Sunday, January 29, 2012

Duck Hunt With First Light Gear's Down Patrol

Back in August, Matt and I joined Josh (with FLG) and Tommy to make the road trip to the International Waterfowl Expo in Arkansas. We had a great time and talked about getting together for a duck hunt sometime during the season. Josh and Tommy live about 2 hours East of us near the Arkansas river. Over the course of the season, our schedules never meshed until 2 weeks ago when I called Josh and found that we were both free on the 21st. We planned to meet up at 5 am on Saturday and hunt an area of trees with standing water that was only about 4 feet deep.

My alarm goes off at 1:50am. This is what we do for fun? I get to Matt's at 3am and we get on the road. We pull up to Josh's office just before 5am and get suited up. We get to the spot and setup with Josh's G&H Decoys that are Texas rigged. The decoys are setup in less than 5 minutes and have the 3 mojos out shortly thereafter. We are all sitting just inside the treeline by about 5-10 yards and in a line 5 yards apart. This should allow us to fully ambush any birds that commit to the spread. 15 minutes before shooting light, shots start ringing out from the fields and water around us. 15 minutes early? Everyone's taken a shot a minutes or 2 prior to the actual shooting time, but a quarter of an hour prior is ridiculous. We wait until shooting light even though a flock of 8 birds came in a few minutes before. We hold ourselves to a higher standard and will set the example rather than follow it.

A few minutes after legal shooting, a couple birds dive bomb into the spread. Being in the woods, looking at the flooded area, with thick woods behind it as well, the area was much darker than shooting over open water like we are used to. The cameras weren't able to be used for probably 30 minutes. With us being set in a line, there is nothing that needs to be said about who takes shots other than "take 'em". It is much easier to pick your shots on birds hunting this way rather than in a blind with other hunters right on your elbows. The number of birds wasn't very high, so we were getting 1 or 2 birds coming in here and there. It was amazing to see them come out of nowhere and drop 100-200 feet straight down as they committed to the decoys. Even if they saw us pull up to shoot, it was too late. They had to stop their descent and fly completely vertically to attempt to bail out. If birds made it half way into the spread, they weren't leaving.

We had a group of 5 birds start to drop in. 2 break in a little faster than the other 3 and then decide to flare about 25% of the way in. As they start to flare, the words are spoken, "take 'em". 3 guns erupt as the birds exit through the top of the trees. I am following a drake as he flies directly over me. My first shot is off, then I pick a hole through the trees and pull the trigger a second time. He immediately folds and gravity takes over. I yell "I got him" and Matt exclaims he also hit one. Then, splash splash. 2 ducks drop into the water with force. A while later, we have a flock of about 100 birds circle, but we can't get any to break off and into our set. It was fun to watch them circle several times and hear nothing but the whistling of wings. It was almost deafening as they skimmed the tree-tops.

We ended the day with 11 mallards. It was slow with 5 guys there, but the experience was more than worth it in hunting outside of our element. As usual, Tommy's cooking was spot on and it was great to hang out with him, Josh, and Earnie. There was a lot of laughter and gunpowder was burned. Thanks for having us out, Josh. This is what we do for fun.

Bonus video from our day after Christmas hunt:

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