Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The best ideas I've ever had...this year

North Carolina Duck seasons like this one are hopefully an abberration. This one in particular has caused some major migraines for me. Each year, I re-perfect my decoy stand to be suitable to all traditionally encountered species. Everyone does that. Now it's just fine tuning. And heavy rigging! Still, my two major problems were leaky waders and an inability to scout. These had to be fixed, and boy did I do it...

First of all, waders, aside from a good number of decoys and a boat (and dog training for many of you) are the most expensive investment a hunter can make for waterfowl. Let me just say this. I've had several pairs of waders - all from the El Cheapo to the La Prima. They all leak, right in the junk, first time out. Maybe the third time if you're lucky. Also, since I layout hunt a good bit, taking water over the spray skirt and down the neck happens occassionally. No one would ever accuse me of being a large dude. In fact, I weigh 150 pounds. There is no wader that fits me, either. To me, it seems rewarding fat people with fittable waders is unfair. But I refuse to look like 75% of the goons I encounter. Seeing the belly button outline in one's waders is disgusting. Either way, I swim in my oversized waders. A size 10 wader, which is what fits my feet, was tailored for a man who weighs 100 pounds more than me. And, my waders, since they are baggy, get pinched and rolled, and scraped on everything I maneuver through. And son, do I do some maneuverin'.

Anyway, my most recent waders were from the big box store, sized 10, fitted gigantic. My girlfriend and I can both fit in them simultaneously. They lasted three trips before leaking. I tolerated it the rest of 2009. I dealt with it all of 2010. This season, though, I refused to buy more because I knew and know the new ones will leak. Instead, I invested in the stockingfoot fishing waders. I wear them like longjohns! They are a snug fit, thankfully, and add extra warmth on those cold days. Sure, with weather like we have had, I might sweat a little bit, but I'd rather sweat than freeze. Either way, once I put my older waders onver my stockingfoot waders, I can literally fill the "overwaders" with water and the "underwaders" never take any water on, even if they, too, have a leak (which they already do). The water pressure is to low to force water through the neoprene barrier. For a comfortable touch, I wear thin slacks beneath the "underwaders." I look like a fool at the ramp when I continue to remove layers of pants, but I feel like a fox when I'm high and dry. The $60 stockingfoot waders were a great investment, as they prolonged the life of the original $200 waders. And since the "underwaders" are never exposed to nature's surfaces, they too are kept abrasion free! I'm a genius, I know. And very warm on frost mornings!

Problem 2 was my inability to find time to scout. The general rule is to scout more than you hunt. I hunt 40 days per regular duck season, and 60 days total when including the sea duck zone and season. I can't scout any, except of course, while I hunt. And that's effective, but birds are so scattered by 9:00, you'll only find superficially sized rafts. Anyway, birds always stage up at night. I decided to attempt night scouting. Boating at night is always dangerous, but I even the odds by taking communication equipment, beacons, and the like. The secret to scouting at night, though, is to go offshore. Pulling the boat to suspected rafting sites, and then killing the motor, allows me to hear restless rafts lift, feed, croak, fly, and everything else. It has truly transformed my success. I've only done it four times, but each hunt afterward proved to be a success. Still, it requires an ability to resist the urge to get to close to a flock. Shooting roosting birds is dangerous as it can force them to leave. Pushing birds off of a roost with a motor is just as risky. If you can get within 300 yards of a flock, then mark it with a gps, you can return and set-up. The large flocks will separate at daybreak, then return to feed. Of course, gun shots will make them weary, but a layout boat is the key to success. You can hunt these giant rafts from a float rig. Forget it. It's not going to work, and it's going to ruin other hunters' chances at doing it the right way.

Anyway, these two things worked for me. Hopefully, you cna use it to your advantage if you're wise and/or brave enough. When going out on any boat trip, you should always leave a float plan with someone that states where you're going, and when you'll return - also - take a change of clothes and wear a PFD at all times when night scouting. Also, check regulations. Some places don't allow entrance on land or water after sunset and before sunrise. And please light up your boats well!

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