Monday, December 10, 2012

Finally Some Green, and a Long-Tailed Surprise.

It's been an absolutely miserable fowling season thus far, but Tess and I finally got out for a little duck hunting yesterday on the shallow, half-empty sandbox that is our local reservoir. We were hoping to catch a few mallards riding the front south. We're still hoping, and waiting, because wherever they are, they sure as hell aren't here. At least not yet. This drake and the hen he accompanied were not only the only mallards to give the decoys a look, they were damn near the only mallards on the lake. She's still there, but he's in my freezer.

Hard to believe this is the first duck I've shot (or shot at) this season, but hopefully things will pick up some as we get into the late season. There's no real chance for significant rainfall in the short-to-medium term, so you either must recalibrate expectations to fit the climatological reality or give up. I can't say that I like the new normal, but as that annoying, over-used and utterly useless catchphrase goes, it is what it is. At least Tess, who has certainly gotten the short end of the field-time stick this year, got the chance to get out of the yard...

That lone mallard, however, was not the only duck I shot yesterday. Not long after I shot him, I got quite the surprise when a single hen long-tailed duck plopped itself into my diver spread and shortly thereafter was plopped into my waiting hands. We get very few sea ducks here on the plains of western Oklahoma, and this one was certainly a lifer for me, and more than made up for the dearth of dabblers.

This makes species number sixteen for Tess, and her first (and likely last) sea duck. Tragically, however, my camera battery died on me and I was unable to get any pictures of Tess either on the retrieve or with the duck in the field. I don't usually get birds mounted (too cheap, too poor, too hungry) but since I don't have an appropriately tasteful and artistic photographic record of the moment, the bird is in the freezer and will be going to a taxidermist when I get some money.

I did snap a few pics when I got home, but of course that's a poor substitute for a good field photo in natural light and surroundings. Plus it was almost dark, so I apologize in advance for the crappy photograph. I offer it not in pride, but only as photographic proof that I did, indeed, shoot a long-tailed duck. She's much prettier than that horrid photograph indicates, and I think it'll be a nice mount.

I have no idea what she was doing so outside her normal range, here in the arid sandhills of far northwest Oklahoma, and I can only guess as to where she was heading. But here in Oklahoma she shall reside from now on, or at least until I move somewhere else. I do confess, however, to a twinge of guilt for having shot her so far from home and others of her kind, and strictly as a bucket list trophy. I don't often do that, and I suppose that to question yourself - however mildly - over such things when you do, is a natural reaction to the never-insignificant act of killing.


  1. Great photo and great prose.
    Here on the Atlantiv Flyway we do not have much action either. Like you...we are waiting for cold weather and some fronts to move the birds South to the Delaware and Chesapeake bay area where we hunt.

  2. hmmmm, an old squaw in Oklahoma, that is odd. a friend of mine's father shot a cinnamon teal here on the Chesapeake a few years back and a speckle belly not long after.

  3. The late Floyd Mansell once dragged me down to the Magdalena Sewage lagoons to see-- he refused to tell me! It was a flock of American scoters and he was afraid they would be gone and I would think he was nuts.

    The nearest permanent water is in the Rio 26 miles away and 2500 feet below.
    I have seen ibises and pelicans at he ponds, both on migration in late summer, but they breed on the northern plains. The last scoters I had seen before these were off Duxbury, near where I lived before I came to New Mexico 30 years before, in the Massachusetts winter surf, eating mussels...

  4. Just found your blog. I also have an A$ and was wondering about the stock on yours. Did you coat it with something or is it a synthetic replacement?

  5. Chad, sorry for the delay. It's a synthetic stock, Ram-Lne, I believe, that started out life black, but I rattle-canned it with some Krylon "Stone Accents" textured paint. It looked goofy and didn't really hold up this season so I'm going to strip it, put a base layer of the Krylon "Fusion" plastic spray-paint down as a primer coat, them spray the stone accents over that, then another layer of the fusion in a more tan color this time instead of that stupid green.

    Either that or just say to hell with it and buy a pre-painted Bell & Carlson..

    What I'd really like to do is find a nice wood stock for it, but don't really want to pay what they're going for.