Monday, August 30, 2010

Wigeon fishing

Bought my new 2010-2011 duck stamp a few days ago and when the clerk handed it to me I was pleasantly surprised to see that this year's stamp features an American wigeon (I know I could have found out what it was on the Internet prior to buying it, but where's the fun and surprise in that?).

I have a special fondness for the wigeon. Not only is it one of the most beautiful ducks out there (if I'm ever lucky enough to shoot a storm wigeon it's going straight on my wall and cost be damned) it was the very first duck I ever shot, way back in 1986. Or 1987. To be honest I can't remember off the top of my head. I do, however, remember a friend and me sneaking over the dam of a farm pond on a foggy December morning (Decoys? Calls? Dogs? Yeah, right...) with a load of number fours (lead, even!) stuffed into my 1100. There was a group of ducks on the pond just on the other side of the dam and we by gawd were gonna get ourselves a few of them. We had no idea what kind of ducks they were (uh, the quacking kind, right?) or how many points (it was a point system back then) they might be. But we did think to bring a fishing pole so we could collect our ducks, just like they didn't do it on TV...

 We burst over the top of the dam with a whoop and scattered the flock of ducks into the air, emptying both our guns in a thunderous volley. Silence fell. The ducks did not, and as our small flotilla of empty hulls bobbed in the wake of their sudden, urgent passing, we watched that little flock of ducks fly away. Every single one of them.

"What do we do now?"
"Hell if I know. Think they'll come back?"
"What else are we gonna do?"

So we sat there, one clueless moron hunkered in the grass on either end of the dam, and waited for those ducks, or any ducks, to show up. And five minutes later, they did, whooshing out of the fog like a flight of little jets, impossibly fast. I poked my gun into the sky, pointed it in the general direction of the flock, pulled the trigger and to my utter astonishment watched as a duck cartwheeled out of the sky and into the pond.

I hurriedly retrieved my rod and a few moments later unceremoniously reeled in the first duck I'd ever shot. I was hoping it would be a drake mallard, if for no other reason than that was the only duck I could identify.

"What kind of duck is that?"
"Hell if I know. Maybe it's a canvasback."
"You know what a canvasback looks like?"
"Think they'll come back?"
"What else are we gonna do?"

It wasn't, and they didn't. But I've had a soft spot for the "little poachers" ever since (once I figured out it wasn't, in point of fact, a canvasback...). Every time Tess drops one in my hand I go back to the dam of that pond, freezing my ass off with a rod and reel in my hand, fishing for my first duck.

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