There is time in your life when you have no expectations of finding new passion and it comes at you like a speeding train. I have bird hunted for the last couple of years and just recently realized the wing shooting is what I truly want to do come hunting season. It does not matter whether it’s doves over milo field,grouse,Chukars in the high country or ducks on the bayou. My latest adventure was teal wing duck hunt in Louisiana. These smaller in body ducks are terrific flyers and even better dinner. It was my second trip in eight months to hunt with very good friend of mine who is “the man” when it comes to waterfowl in this part of Louisiana. Meeting great people and making friends always enhances the memories but the bird hunters,for most part,have been fun bunch to say the least.
Teal wing duck early season only lasts sixteen days in second half of September each year. They fly south earlier than most of their relatives. We did see few wood ducks giving us fly by over the decoys each day but the only thing we could do is to admire their most elegant flight. My friend and I were together couple times over summer shooting clays and having dinners in Wyoming. The conversation was always dominated by making plans and strategizing how to limit out each day during teal season. We felt we both were good shooters,the only thing needed was finding “THE SPOT” where ducks really like it. That responsibility fell completely on my friend’s shoulders. He lives in southern Louisiana and his real job is professional fishing guide. An the spot he found. The gun choices for both of us were CZ Canvasback 28 gauge over/under. The reason for this choice was performance at the Sporting clays course weekend before the hunt. I was recommended to use the 20 gauge gun(I tried CZ Canvasback in 20) but the 28 performed much better in my hands. Identical guns,both versatile over/unders but I believe from my own experience in the last couple of years the 28 shells #6 shot is a as good of a load for many birds as you can find. Long shots,surprise shots,up close or ducks flying from one side of the blind to the other in a hurry are not a problem. I became true 28 believer after hunting grouse,Chukars,Huns and teals with it in the last year. Make an appropriate choke selection,practice a lot and the sky is the limit,literally. I have heard so much about the incredible flying abilities of these birds I could not wait to be on the water.
The first morning of our hunt was hot and the air was heavy with humidity. Quite a contrast from Wyoming cool,dry and clear mornings. Nothing good cup of Louisiana coffee with chicory can’t fix. Short drive to the boat launch and we were in the boat on our way to the blind shortly. The bayou has a way to humble you. Gators,snakes,weeds as tall as a house,difficulty to navigate,the heat,humidity etc. It is a great feeling when you realize we the people are fairly insignificant players in the game called nature.
We arrived a the spot and deployed decoys. We got attacked by large,hungry mosquitoes. Luckily I am not that sweet and my adrenaline is high I did not get bothered by them. What became a problem were the dragonflies eating the mosquitoes right off my face,neck,ears or anywhere they could. They caused the major distraction and only the person who have had up to ten dragonflies buzzing around their head at the same time understands. Unfortunately the dragonflies are out numbered by mosquitoes about several million to one(rough estimate).
Suddenly we see several silhouettes of teals flying by checking out the decoys. Incredible! We do not have enough light to shoot from twenty yards away but they have enough late to see the decoys from few hundred yards away. Humbling,very humbling. Two things gradually happened. More daylight provides plenty of shooting opportunities and eventual sunrise chases away the mosquitoes and the fattest dragonflies on earth. We see teals coming from all directions and let them pass the decoys. My friend starts using the duck call as they’re pulling up and away not convinced the decoys are the real deal. Upon hearing the call they snap their wings and turn back going into full landing mode(I’m getting chills recalling the sight,that’s how amazing it is). That is the moment to shoot. Their feet stretched out,wings gliding,they are slowing down their speed to make safe landing in the water next to the decoys. Shots rang out and ducks are falling from the sky. Awesome,awesome experience. Few minutes later same action. The flyby is great to watch but their reaction to the duck call is one of the best things I’ve ever experience in my short hunting career. Their movement is very similar to fighter jets. That is how agile these little ducks are. The attempts to land near decoys reminds me of jets landing on aircraft carrier. I might be getting little “out there” with my description but if you don’t believe me go see it for yourself.
We find ourselves in the same spot the next day except we put decoys little farther out by accident,lack of light is the reason. We also have another shooter in the boat and a great black Labrador retriever. She makes gathering all the down duck much easier. The decoys farther out make shooting more challenging(trust me no need for that)but we all get our daily limit again in very short time. You never thought forty five minutes can be packed with so much action.
The late afternoon/early evening is filled with hunting wild hogs in the back forty. I brought along my new CZ 620 Big Game 20 ga slug gun. Pump action,synthetic stock with added length of pull by PADSBYNEALE(all my shotguns have added length)built to perform better with cheap lead hollow rifled slugs. I mounted low power Leupold scope and sighted it in at 50 yards. I ended up with group of four shots touching creating cloverleaf on the target. Good enough for me.
I really like spot and stalk hog hunt. It adds element of danger. As I walked on very narrow trail surrounded by weeds twice as tall as I am I could hear the pigs snorting. One of them facing me on the trail. I raised the gun put his head in the crosshairs and did not shoot. Too much commotion broke out and I was looking to get out of there in a hurry. The weeds were moving in all direction,me standing in the middle of the trail. I did not know what direction these pigs are running and did not want to get nailed by a big boar in some kind of psycho frenzy. I ran towards bigger opening and as I turn corner I hear more snorting. I slowed down to a crawl and sneak up on a young sow with four piglets. Perfect size and age for good meat. Her backside is towards me and I have decided before the hunt I will only take head shots on any pig I find to hopefully instant kill and preserve the meat. She’s eating,the piglets mingling around and I’m waiting for her to turn her head just enough. She eventually does,I pulled the trigger and the pig drops right then and there. Perfect shot behind her left ear. The entry hole is about two inches in diameter. The sow had no chance. I cycled another round into the chamber just in case. It was not needed.
We hauled her back to the camp,skinned her,cleaned her and quartered her. Washed all the meat and packed it into a big cooler. It became a very nice gift to my friends in Wyoming who are thousand miles from the nearest wild hog. They ended up having smoked pulled pork sandwiches at the shop couple days after I got back. I love hunting wild pigs for meat. And I really love the way my slug gun dropped her. I’m planning to use the gun all winter in Florida to share meat with friends and provide little protein boost for the ones less fortunate.
Last day on the water we went to different location. My friend generously gave up his “honey spot” to friends who don’t get to hunt enough. The three of them got their limit so did we but had to work for it lot more. Boat ride,cutting bushes for the new blind,wading through swamp in our waders,roving little boat to get across the pond and building new blind all in the dark. I did not know the mosquitoes could get any worse but they did. The teals did not like this spot as much. They were giving us one flyby after another,checking the decoys. We had much higher rate of failure shooting that day because they did not slow down at all and were coming from behind us. Many times we only saw them directly above us and I mean directly. Four to five feet above. It was true sport shooting with our 28s. But we did get our limit and worked our way back.
I can not say enough about the great friends I made in Louisiana,the bayou and resilience of the people in that part of the country. I spent three days where hurricane Katrina made it’s landing and brought 20 plus foot water surge. Nobody complains,nobody moved away. They love their home,they rebuilt and are very proud to live there.I hope we can see the same attitude all around this country during hard times. Not waiting for hand outs and sympathy. Life is tough,always has been. Government is not in business in making you happy,they are in business of making themselves happy. There is a difference.
Lastly I want to leave you with a quote from Cuban poet Jose Marti(i read this quote recently in a book about Cuban immigrants and their struggle for better life)
“LIBERTY IS THE RIGHT OF EVERY MAN TO BE HONEST,TO THINK AND TO SPEAK WITHOUT HYPOCRISY”
Does that sound like a motto our government functions by?