Duck hunting season is upon us. Today we give a flashback to Dustin Schouest’s Duck Hunting Diaries to get you primed and ready to go!
Contributed by Dustin Schouest
I regretted not going the day before. But, when my bloodshot eyes saw the radar indicating an all-day rain, I knew that I wasn’t ready to face it. Currently I am new to duck hunting, and am slowly picking up gear, which as of the day in question, did not include a waterproof shell jacket. That would be an item for later (and a less tight budget).
I had to get at it today. A quick shower turned me from a lethargic Chewbacca look-alike to a game-faced Dude straight from The Big Lebowski. My paws grabbed my trusty Mossberg, my box of shells, and I loaded them into the truck. I grabbed the trailer, gave my Wilderness Systems Ride 115 the once over, and turned on Pandora.
My Dying Bride pumped the adrenaline in my blood all the way to Pointe Aux Chenes. The destination was the PAC Wildlife Management Area, a giant area spanning two parishes (or counties for you not-Louisiana folks) on two sides of the ever infamous Highway 665. I was going to put in on the right hand side of “The Reserve” as we locals call it, launching from the side of the one road leading to Isle de Jean Charles. This island community was where I first learned to fish, and now, it would be where I would learn to duck hunt.
As a bit of background, let me say this: I never grew up hunting. Here in Terrebonne Parish, most kids fire a shotgun before they get their first AB honor roll report card. I never fired a gun until I was 10. My father has never been a big hunter; we have only gone hunting together three times in my 23 years on this plane. My only duck hunting experiences had been a few trips with my godfather Scott Carter. And yet this year I was determined to learn how to do it. I bought decoys, I watched plenty of videos, and I worked on my duck calling (which is so bad, if you record and play backwards, I swear you can hear Satan singing Wagner).
It was time to see what I could do….
Google Earth had given me a good idea of where to go. I knew the wind would be blowing from the south so I needed to set up with the wind at my back, as I knew the ducks would cup their wings and use the wind to help them descend when they committed to my decoy spread. Unfortunately for me, Google Earth’s satellite pictures are almost three years old, and as is with most of the coast here in Louisiana, the land had changed drastically from the images I saw to the reality before me. Our coast loses on a daily basis a football field of land. Given that, the land had eroded greatly. The ponds and tranases I saw in the pictures were now open water. There was still a good deal of land, but, my original idea was trashed.
But, as an old Army Ranger buddy told me, “Plan A never works out after you leave. Always have a Plan B.”
Plan B was to find any pond with adequate water and set up the spread. To the left of my position went my few mallards, with my Mojo teal, which I always call “RoboDuck” (Hey Disney, Im copyrighting that name, so you can’t take it like you tried to take Seal Team Six!) set up landing against the wind. To the right went my six pintails. Ideally, I wish I’d have had some teal to put on the outside, but, money is tight, and you do what you can with what you have.
I was in place for 0525, and as legal shooting hours started, I could hear the percussion of shotgun blast all around the WMA. I could see V’s of ducks high in the air, but, with my casting, I couldn’t get any to turn toward my spread. About 600 yards down from me were another group of hunters, with way more experience than me, who were able to get some ducks to come in. The biggest difference was that I had no blind set up. And this would hurt me; any ducks I had that wanted to lock up on my decoys would see the finish on my Ride and flair off. This would need to be rectified next hunt.
An hour or so into the hunt, I had luck; a single duck was beginning a turning descent into my spread from my rear. I waited until he was in shotgun range before I loosed three shots, the duck falling deep in the marsh. I cursed; this would be hard to find, as the marsh was so thick. I loaded three more Remington shells into the firearm, and started my search….
And I fell right into waist deep mud. The mud in our area is so soft that if you do not know how to take a step, you may never see the light of day again. I belly crawled my way out, and soon found my bird, a hen scaup or “dogris” as we call them around here. I got back to the kayak right as my friends down the way were working more ducks. Waterfowl were flying more to them than to me, and I figured out why: the glare off the paint on my kayak was acting like a giant sign saying “IF YOU COME HERE YOU WILL DIE!” And unlike toddlers and rednecks, they took heed of that sign.
But, I lucked up. Another duck was coming in the same way as my first one, and this time, two shots brought it down. But this time, my game didn’t go into the marsh. Oh no. Somehow, the trajectory of my shot, mixed with the duck’s speed, the Coriolis Effect, and possibly the spirit of Amelia Earhart (don’t even say “too soon”!), this second dogris managed to slam into the side of my kayak and landed right beside my first bird.
The flights slowed down, the gnats were being absolutely evil, and I knew I wouldn’t get another flight. I nodded to myself, thanked the ducks I harvested for a healthy feast, and began my paddle to my decoys. Lessons were learned, mistakes were made when I missed shots on three other birds, but, as my father taught me long ago, we make mistakes, and we make sure not to make them again.