Today was the first day of duck season in Virginia. So I got up at 5:00, got into my long underwear and waders and headed out to a area of flooded timber to try my luck. Since I was going to be hunting on pulic land, I was worried that someone would already be set up in the spot that I had been looking at. Fortunately, nobody was there when I arrived at 5:45.
It was below freezing when I started out to find the perfect spot. I broke through a thin skin of ice on the water as I tramped through. This would be the first time I had used waders and I was surprised when I would sink to my knee in the mud and leaves. I stayed dry and warm and that's the whole point of waders.
I found what looked like a good spot. A small point of land about 3 feet above the water with plenty of brush for me to hide in. I got out my decoys and started to set up my spread.
After setting up a few, I heard a loud snort and cough behind me. It scared me to death. I looked around and didn't see a thing since it was still dark. I hopped back up on top of the point where my shotgun was. Not that I could see anything to shoot at but I felt better about being closer to it.
Then I started to hear more snorts and coughs coming from several sources. There was a lot swishing coming from the water. I got out my flashlight and shined it over the water and saw 6 sets of eyes shining back at me. They were otters and they were curious about what I was doing. I relaxed considerably as I watched them swim about.
I watched them for about five minutes and it started to lighten up. Then I heard a buzzing of wings coming up from behind me. I froze as they came nearer. Suddenly, about 8 wood ducks flew right over me and turned to head down the water. It was neat to see them. I was amazed at how loud they were flying through the air. I looked at my watch, it was 6:05. Fifteen more minutes to shooting time. I set out the last of my dekes and settled into the brush.
Then another flight of woodies crossed in front of me from left to right and put in the water near the road. I couldn't see them because of the brush and I didn't want to stand up and scare them off. Hopefully, they'll get curious and swim up to me.
It was now 6:20. I heard several shots off in the distance as other duck hunters tried to get the ducks in their decoys. Minutes passed as I waited for the woodies to come my way. The otters were still playing around. The woodies made a loud splash and protest as an otter got too close. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a duck moving through my spread. I slowly turned to look and realized that it was one of my dekes and it was moving on it's own! Suddenly, a head popped up in front of it. An otter had gotten tangled up in the deke's line. He quickly got himself free and moved on.
I hadn't heard the woodies in awhile. I decided to try and sneak up on them and hopefully get a shot off when they got up off the water. I walked in a crouch over to where they had been and saw nothing. They were gone. I have no idea how they got out of there without me hearing. Then a black duck hen buzzed my dekes and headed on down the pond. I was too far away to get off a shot.
That was incentive enough to get back in my spot and see if anything else came. There had been more shooting in the distance and I hoped that the ducks would get stirred up enough and come my way. Sure enough, a group of what looked like pintails flew just out of range and land about 75 yards from me. They had landed just past another point. As I looked at it, I decided that I could walk all the way to that point and they wouldn't be able to see me.
I made my way to them. When I got to the point, I realized that the water didn't go back as far on the other side and I spooked the ducks. I put my gun up and quickly squeezed off three shots which I knew were futile. They were too far away.
In my excitement, I left my extra shells back on the bank. So, I headed back. As I tramped back to my spot, my boot pressed up against a stick stuck in the mud. I looked down and it had punctured my brand new waders. Watertight integrity had been compromised. My day was done.
I got back to my spot and started to pack up. Then I turned my attention to my dekes. I had to wade to get them. This was not going to be fun. I took a step into the water and felt nothing. Maybe my waders have some sort of self sealing feature. I continued to pick up my dekes and then I felt it. A slow, cold feeling taking over my right foot. There was a leak. It didn't feel like it was flooding, just a trickle. I had all the deks in the bag but two. One appeared to have drifted away from where I placed it. I picked it up and saw that the line had been chewed through, presumably by an otter. I then headed for the deke who had taken an otter ride. As I waded out to it, the water got higher and higher until I could go no further without flooding out. I tried to reach it with a stick with no luck. I shrugged, nothing I could do about it, I'd have to leave it.
I loaded my stuff in the truck and headed home. On the way, I passed a field with about 30 Canada geese feeding 20 feet from the road. I pulled over to look at them. They put a few more feet between us but there must have been too much good stuff to eat since they stayed put. As I scanned the gaggle, I saw a red collar on one of the geese. My mind raced, goose is in season, isn't it? I fumbled for my book of regs to check. Then I stopped. They were on private land and I couldn't tell whose it was. So I headed on down the road to home and dry socks.
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