Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Ducks I Hate

I like most ducks. Especially bluebills. And redheads. And teals, too! Some ducks drive me nuts. Black ducks can read your mind and smell your deodorant. Pintails are to snotty to hang with your five dozen pintail fakes. Those ignorant jerks almost hate  flying with each other...just  look at them next time you see flying - they look at each other as much as they do anything else. And all that whistling! It's just each one trying to outwhistle the other. I promise. Canvasbacks don't appear around my spread enough. They altogether hate North Carolina, I do believe. Coincidentally, thee\ last three birds I mentioned are the ones that have offered me the fewest shots. However, I have never, ever missed a pintail, I'm 1 for 4 on canvasbacks, and black ducks, well that's another story. But I've missed them in the air, on the water, and while they were sleeping.

Some birds I just absolutely despise, though. Mergansers, the poor things, are what I like to call night ducks. You don't mind looking at them at night, but come light, they are hard to bare. I know there are some people out there they say I should be appreciative of all ducks. Well, you, both of you, can kiss it. Mergansers, all three breeds, are terrible as table fare, hardly pretty, oily, smelly, hard to decoy, and impossible to kill with a gun or cannon. Well, I take that back. I used to shoot them. I didn't know better. However, mergansers have a way of being the test bird for the "good ducks." Virtually every time a good flock of 'bills was working the spread, a merganser would knife the air and land into my decoys. When this happened, one of my less experienced friends would open fire, missing, thus flaring the incoming trophies. ORRRR...the mergansers would spot the fakes, croak, and get out of town. Sure, hooded merganser drakes are pretty. Commons are big and manly. But the hens are just gross creatures. In fact, mergansers kill thousands of wood ducks every year come nesting time. Mergansers are also cavity nesters. They'll raid a cavity, peck the wood duck hen to death, eat the babies, lay eggs, and hatch more future baby killers. That's the truth. So in hindsight, I might want to shoot a few extra, but I still don't like seafood. So I think I'll just save my shells.

Coots are ridiculous. They're noisy. They're sporting on the wing, but God does it take an effort to get them to fly. Old Curritucker's called them Blue Petes. They ate them and loved them. I think they are a waterlogged wild chicken. They are a heavy bird, with lots of meat, too. But man-a-live is it dark colored. Burgundy almost. The worst part about a coot is that they are like a lighthouse to other ducks. Coots raft up by the hundreds. No decoy spread can match them in realism or numbers. And what's worse, the clumsy coot, when feeding, can't even eat all of it's grass, so ducks like wigeon can steal it. A raft of coots, to most ducks, means safety and food. And coots are so dumb that you can't even bust the flocks up. If you shoot one, the rest will all fly together and return in about 45 seconds. Other less than redeeming characteristics about coots are too numerous to mention, but the ever-present Raleigh Riff Raff hunter, who ventures out east, has a "well, I drove all the way down here, I might as well kill something, even if I plan to feed it to the dog" attitude and opens fire, flaring trophies from us Good Hunters. But coots aren't killers, like mergansers.

Snow Geese are almost as bad as coots. Clannish and wary, they're not worth hunting in North Carolina. I've encountered them only by chance and have seen only one harvested by my hunting party. It was with a flock of swans. The only thing I don't like about them is that they are indeed so difficult  to hunt. When you are in them, you've got them where you want them. Most often though, any attack on "snogs" takes at least 500 decoys. The Big Boys in the Midwest chase them with 1000 full bodies...all flocked white. Apparently, they are horrible to the taste buds, too. I'll say that the one I had wasn't awful...just bad. The worst part about snogs, though, is that there are so many that they are literally destroying their breeding grounds. There's not enough space to support them all...even the foxes can't keep them eaten. Drastic measures must be taken to prevent snogs from having a massive die-off on account of disease. The liberal limits in effect now are helpful, but really aren't doing much. They're slowing population growth, and that's it. But that's my opinion. I've never been to the tundra and I'll probably never go, but I do see more and more snogs each year. But an eagle-headed blue is on my life list...

Other than that all the other ducks are good to me. And when you think about it, a merganser isn't much of a duck. A coot is more in the Gallinule family, and a snow goose is, well, a goose. Ducks are a harbinger for the health of our ecosystem...especially the prairies. Rainforests get all the glory, but it's difficult to match a prairie and it's wetlands for the biodiversity it contains, the clean oxygen it produces, and for the buffer it creates against floods. Even in eastern North Carolina, wetlands absorb billions of gallons of storm tides, saving billions in losses to crops, homes, and lives. Ignore the rainforest for a while, and save a wetland. Or just don't drain one. All good duck hunters recognize the importance of a wetland. And all good duck hunters know that not all wetlands are here to stay, either...

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