Saturday, April 10, 2021

Size Doesn’t Matter

This morning I saw a duck flying at about 30 feet above my front yard as it made its way to the southeast.  As it flew over the top of a neighbor’s house I thought it must be going to the regional park just a few miles away in the direction it was going.  There is a small lake there and duck regularly stop there on their travels, and many make it a permanent home.  Seeing this duck brought to mind one of my earliest duck hunts.

A friend of mine was a duck hunter.  He lived to hunt (and eat) duck.  His home was almost a shrine to the duck.  And his garage was filled front to back and top to bottom with stuff to make his duck hunting “easier.”  Plus he had a dedicated trailer just to haul it around, and when he arrived where he wanted to hunt, he had many choices he could make based on—well, actually, I don’t know what.

Donald (yes, his name really was Donald) had a number of duck blinds in every camo pattern and color he could buy or make.  There were two canoes, a jon boat, and something he called a punt.  He had decoys in abundance in at least half a dozen duck types.  Some decoys were made for floating in water, and some were for setting out in a field.  Some were small, some were large, and some were gigantic.

One evening I joined him on one of his hunts.  I arrived at his home about 9pm, transferred my meager hunting things to his truck, loaded up the two retrievers, and we set out for a lake about 120 miles away.  I was full of questions and he was empty of answers.  “What kind of duck are we hunting?”  “I don’t know."  “How do you know there will be any ducks there?"  "It's duck season."  “Are we hunting from a boat or on land?"  "Maybe." 

We eventually arrived at the lake and found the gate to the property one of his friends owned.  By the time we found the spot where Donald thought was the right place to park, it was almost 3am.  My first thought was, "Finally we can get some sleep.”  His first thought was, "We’re running late.  Let’s get set up.”

Donald (not Don) started opening up doors on his trailer and pulling bags out onto the ground. I stood there peering into the darkness wondering where the lake was hiding.  He had me drag several bags over to a place about eighty yards from the truck and empty them onto the ground.  They were filled with decoys.  Mostly mallards, but many different sizes and shapes.  Then he dragged over two very big bags.  He said they were our blinds.

While I scattered the decoys over the field, Donald set up the blinds.  I had never seen anything like them.  They were basically two large metal cloth covered frames with cutouts for openings.  The coverings were painted to look like two humongous ducks, Each one standing about 7 feet tall.

By now it was getting light enough to see my surroundings.  The lake was about 40 yards away to the southeast, the field appeared to be full of ducks (the decoys), and in the middle of the ducks were two massive ducks that appeared to belong on a carousel ride.  I questioned Donald about whether or not the real ducks would be fooled, but he just looked at me as though I was dumber than the ducks.

Well we climbed inside the two giant ducks along with our shotguns, stools for sitting, dogs for fetching, blankets for staying warm, and thermoses of coffee for staying awake.  As it was getting lighter, the birds were beginning to fly by.  Soon many had landed around us to feed among the decoys.  The two sumo-ducks did not warrant so much as a sideways glance. 

As the sun made its appearance Donald and I were able to pop out of the top of our blinds to bring down the incoming birds.  The noise from the shotguns caused some feeding disturbances, but the ducks on the ground stayed around feeding.  When the dogs exited to fetch the downed birds, the live ones just moved aside and kept on eating.  This repeated until we had our limits.  However, the moment we exited the duck-shaped blinds, the feeding birds left in a mass scramble to get into the air and as far away from us as they could get.

By 10am we had the trailer and truck loaded for the return trip.  As Donald picked the two bags of ducks he noticed my bag was heavier than his.  At first he thought I had harvested an extra bird, but upon emptying the bags and recounting for himself, he realized the difference was simply I had brought down a couple of very large birds. 

On the drive home Donald complained more than once about how much larger my ducks were.  Finally, in order to change the subject a bit, I asked why the two giant duck-shaped blinds worked so well.

The reply was simple.  “When it comes to ducks, size doesn't matter."

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