Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bluebill Day

Bluebird days are the bain of the diver hunter's existence. I don't know how I missed the boat, but I did. It's not that I don't like hunting puddle ducks like mallards. In fact, if I kill pintails, I lose control of my bodily functions. Puddle ducks are beautiful. And stupid, save for the pintail and black duck. The others have all made easy acquaintance with several varieties of my diver spreads. Pintails and blacks, though, want their species only, typically. Pintails need 60 or more fakes, and blacks need 3 or less. Anyway, I suppose I love divers, especially the bluebill, for the reckless way the terrify the tops of my decoys with their streaking flight. When passingnearby and overhead, a flock of 'bills sounds like ripping newspaper. They'll work several times over the decoys...a pass to be convinced, a pass to line up, a pass to finally approve, and then - the last pass...before settling into the decoys to purr at their fake brethren. I also enjoy the weather. Diver hunters absolutely must be willing to deal with stout winds and low temps. I don't know why it makes our divers so stir-crazy, but it does. Today was one of those days...

I've got a special place. All duck hunters do. It's one of those places that's in the Top 3 of where my ashes should be scattered. Originally, I liked it because of how productive the location is on certain weather conditions. When those weather conditions persist, it's where I go, every time. Sometimes, I'm optimistic and hunt it when I shouldn't. Most of my friends have shared this spot with me and had success, too. In fact, the spartina marsh has a permanent trail stamped into it from where I pound the ground back and forth between the blind location and the boat hide. But this special place, even when the birds aren't flying well or close enough, sees the same visitors everytime I appear. I don't think anyone else hunts it, but they all drive right by it. On a typical morning or my presence, the water is topped with 36 decoys.  Herters redheads, bluebills, and cans,  all 12 on a longline, then an assortment of other Herter's divers on single lines. Each decoy is hand painted by me. I like knowing that my art imitates nature long enough to bag a few birds. Other things that are constant upon my arrival. The yellowlegs and curlews frequent my point, and often try to return, all while I'm sitting there. They've startled my quite a few times. Willets pass over regularly. Cormorants and gulls always inspect the spread. One loon parks in the spread until I shoot. I like his company!

Today, in the northeast breeze and 25 degree wind chill, I braved the elements. Earlier in the week, and all season for that matter, the 'bills hadn't cooperated. I don't think there here en masse, though. Teal and buffleheads enjoyed the spread most of the season to this point. But today, was a Bluebill Day. Five minutes before legal shooting light, the bravest and hardiest of the divers tested my patience and dared my morals. But who wants a limit before it's legal? I waited and shivered. They delivered. Within seconds of legal shooting time, more bluebills bombarded the decoys. Making just one pass before settling in, I made a clean double. It was the day I had enjoyed so often in seasons' past and finally this season. I just wanted two. One for the table, one for the taxidermist. After inspecting the greenish sheen of their black heads, and the spectacular vermiculation on their backs, it might be two for the taxidermist. I killed what I wanted, with only two shells, and settled in, passing up on the mergansers, avoiding the bonus bluebills, and waiting on the cans. The cans never showed. After enjoying the flight for 30 more minutes, I picked up...happy at my success and happy that even in bad years, bluebills and Mother Nature can almost always deliver before it's too late.

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