Well, I suppose the suspense of the wigeon hole has grown unbearable for the past 8 months. Sorry. I've been super busy, but as I plan to return to North Dakota in the next few weeks, reliving my notes from last year has me wanting to continue my work here.
So yes, as you last read, I crashed out in the cabin, sleeping easily from a day in the rain and the muck and the exhaustion. I woke up early enough to believe that it was too early, even for duck hunting. I left the heat on that night and sweltered in the covers. I awoke, brewed my coffee, and opened the cabin door to let in some frigid cold air. The wind whistled around the corners of the cabin - it was a full on gale...the kind that we love in North Carolina for shooting blackheads! I completed my morning routine and headed north from Grahams Island to the wigeon hole.
My drive once again consisted of the morning farm report. Corn was down, canola, whatever that is, was up. Either way, I also encountered two very large deer on the highway. They weren't the type that I expected to find in any patch of woods back east. Both were does, and both looked like they weighed 200 pounds. I eased off the gas and on to the brakes. Those fat ladies had the right-of-way. Still, I honked the horn to let them know I noticed them, and to speed them on their way.
I reached the PLOTS land that only the day before had me in the wigeons. I snuck in, certain I would be eaten by a cougar or something. If I have failed to mention it earlier, I hate walking alone in the dark. Either way, I snuggled into some cattails and listened to the wigeons whistle away the stars. I timed my decoy set-up for about 20 minutes til shooting time, because I knew I'd rattle the birds. And rattle them I did. I quickly threw out the dozen or so wigeon and teal decoys. The wind had little problem right-siding them for me. The whole ordeal took less than 30 seconds. Texas-rigging your fakes is the way to go.
Watching the pothole for returners and the sky for observers, I grew a little bored. All I could hear was the wind and all I could see were the waves on the water. It was especially black that morning. Still, shooting time arrived and there I sat at the corner of two large potholes, one brimming with birds, the other with alkali foam. A nearby hunting party, upwind of me I suppose, fired away at their pothole and the birds that were subsequently scattered found my decoy spread only a few minutes later. I quickly picked out two birds and returned them to the water. The brisk wind blew them out over the deeper water of the pothole. It's always a desperate feeling when that happens...but I knew that the opposite bank was only 100 yards away. I was certain they were both wigeons. They both turned out to be gadwalls in very early plumage. Late nesters?
I sat still for the next couple of minutes as birds passed over way too high to shoot at. I figured that in time, they'd all come back and settle in to the same section of water that they sat in yesterday. A bluewing was the only visitor over the next hour. Once I shot the teal, I gathered my decoys and gear, then embarked on the walk around the pothole to pick up the gadwalls. I was done for the day, and just too tired to care if I killed a limit, or not. I collected the birds, and everything else, and made the walk back to the vehicle. The wind and rain had become a little icy. I stopped by another pothole on the way back to the cabin, just to check to see if the big flock of blackheads I spotted earlier had been busted up. They were still content, only this time with another team of hunters watching the action. It's there that I learned to hunt the birds the next day - don't count on someone else not finding "your" birds. I continued to the cabin for a well-deserved nap and had lunch by noon. My neighbors in the adjoining cabin stopped by...they wanted help with a photograph, so I did the honor, and exchanged information. This was the first time I was made privy to information and since the group was headed out that night, they had no qualms about me sneaking in to the newest honeyhole that they had discovered.
I quickly suited up and followed their terrible directions. I was to drive straight across from the entrance to the park, and take the first left, then drive to a burned down barn and take a left there. From there, I could walk or drive the remaining half mile. I got the part where I was to drive "straight"...it was an underwater road. I had been warned about these and had dealt with one already. It was 1 in the afternoon, with 4 hours left of shooting light. I took a walk, instead of my chances, to check out the submerged road for deep holes. Nothing was found, so I trekked back and cruised across. The submerged road would be the easiest of my travels that afternoon. The hilltops were fairly dry, but the rain had made conditions sloppy, especially in the low spots. I swerved and slid the next few miles. I was absolutely thrilled to see the burned barn, but disappointed to hear the gunshots coming from the gigantic marsh that lay before me. A look at the remaining half mile of road suggested a walk would be best. I made the walk, with 2 decoys. If there were that many birds in there, then just a few decoys would be enough, right? Well, I made it into the marsh. I found a place where the 10 foot high cattails met the water's edge. I loaded the double barrel and in less than 15 seconds, I had two shovelers on the water. In one more minute, or less, I shot a drake redhead. I was done, but elected to unload the gun and watch the action. For the rest of the afternoon, I suppose I decoyed 300 birds, all in singles or pairs. It was the best kind of fun. I packed my stuff, walked out, then cleaned the birds. I made the drive back to the cabin and ate leftovers from the night before, which were leftovers from two nights prior to that night. I decided that I would take the next morning to go after the blackheads I found on the pothole - the one that was also spied by another party. After dinner and a thaw-out, I fell asleep, reading a Sporting Classics article about a wife who watched her husband be eaten by a tiger. Why do I do these things to myself?