Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Off Season Do's

Believe it or not, there are some North Carolina Duck Hunters that only hunt ducks and don't even hunt fish. I hate fishing. In fact, out of the last 4 fish I've caught, 3 were false-hooked and another was blue cat that was apparently lost around Oregon Inlet. Maybe I'm just lucky. Maybe God's telling me to not fish. I think He is right. Many North Carolina duck hunter's would go crazy with little to do between fall flights. It's because they're killers. They like to kill ducks and not learn about them! I'm a meticulous note-taker and schemer. Every day, even at work, a thought crosses my mind that generally relates to another way to tip the odds in my favor when it comes to me versus waterfowl. So for me, between February and September, there are plenty of things to occupy my mind. And time. Whether it's trade shows and expos, or blind brushing and decoy repaints, I've got plenty to do...

Starting on January 29, 2012, I unrigged my decoys, save for 50 or so. I've got some that are large and leaky, and their always destined for the motherline. The others, though, get different weights to adapt to a new hunting situation or location I've come to enjoy. These days, I spend more on rigging and paint, than I do on decoys. According to my budget, I've only allotted myself about 3 dozen new pintails. I might, though, carve a couple dozen more bluebills, but who knows. Carving gets rough on my hands and patience.

Once the decoys were unrigged, I broke out the paint. Most of my plastic decoys get the basic Down East Block-style paint job. I just touch up and layer on...

But my prized Herter's which I have and will continue to remark on get a whole new level of treatment. Herter's offer that beautiful, bullish Upper Mid-west styling found in many factory decoys and Michigan or Minnesota styled decoys. I like those lines...and I like the big Model 72's. The only gripe about those Herter's are the pitiful heads. One shot to the decoy face, and you can literally see it circle the drain. I've learned to fix that with a little cotton patch and tile mastic, though. The burlap on the decoys has to be dried, too. Once that's done, I touch it up with more burlap or tile mastic. Sometimes, Tite-Bond and cork dust are applied all over, instead. Anyway, once that's all done, the birds are ready for painting. Generally, I like a block style paint job, but with special, regional details sprinkled throughout. Harry Jobes turns a lot of decoys in Maryland...his painting crew turns out some nice-ish looking work. Honestly, I don't like his feather detailing, even if the great Madison Mitchell is where he learned it. What I do like, is his exaggeration of the face parts. For example, I copied his paint style on the bluebill hens' faces. That white patch around the bill - yep, it looks more like I dipped half the head, up to the eyes, in white paint. It's classic, creative, and eye-catching. The drake redheads all get yellow eyes and the tipped bill, which is also a little more detail than one would normally see on a North Carolina block style decoy. The drake cans' heads are black from the front of the bill to the middle of the eye, too. The rest of the head, though, is fire engine red. Thus far, it has served to fool ducks. I leave speculums off the bodies, but I'll be practicing them soon enough, as I've got wigeons in the works!

Also, as soon as the season is over, I pass the time by looking forward to expos. Here are a few that I highly recommend in the spring:

The East Carolina Wildfowl Guild is a great place to pick up a vintage decoy, see some nice contemporary carvings, buy some hunting gear, participate (or watch) in some duck, swan and goose calling contests, and to see and wish for beautiful flat art. It's usually the second weekend in February...

The South East Wildlife Expo is Charleston is the place to go to stare at artful relics. Women even enjoy this show. It's in Charleston, which is also a plus. I've never been to SEWE, but it's on my list for this year...

The Dixie Deer Classic is the end-all, be-all for hunting expos in the world. A patron-friendly event, the North Carolina State Fairgrounds becomes a camo required who's who of hunting related stuff. Whether you're looking for a taxidermist, treestand, summer camp for your kids, food plot mix, duck and turkey call, wild game jerky, or anything else, you shouldn't be disappointed. It's usually in early March. The Wake County Wildlife Club puts this event on, and they have a wonderful track record of supporting Hunter Education, too.

The Cape Fear Wildlife Expo in Wilmington is quickly becoming a major attraction. It's heavy on boats and fishing, but I use boats for ducking. Still, art, taxidermists, pro-shops, and workshops abound on the Cape Fear River. It's a great show.

Loon Day, held on Harker's Island is the very best place to get a local decoy! Loon hunting was once a tradition down there, and the Core Sound Decoy Carver's capitalizes on it;s history. All money raised at the auction goes directly into supporting carving traditions! Personally, this could be the one I'm looking forward to the most. It's in early May...

There's lots to do...even reading. I always pick up good waterfowling books to pass the lazy summer nights away. Anything by Albert Hochbaum is heady, but important. Canvasback on a Prairie Marsh taught me more than any "Hunting Dabblers" book published by a major brand.

Practicing a call is also a wise investment of time. I got good in the summers with my call. Usually, I'll buy a couple of new calls so I can broaden my repertoire. Calls will also be the next collectible in our sport. However, for every premium call I buy, I gift an old, "lesser" call to a new duck hunter or youth duck hunter.

Scouting new blind locations is also great in the summer time...even though there's no ducks to determine it's worthiness. But some places just look ducky, don't they?

As one could tell, I have plenty to do. All duck hunter's owe it to their sport to be study up in the spring and summer!

1 comment:

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