I got the text at 2:36 p.m. this past Tuesday:
"I got the hot spot. We killin em tomorrow?"
It was from a hunting buddy of mine and you already know what my answer was.
The things we do just to kill a couple of mangy ducks.
EDN photo by Matt Heinrichs
So at 6 a.m. with Molli, my black lab, in tow and after a quick stop to pick up some coffee and doughnuts we were on our way to a slough that my friend said was holding between 150-200 ducks.
He said it was mostly a mixed bag of gadwall, mallards, teal, wood duck and some spoonies. I didn't care what was on it. Since opening weekend the local birds had been stale (or at least that was my excuse for my ineptitude) and I had been waiting for a nice push of migrators ever since the cold front moved through earlier in the week.
My brother and I had been out the day before. However, high winds and driving rain kept the birds grounded and we aborted our mission early.
Wednesday morning was a different story.
The westerly winds had calmed down slightly overnight and the rain had subsided. When we approached the marsh we kicked up so many ducks and geese it looked like a tornado spinning off of the water in the early morning light. Today was going to be fun! Or so we thought.
I hadn't hunted this particular slough for a few years, but had a good idea of the lay of the land.
After slipping into our waders and grabbing as much gear as we dared to carry, we headed out.
We walked through the tall switch grass that lined the slough until we reached our destination and promptly headed into the marsh.
We both immediately sank down into shin-deep muck and began reaching for a handful of reeds to help pry ourselves out of the sticky situation.
This is the point where we each should have said,?"To hell with this!" and turned around. Unfortunately pride and the sound of whistling wings proved to strong a pull, so onward we marched.
Skipping from reed clump to reed clump we made our way deeper into the marsh. Finally we reached the end of the weeds and started tossing out decoys.
With a slight flip of the wrist I sent the first decoy of the morning sailing 10 yards out into the slough when PLOP, it belly flopped into a soupy muddy mess. I turned to glare at my friend.
"What? They were in here yesterday I swear!" he said. "It must get deeper a little farther out."
So we started heaving decoys with all of our might and our efforts were met with a pleasant SPLASH.
After unloading the two dozen blocks we turned to find a comfortable seat amongst the wind-battered, muddy clumps of reeds.
It was slim pickings to say the least.
I found a good clump to sit my behind on and rested as my feet sank deeper and deeper into the muck.
"This will be fun when we decide to pack it up," I said with a chuckle.
With some time left before daylight we sat and talked as the wind started to pick up slightly and a sprinkling of sleet began bouncing off our coats.
As the skies began to lighten we noticed a small raft of ducks swimming into the decoys and just as my cell phone buzzed to let me know it was shooting time, the first volley of mallards was lighting in the decoys.
I?stood up and promptly dropped the lone drake of the bunch. The blast from my shotgun sent the slough into a flurry as bird after bird lifted off the water! A pretty good start to the morning!
A short while later a flock of spoonies made their way into shooting range and my friend and I both dropped one from the flock.
By this time the wind had really began to blow and while we had flock after flock of ducks attempt to land in the blocks, none would finish completely.
Finally a threesome of gadwall worked up the courage to land in our spread and after missing with my first two shots I?pulled a double with my third!
With the wind now howling out of the west, the ducks were having nothing to do with us, opting to land clear out in the middle of the open water.
We watched as flock after flock dropped down from the heavens and bypassed our spread on their way to the middle of the slough.
Eventually the wind began to blow so hard that it literally pushed the two inches of water our decoys were sitting in completely out of the area! Our decoys were now sitting cockeyed on their keels on a muddy flat. Great.
"Well we aren't going to kill anything like this,"?I said to my buddy. "Let's pick 'em up and get out of here."
As we both stood up, the gravity of our situation finally set in.
We were both now thigh deep in the muck that, thanks to the high winds, had dried slightly turning it from muck to a loose variation of concrete.
After struggling for 10 minutes I?was finally able to free one leg and after a few minutes of rocking back and forth, I was able to pull myself out of my nasty predicament.
My friend, however, was not so lucky.
He sat there with a look of desperation on his face. "I?honestly don't think I can get out of here,"?he said.
"Just keep trying," I replied. "I'm going to pick up the decoys and I'll come back to help you."
So I?slowly sloshed through the mud flat picking up decoys on my way as he kept struggling to free himself from the slough's stranglehold.
He tried everything he could think of and the more he struggled, the deeper he sank.
I?finally made my way back to the reeds and by that time he was up to his hips in the concrete slurry.
I set the decoy bags down and found a firm base on a clump of weeds. We locked hands and I pulled with everything I?had. He didn't budge.
In a final act of desperation, he climbed out of his waders and stood in his socks and jeans in the mud as we tried to pull his waders loose. They simply stretched like a rubber band and snapped back as we let them go.
"This is a lost cause,"?he said. "I'm just going to take off running for dry land and hope I don't fall, or hit a soft spot."
The scene that ensued is hard to depict in writing.
My friend took off running across the mud and the muck like a sasquatch with his backside on fire, mud flinging in every direction until he finally collapsed in the switch grass.
My lungs burned from laughter as I snatched up all of our gear and slowly ambled towards dry land.
Caked with mud, we were both silent for the short walk back to my vehicle, contemplating on the morning's happenings, when finally, upon arriving at the parking area we both broke the silence at once.
"Why do we do this to ourselves?"