Roughing it on the River
I have to admit my self-induced duck hunting withdrawal is hitting me hard again…
At this time of the year, it gets pretty hard not to think of the upcoming season, especially when the past season was filled with ups and downs.
As I drove alongside the river today – one particular hunt came to mind…
It was a cold and moonless night in November as we slipped our ragged Old Town Canoe into the ice waters of the Potomac. 17 degrees…not bad.
Even through my insulated waders, I felt the initial chill up my boots as I waded into the river to push us off.
It was dead silent as we pulled out of the small cove and headed downstream. The three of us sat and watched the tree’s ghostly silhouettes as they passed by us – none of us said a word.
About ten minutes downstream,we heard an eruption of barks and whines coming from the shore to our left. We both stopped paddling as Diesel shifted his weight and cocked his head in curiosity. Josh and I looked at each other and then at the light beams that were now illuminating and dancing amongst the trees.
At this time of the night, it can only mean one thing – coon hunters.
We let the river carry us as we listened attentively to the hounds baying back and forth, their handlers not far behind.
A mile down stream, a shot finally rang out behind us and the night was silent.
We slowly made our way down the river to an island that was not far from our hunting spot. The island itself was a small one, not more than 200 feet long by 40 feet wide, and had been used as a moonshiner hideout back in the Prohibition Era. We aimed the canoe towards the northern point and let the current take us.
The canoe scrapped against the sand as we pulled up on the shore. I watched as the mud stirred and parted at the bow. As Diesel and I hopped out, I heard Josh curse behind me and turned around to see a faint glowing light sinking into the darkness. “Crap, I dropped my iPhone in the water.” We both stood there as the mud settled and proceeded to fish it out of the boot-sucking muck.
Nature – 1 Technology – 0.
The island was damp and a light blanket of fog had fallen over it, giving it a mysterious aura. Other than a makeshift clothes line, an old plastic chair, and a few rocks thrown together to make a fire ring – the island had not seen too much human interaction.
We worked quickly to get a fire going and brewed some hot tea as we settled in for the night. Frost had already formed on our sleeping bags and waders that were hanging on a tree nearby.
We were in for a cold night.
I sipped the last of my tea, pulled Diesel into my sleeping back, and fell asleep to the crackling of the warm fire.
Waking up the next morning, we pulled on our frozen waders, tossed our gear and the mutt into the canoe and made our way in the darkness to our hunting spot. The fog had gotten much heavier and up ahead, we heard a flock of geese roosting on the river.
As we pulled our canoe into the dead logs that marked our hunting spot – We prayed for a good day ahead.
The morning was slow – cold and slow. We had anticipated a good wind and cold front up north to bring some birds down to us. Unfortunately, it seemed like we did not see much as the sun slowly rose over the river.
A few local birds dropped in and out of the marshes beyond the tree line on the distant shore, but nothing that prompted the triggers.
The morning went by and not a single bird was seen. Frustrated, we started coming up with all the theories in the known world as to why no ducks were to be seen. Mid conversation – Josh stopped and pointed to the river, a log was slowly lumbering towards our spread upstream.
Frustrated, I mumbled to Josh that I would go and take care of it. I looked at my gun that had seemingly frozen into the log where I had set it.
“Probably won’t be needing this, haven’t seen a dang bird all morning.”
I slowly waded out while cursing my decision to not sleep in this morning. As I reached the spread, I heard Josh whispering behind me.
“Andy . Andy . Andy . Andy”
I looked back at Josh and followed his pointed finger to the sky.
I helplessly stood in the water and watched as a flight of mallards flew over me.
“Well…I guess that’s duck huntin’ for ya.”