners, 1 green wing teal, and
three blue wing teal - one of
which was a beautiful wall mount
drake.  He ribbed us about our
great experience and poor shooting
skills.  We spent a good deal of
the morning laughing. 

LT and I rotated to the center
seat and scratched out our limits.
ofs:  2 ringers, 1 modu, three bwt;
LT:  1 hen pinner, 1 modu, 1 ringer, 3 bwt.

Retrieves were hard, but 240 did awesome
work for a couple of mine.  

We were tired and sore when we headed in,
but we did better than anyone else we
saw.  The guys in the reservoir were
reduced to shooting coots and the guys
in the impoundment just north of us
didn't get a duck (and there were
plenty to be had).

 photo IMG_1736_zpsd441af11.jpg
 photo IMG_1733_zpse0af30b9.jpg
We ended the season with 38 ducks - a vast
improvement over last year, but still sad.  We
started and ended with LT and me limiting.
It was a fun season overall.



Thursday, January 01, 2015


Took Navy boy out hunting twice.
The first time we didn't even ring
off a shot.  The blackbellies came
over too early and the lone wood
duck squealing behind us never
came into the open.

The second time we scouted hard
and found a spot we liked.  It was
9 miles from the launching ramp
and the forecast was for fog. We
got up at 0230 for the long, slow
boat ride.  At the ramp, we were
the only guys launching but there
was no fog.  We were able to
crank the boat up to full speed and
zing to our spot.  [It helps that the
river is still up high enough that
we aren't as likely to hit sandbars
at speed.]

We got to the hole and were able
to set up nicely.  The sun was at
our backs and we had lots of open
marsh in front of us.   I had to kick
a big wad of hyacinth out of the way
to clear a landing zone and we were
set.  We even used the same palmetto
fans that we'd retained from the
previous hunt.

We were in the shallows of a very
large pond.  Another boat that came
from a different direction, set up at
the far end of the pond.  They were
well out of our shooting zone.  Later,
an airboat shoved it way through dry
land behind us and came to rest in
some palmetto trees.  I never heard
them shoot and they may have been
deer hunters poaching the private
land to the east.

We waited an hour and 12 minutes for
shooting time.  I used the Thermocell
to keep the skeeters off and used my
Anglican training to cense Navy boy
in hopes of keeping them off him too.
He says I was only mildly successful.

Right at hunting light we heard a group
of blackbellies coming in.  The went a
skosh wide, but the second group that
came in a bit later was closer.  I opened
up on them, but they went on to their
retention pond feed trough undamaged.

Navy boy got on the board first with a
nice shot on a drake spoonie.  We had
a shot on a duck that landed behind a
clump of hyacinth.  I had to yell at
it to get it to jump up and to make sure
it was a duck.  Instead of going straight
up like a puddle duck is supposed to
do, it flew along the water and made
good its escape.

When we scouted, we saw a group of
mottled ducks in the area.  On the hunt,
we had three that we watched fly all around
the pond.  Navy boy got on his drake
mallard call and got them to fly right to
left over our decoys.  He dropped a fat
drake, but I whiffed.

I picked up two singleton blue wing
teal that came in and landed in the

The remaining two mottles continued
to fly around the pond, but I didn't think
they would ever come back over us.
Navy boy's drake call did the trick though
and back they came.  Again, I opened up
but didn't hit one.  It was no hard shot and
was embarrassing in the least.  Oddly,
the pair headed across the pone and did
a controlled descent behind some reeds.
I asked, "Did I nip one of them."  "No, I
don't think so was the answer."

The guys at the other end of the pond
only pulled the trigger twice and loaded
up early.  We pulled up stakes just before
0900 because we had to get home and
crash for a duck feast party that night.

As we motored out, I decided to look
on the other side of those reeds to see
if there might not be a crippled/dead
duck over there.

We snuck in from behind and saw
one mottled duck take off.  And
there, floating in the open water was
the mottle that I had indeed hit and

It turned out to be a good day.

When I was a boy and fished with my
dad, we had a running bounty of a dime
per category for First, Most, Biggest, and
Only.  Here's how that same bet worked
out for the duck hunt.

First Duck                    Navy Boy     Spoonie
Most Ducks                 OFS               2 bwt and 1 mottled
Biggest Duck               Navy Boy     Mottled
Only [species] Duck    Navy Boy     Spoonie
Only [species] Duck    OFS              Blue Winged Teal



Biggest (his modu was much bigger)



Saturday, December 20, 2014


We slept in until 0300 and headed out
to our spot code named Fog Hunt.  We
got there uneventfully and set up uneventfully.
The biggest excitement was a flock of black
bellies that flew over our heads six minutes
before shooting time.  It took a lot of restraint
not to round off the time.  We worked our
whistles to try and call them back, but they
had a reservation at some neighborhood
retention pond feeding trough.

We missed shots at a pair of spoons and
a pair of woodies that came through
the dekes, didn't see us, but also didn't

There was sporadic shooting around
us, but no one had set up close to us.
We saw several groups both large and
small on a different flight line than
ours.  We didn't score until I thought
I heard a hen mottled duck and responded
with a couple of drake calls.  We were
very surprised when a pair of blue wings
came in.   For once, they didn't leave.
I knew I hit mine with the first shot,
but he was still flying and I shot him
again.  I'm not sure many pellets missed
him.  Lt. Jim dropped the hen with one
well-placed shot.

A little later, I tried a hen teal call that
normally doesn't work for me.  We
were caught flat-footed when 20-25
drake blue wings showed up 20 yards
out.  We wiffed on six shots.  Sad.

By 0930 we called it quits and
headed back to the ramp.  Lt. Jim
had to go the airport and pick up
our Navy E5 boy, Craig.  It'll be
good to have him home and have
his gun in the boat.



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Yo Yoing

The next week, I hunted with a
buddy on his draw at Broadmoor
WMA.  While the habitat had all
changed from prior years, the flight
line hadn't.  I was able to scratch
out a limit of hen blue wings.

Lt. Jim and I went back to the
same spot on the river scouting
the next Friday.  We saw enough
birds that we figured we'd do well.
We set up in perfect habitat and
were so camoed up that little birds
were landing on the blind.  Wow,
did the marsh go dead.  We shot
at a couple of spoonies without
doing them any damage.  And
that was our day.  The couple of
other boats we saw on the marsh
didn't fire a whole lot more than
we did.

So far the year has been
0-12-0-6-0.  By that standard,
we should do very well next



Saturday, November 29, 2014

Shame, eternal shame, and nothing but shame!

Yesterday was my first solo hunt.  Lt. Jim got
engaged and has had a change of priorities. 
You try to rear them right ...

Anyway, it was just cold enough that I could
rock the Jones hat. Definitely stylin' in the marsh.
I also had another great set up. Ducks in the
decoys before dawn. Ducks landing in or
checking out the block all day long. The only
problem was the hunter. I couldn't hit a duck
today if it was looking down the barrel of the
gun. I'm so glad it was a solo hunt. Any hunting
buddy would have hurt himself laughing at me.



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Back in the Saddle

It's been so long since we killed a duck that
I was beginning to think I'd forgotten how.
Whiffing on early teal and having the boat
in the shop for weeks (my mechanic was
in a bad car wreck and lost time) didn't help.
But, we finally got a new carburator (last one
on the East Coast), new battery, new shaft, and
a new prop installed with a day left to scout
before the regular season opener. 

LT and I got the boat out on the St. Johns and
enjoyed the 15mph speed to get up river and
do some serious scouting and a little snipe
hunting.  We got three snipe and found a
lot of teal.  The teal we found at a spot we
had been told about last year.  It was very

We decided to get up at 2AM and beat
the crush at the launching ramp especially
since we saw people heading out the night
before planning to camp in their boats. 

We were the only folks launching when
we got there.  I dialed in the GPS and headed
south.  The river is still up high enough that
there is no channel to follow.  At one point,
I lost the trail and was heading south east
instead of along a west bend in the river.
It took me a little time to get realigned,
but it was nerve wracking.  We got to
the general area of where we had scouted,
but I hadn't had the GPS with me the
day before and hadn't marked the X.

We noodled around for a bit before we
settled on a shin deep hole that backed
up on a low mud island.  There was a
stiff easterly breeze and I hoped to set
up with my back to the north and catch
the birds landing into the wind, but the
hole just wasn't laid out that way.  So
we blinded up backs to the wind.

c c
 c  c
      t  t  t
c   c t  t t   m                     p    p               w   w
 c   c c t                                 p                 w             
c c      
                                                    md md

c = coots,   t = couple dozen teal, m= mojo,  p= pinners
w= woodies,  md= mottleds

We set the decoys up so that the landing area
would be right in front of us about 15 yards
away (I hate long retrieves).  I covered almost
all the bases with the decoys because I didn't
know what other than teal we might have
shots on.

Two boats wanted the hole we had picked
and we spent twenty minutes shining them off
before they picked up and headed off.  Several
other boats set up near us, but well out of
range of the steel rain of pellets.

Shooting time for some folks was 17 minutes
before legal light.  We didn't have anything
to shoot at to even tempt us to shoot early.
But, by legal light we started having shots.

Instead of the big groups of teal, we had
birds coming in one at a time.  I can't tell
you how many came right at us and landed
in the spot where we wanted them to.  I
can't remember a time when so many of
our shots were on decoying birds.  My
first and last and one of Jim's birds were
spoonies, but the rest were all teal.  We
didn't see a big duck all day. 

3 Spoons, 3 GWT, 6 BWT

This may have been the first time we
ever limited on opening day. 

When we got back to the ramp, several
other boats were there.  None of them
had done as well as us.  Most only had
a duck or two for the whole party.  For
once I got to look like I knew what I
was doing.

Picking the ducks later in the day was
a family event, and we had a lot of fun.



Monday, September 22, 2014

Early Teal 2014

The past repeats itself.  Another bust hunt.
We did a lot of scouting, but only saw
three teal on the marsh.  Friday, during our
last scout, the motor started acting up.
Called Danny and he said it was either
a bad fuel pump or a clogged carb and
we were on our own if we decided to
hunt the next day.  So, we decided to
hunt close to the bridge and upstream
of that. 

Friday night, the rains came.  I should
have left the plug out of the boat
because it was a pool in the morning.
Even more unfortunately, we didn't
see it at 0400 when we loaded our
gear.  I did notice that it was a mite
hard to get up to speed on I95.  When
we got to the launching ramp, it took
several minutes to drain the boat
while others were busily launching
theirs.  All our gear was sodden and
then the rains came again.

We got out to our fallback spot and
got well set up.  The sun, wind, and
broom grass were at our back.  There
was lots of open water, duck week,
smart weed, and seeds all around.
Surprisingly, the water was only
mid-thigh deep.  It should have
been an ideal spot. 

There was some light leaking
through the rain clouds, but
not a duck to be seen until
late in the AM when two
came from behind us and
went straight out.  We didn't
even realize they were teal
until it was too late.  Somewhere
behind us there was a wood duck
squealing, but no love.  Finally,
two ducks came flying right
from the stern toward the
bow.  We could have easily
whacked and owned them,
except they were mottled
ducks and illegal to shoot.

We heard lots of shooting from
south of us, but they were still
out there at 0930 when we gave

We had to oil up the guns well
and load all electronic gear into
bags of rice.  Still, it was a lot
of fun being on the marsh.
Regular season can't get here
fast enough.