No Witnesses

By William Anderson

As I threw out the last decoy right at shooting time I thought, I just did all this work and there won’t be a duck for 100 miles.

After several buddies rejected my invitation to hunt days before and some backouts the following morning, I decided I would go anyway. It was a long haul to the Mississippi River and the Wildlife Management Area I had in mind. The only way to get there and set up before legal shooting time was a 2:30 A.M. alarm and it came early. Switching off the alarm I wondered if I’d actually even slept, but the thought of missing my chance at something special in the flooded timber pulled me out of bed and pointed my nose toward the truck.

The road trip ended in an unlit  gravel and dirt parking lot. I was shocked that there wasn’t another soul in sight. The bordering river had recently flooded the timber and I felt confident that the bad winter storms up north had almost certainly pushed ducks into the area. For the first time in my life, I was apparently the only one that had come to this conclusion. I double checked that the WMA was open that day—it was—and unloaded my kayak at the locked gate. The kayak drag would be right at a mile before I hit water. Waders make less than stellar hiking boots, and kayaks don’t make great sleds on dry ground. 

After reaching floatable water, it would be another 400 yards to the reason for the kayak in the first place: a single drainage ditch, hidden under the knee-deep water. Only twice as wide as my 12-foot kayak was long but deep enough to leave your cap floating while you make your way back to the surface. Into the kayak I went. Thankfully, the float trip was extremely short because somewhere along the mile drag my paddle abandoned me just like the rest of my hunting party. Benelli really made a fine shotgun in the Super Black Eagle I, maybe one of the best waterfowl guns ever, but the shape is all wrong for efficient paddling. None-the-less I made it across the trench with my shotgun paddle, and began hiding the kayak and throwing out decoys.

My fears that all the sweat equity I had just poured into the morning’s adventure would be fruitless were settled. As that last decoy hit the water, I noticed it was light enough to just see the ripples reflecting on the surface. Another reflection caught my eye, this one in motion. I glanced up at 50 mallards backpedaling into the hole. It was a mad rush back to the tree line, then the show began. Another 50 mallards dropped in. Groups of teal buzzed the hole. Massive wads of wood ducks made hard banks through the trees and into shooting range. One group of 30 gadwalls worked in without hitting a wingbeat. It was just me, a wet shotgun, a hedge duck call I had made right before season; the waterfowler’s dream. It all happened without one other human being knowing it. 

I think often of that day, afraid of it never happening that way again. It was a tremendous amount of work for a one-man limit of ducks. If the goal was to kill stacks of ducks, it was a fabulous failure. But a pile of dead birds wasn’t the point. It seems we are so seldom alone in nature anymore. I’d argue that one of the greatest benefits of hunting is having a front row seat to witness moments like this—where God’s created glory is on full display.

From the FE Films Archive

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