Bitten by Waterfowl Bug.
by Bruce Thibodeau

If you ask anyone in the world of waterfowl hunting, just how they got into it.
You will get a variety of answers. Some will tell you they had family that hunted
waterfowl, Some will tell you they had friends that hunted waterfowl. It is a very
rare one that will tell you they stumbled blindly into it. Yet for all of that, I am
one of those who stumbled blindly into it and lacked the sense to avoid being
bitten.

I have decided to do us all a favor and too tell you my story in hopes that
others will be aware of the bug before they try. For those of you already
bitten, well smile and remember.

It all began with the purchase in a mid November of our first Labrador pup.
The breeder told me how the pups were born August 31st, and the mother
and pups all were in the truck that afternoon heading north for a goose
opener. Knowing the pups came from a dog that was a hunter. I thought well I
may have to try it if nothing more to allow the dog to do what it was bread for.
Besides I thought it may give me something to do before bow season.

The pup grew and we got the basics down of sit, stay , heal, fetch , hold, give
and such . Then came that spring day when I introduced it to water. It loved
the tub, yet when it seen all that water at the pond down the road it wasn’t
having no part of that. So in April I braved the cold and wadded out with the
pup to get it swimming. I can only tell you April is not a fun month to be waist
deep in water with only jeans and a t-shirt on.

We progressed through the summer with using a 2 liter pop bottle with a bit of
water added for weight for a retrieving training dummy. It turned out to be just
big enough she could not get her mouth around the bottle, this caused her to
have to grab the neck of the bottle. That turned out to be one of the best
training items could have come up with it taught her to be gentle and to learn
to approach the target from a proper angle. It taught her to pay attention to
the little detail of where and how to grab something.

 

 

 

Along came the day we awaited the waterfowl opener. I was as excited that
night as a child for Christmas. I only had a pair of decoys and I had them
rigged with a double chord so I could throw them and the anchor would drop.
Yet I would still have a jerk string on both so I could easily recover them. A
single shot shotgun, 2 decoys, and a box of shells and off to the edge of the
creek I knew had ducks using it.

We awoke to a nice fall chill to the air, we walked away from home and
crossed the bridge at the end of our road that leads to the forest. Down the
trails using the flashlight and along the ridge of the creek to our desired spot.
I set the gun and the shells into the small blind I had built. I unpacked the two
decoys and prepared to throw the first one into the early morning darkness. I
checked the spot to throw to with the flashlight.

A perfect toss high arc, and the comforting splash as it slapped the water. A
tug on the chord and it righted itself. As this took a brief moment, I reached to
my mouth for the light and heard. SPLASH!!!
The dog hit the water. In the split moment I knew she was going to get tangled
in the chord. I whispered, “ Off, No, Come, Black (the dogs name) Come!” She
was on a one way swim to the decoy, I felt the tug of the jerk line as it
tightened as she tangled in it. I let it go.

I began the process of pleading, “Black, NO , OFF, COME, come on leave it
alone!”. Then that Whisper Yell, that only an outdoorsmen is aware of the one
when you try to really emphasize something yet want to be quiet still. “ BLACK
NO, DROP IT OFF, Oh to hell with it bring it here girl.”. Yup I was the person
who trained my dog.

My Dog had made the absolute perfect retrieve just as I trained her to do. She
brought me back a plastic item I threw into the water, in this case my decoy. I
tethered her to the tree and tossed the second one out.

 

 

 

 

I then sat and began to try to puzzle out the tangle at my feet. About that time
I heard this strange whistling sound come from above me and from all around
and every direction. I ducked. Wonderful just what I needed was bats
attracted to the bugs from the light. Then splashes everywhere in front of me.
I quickly realized this was ducks. I turned the light off abandoned the tangled
decoy and tossed it to the blind. Untied the dog, and rushed her into the blind.
I sat and listened as splashes continued. The sky was purple, and beginning
to become lighter.

Then the whistle and cackling of wood ducks began. I sat and listened. I
checked my watch and realized I had 10 minutes to shooting light. I sat for
what seemed an eternity. The ducks talked and more came in. I could see
them hit the water. The dog was excited and on edge. Finally shooting light. I
placed a shell into the shotgun . I seen a duck coming in I raised the shotgun
and the bird disappeared into the tree line. I got a quick lesson on ducks in a
wooded area. They become invisible when they have a dark forest as a
backdrop.

I sat and waited more on edge and certain that all the birds would be gone
before I could see them to shoot. Finally I was able to make the birds out from
the backdrop of the forest. I raised the shotgun and swung through as I had
read to do. The shotgun went off and the bird hit the water. The dog was out
the blind and into the water. I lowered the shotgun, and thought Hmm this isn’t
so hard. I watched as my dog swam past the spot I seen the bird hit. I thought,
oh you silly dog you missed it.

I had read to let them work so I did she swam another 5 yards and stopped
swam in a circle and suddenly poof she was under water. In shock I see when
she comes up she has a bird in her mouth. I called good girl and she began
to swim back. She delivered the bird to hand and I sat there as proud as I
could be all alone with just my dog and a drake wood duck. The happiness
on my face never left.

 

 

 

I did manage another duck, and I also learnt to be much more humble as the
second duck took 13 shells to bring me another bird. That day the dog and I
left the forest. I realized as I walked into the house I was no longer a bow
hunter. I had become a waterfowl addict. I soon had a pump shotgun, Waders,
parka, dog vest, decoys and more decoys calls and anything else I could got
on sale.

Bow hunting well the bow sits in the closet hanging from a hanger (its
recurve). I have become a Labrador duck, and goose fanatic and out home
shows it. The only thing I take time off waterfowl for is firearm deer. Otherwise
you can find me usually , in a back wooded area. With my lab and a backpack
full of decoys. We are in the field be it alone or with others around 50 days
out of the 60 day seasons recently.

So I end this with the warning. I told you its addictive it will overpower your life.
You will not think of anything that does not involve water birds and labs. Yet if
you decide you want to try to hunt waterfowl for the first time. You can always
drop me an email and I will do everything I can to help you with what has
turned into not just a passion but my family’s life.

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