Justin, my husband (and hunting buddy) had been scouting public hunting ground for two days. He came home the day before the opening of duck season and said that he had picked a prime spot. I reviewed and approved the idea, and then headed of to work. I work at the Sporting Goods counter at the local Wal-Mart. I kept busy all day long pointing to the shotgun shells, giving some advice, selling permits and listening to hunters discuss their spots on public ground. I couldn’t stay out of the conversation any longer.
“So you guys have your spots all picked out? We do, too. We’re hunting some public land,” I said.
“You and everyone else! Public land is a big competition.” one of them replied. I became worried. My home hunting territory was Norfolk, Nebraska. Competition for spots was huge- especially “Wood Duck” (the only good public hunting area for ducks). If you weren’t on the lake at 3:30am, you had NO spot. This was my first duck season in South Dakota, and I worried that it would be just as crowded as it was in Nebraska. I was so worried in fact, that I phoned my husband and told him that everyone was talking about hunting public. I was worried our spot would be occupied if we arrived out there at 3:00 am.
“What time do you want to head out then?” he asked.
“I don’t know… I can’t get off work until 11:00 p.m.,” I replied.
“Let’s just camp out there, then.” Justin suggested.
“Ok. Just pack up your truck with the decoys and the guns so when I get off work, we can head right out.” I said.
11:00 a.m. rolled around and I darted home. Justin told me that his friends from work wanted to tag along on our hunt and would rendezvous with us at the lake in the early morning. Justin had his pickup loaded down with our four dozen duck keel decoys, mojo duck, guns, ammo and calls.
“Let’s drive both trucks out there so if other people show up, they will think our spot is fuller.” Justin suggested. So that is what we did!
Around 12:00 a.m. we pulled into the parking area of our spot. My truck had a topper, so I laid out a blanket and slept in the back of my pickup while Justin opted for the comfort of his truck seat. I could not sleep. I was too excited for the sun to come up and ducks to fly. I must have dozed off because I woke up half frozen. I peered at the cell phone. 2:00 a.m. I scrambled out of my truck and snuck into the passenger seat of Justin’s truck. He woke up and we decided to sleep a bit longer. Three thirty a.m. headlights woke us up.
“I think that’s the guys,” Justin said between yawns.
The truck pulled up along side our pickups. A golden retriever’s excited bark pierced through the stillness of the night. Jake, Jeremy and Jack got out of the pickup and walked over to us.
“Let’s get the deeks out there,” Jake said. (‘Deek’ is the South Dakota short version of decoy). Within minutes we were hauling all the gear to the lakeside. Since I didn’t have a pair of waders, I held the spotlight and tossed the decoys to the guys while Louie, the golden retriever sniffed the beach thoroughly and jumped into the water for a swim.
Once our four dozen and Jake’s dozen decoys were spread just so, we headed back up to the pickups for breakfast.
“What the heck is all of this?!” exclaimed Jake as Justin pulled out the propane griddle and frying pan.
“This is duck hunting Nebraska style.” Justin said as he began to whip up scrambled eggs.
“You Nebraskans are just weird!” Jeremy laughed. No one cracked Nebraskan jokes while they stuffed their faces with scrambled eggs, sausage patties and milk!
“I’m sure the other duck hunters aren’t eating this good.” I said as we finished up the sausages.
Around 4:45 a.m. we finally saw another group of hunters arrive at the other side of the lake.
“You South Dakotans are lazy!” Justin exclaimed.
“By now they would have been out of luck in Nebraska!” I added. By this time, it had begun to spit rain. Not enough to matter much, but enough to make me thankful I’d brought my camouflaged rain suit.
We suited up in our raingear and headed to the lakeside to make our own blinds with reeds and cattails. This was one of my favorite things to do. Since I’m small, it doesn’t take me long, and my nature-made blinds look pretty good!
By 6:34 the sun had peaked. We had our guns loaded and the first shot of the day had rung out a few lakes over, and the day begun.
“To the right!” Jake called out.
We began to hail call a group of five mallards. One landed behind a decoy, but Jeremy shot at it anyway.
“I thought I was going to roast that decoy!” Jeremy laughed as the scared duck flew away.
“I can’t believe you missed him and the decoy!” Jake quipped.
“Left!” I called out. A small group of teal came in. I took a shot at the middle one the exact moment Jeremy did. We had no idea who really shot the first duck, but I am sure it was me. I had a bead right on the duck, and Jeremy missed the first one. Louie barked and leapt into the water eager to retrieve the first duck of the season.
The whole day consisted of ducks flocking in small groups. I think there were enough hunters out that we just kept them jumping from lake to lake. All in all the day was a great hunt. I got two teal, two mallards and one gadwall, so I was pretty proud of myself. The only one in the group who beat me in ducks harvested was my husband. Jeremy, Jake and Jack together had three ducks. I was pretty thrilled that I had shown them all up. Who said girls can’t hunt well?!
The day would have been perfect, had it not been for a guest who showed up. The game warden. I wasn’t worried. I work in the sporting goods department- I know the rule book left to right, forwards and backwards. No worries.
The game warden approached us and asked us how we had done with ducks so far. Then he proceeded to check our guns. I knew that Jack would be in trouble. This was his first hunt and he openly admitted to not having a plug in his gun. He received a $66.00 fine. Jeremy checked out okay with his permit and his gun. Justin checked out okay with his permit and gun. Jake checked out okay with his gun, but he could not find his permit. The game warden would have just looked it up on the computer, but the federal waterfowl stamp is just a stamp- it won’t show up on the permit computer, so there was no way to prove that Jake did indeed purchase one. He got a $66.00 fine also. I checked out okay with my permit. The game warden recognized me from the sporting goods counter. I handed him my gun. I was confident until he took out his magazine measuring stick and unloaded my gun. The stick was able to fit in too far into my gun.
“Do you have a plug in this gun, Stacie?” he asked.
I was horrified. “Yes- I put it in there myself the day I bought the gun!”
He opened up my gun and the plug was right there.
“I guess you do have a plug. Can I see your shells?” he asked. I handed him four shells. Three fit into the magazine and one in the action. I could have died!
“There is a bit of a problem…” he said.
“It looks that way.” I murmured. I had forgotten that the gun plug I put in the new gun was from my old gun. My old gun, a Mossberg 500 only shot 2 ¾ and 3 inch shells. My new gun is a Mossberg 835 Ultimate Mag, which holds 2 ¾, 3 and 3 ½ inch shells. There inlaid the problem. The game warden understood and knew I had no idea prior to him checking it. He let me off with a written warning, which went over great with the guys who did get tickets.
“Must be nice to be a chick! You get away with everything!” Jake grumbled.
“Only when it comes to tickets.” I replied. Jake rolled his eyes.
We opted to pack up and head back since Jake couldn’t hunt without the permit, Jack’s gun wasn’t legal and neither was mine. All in all, it was a fun day that I won’t soon forget!
~Word of advice: Double check EVERYTHING!!~
© January 2007