|Posted on April 9, 2013 at 10:35 AM|
Ducks on a Shoestring Part II
I just went on line, and you can purchase a dozen blocks from Cabela for under $30.00. Or, you can scrounge some old decoys from an attic, garage or auction, and paint 'em up. The third alternative is carving your own from cedar or cork, but that is an off season project. Start with whatever is available, then create your own from a cedar blowdown over the winter. You'll find instruction books on line for Building your own working decoys. It keeps you involved in waterfowling when the marsh is frozen over.
Look at old calendars and tin signs, and you'll see hand carved decoys, coats resembling a Carhartt barn coat and a wool or canvas Jones style cap. The duck boat was a planked flat bottom skiff with a pair of oars, and the decoy anchor weights were old, rusty stove bolts. All you really need is a shotgun which shoots steel, some decoys and a call, and the motivation to use these tools within the limitations defined by your own imagination
How I got started
We once put a lot more thought, and a lot less money into the hunt. Back in the early 60's, right after college, I met up with a fellow Newcomer who expressed an interest in finding a duck hunting partner. Acquaintances had stopped hunting, and left him with a burlap bag full of old Herter decoys. He had a pair of waders and a shotgun.....and that was the extent of his duck hunting gear. I had even less. My shotgun was a J.C. Higgins, Ted Williams model 12 gauge pump, and I literally had nothing else. I don't remember how I rustled up the rest of my gear, except that I knew I could squeeze my size 9 ½ feet into my dad's size 8 ½ waders wearing skinny socks. I went to the Army surplus and paid a couple of bucks for one of those ponchos folded to the size of a cigarette pack. Beyond that, my clothing was my everyday stuff. I did remember Grandfather's Olt duck call stuck away in my dresser, and Lyda parted with a couple of grocery bucks for a Jones style canvas hat. The next Saturday, Dave and I showed up at the Shiawassee Flats duck hunting draw and the neophytes drew a prime corn strip. We walked the dikes to the flooded corn, then waded to our designated hunting spot dragging our decoys. Two hours later, I remember Dave saying: “Ron, including those last two teal, we each have our limit. Guess we had better stop” ! I think our two hunter limit was 20 birds, but correct me if I'm wrong.
It's the quality of the hunt, not the price of the gear !
It's all about the camaraderie, not about the gear. Twenty years later I ran into a fellow ski patroller at the local alpine ski hill who expressed an interest in hunting. The conversation back in the patrol room quickly turned to ducks, and we agreed to put together a hunt. I had stopped duck hunting when Dave moved out of town the year after our Shiawassee hunt, but never forgot about the bag of old Herter decoys he had left me. By 1984, the 50's era deeks were in serious need of a paint job, so Dick and I bought some flat Black and White oil base paint and went to work. Dick didn't bother to tell me he had never hunted ducks before, so when he showed up at Shiawassee with a shiny new Glenfield pump, I didn't realize he had purchased it for $139.00 the night before from K-Mart. I later learned his waders were his uncles, and his poncho looked very much like the one I had thrown out the night before when I discovered that the plastic had disintegrated. I do remember Dick was wearing his rusty colored ski patrol parka. It turned out to be a pretty decent duck hunting coat...as long as the ducks couldn't read the National Ski Patrol lettering on the back. Dick and I got another lucky draw, but this time our execution was not up to par. We didn't get a duck....but boy, did we get the shooting. It seems the most hilarious moments stick in your sub-conscious for decades. I vividly remember five mallards swinging right over Dick. He didn't realize his waders were hopelessly mired in 4 inches of plowed, flooded loam, and the overhead shot, coupled with the recoil of the Glenfield had him snorkeling in the knee high flooding. I won't go into detail on how he extricated himself from his predicament, emptied the water out of his waders and dried out his clothing. Thank heavens it was early season. A bond formed between us during that first spartan hunt, and we have continued to hunt together for 28 years. And I hasten to add, we have rarely had the quality shooting that we had on our our first hunt. The simplest of times are always the best.
Everyone knows that preparation for, and anticipation of the hunt is 90% of the joy. Creating an economy hunt just adds to the euphoria which comes from a deeper involvement with the tools of the craft. If you are a young sportsman who has an interest in ducks, you don't have to spend a fortune to participate. If you don't have a managed area to hunt, then you and your buddy will have to do a little scouting. You definitely do not want to hunt a large bay where you need a boat rig, and where every hunter in the county shows up with 300 decoys. Find quiet water along a river, a pot hole or a grain field where no one bothers to hunt. Locate a place where you see ducks, where you have legal access and where you don't need a floating boat blind. Ducks decoy best where they naturally want to rest and feed. Use natural cover for concealment. For pot hole rigs, you can get buy with half a dozen decoys. I like 5 or 7, because some old hunter told me that single drakes look for an unattached hen. I can't prove that. If decoy motion is essential, you can make a simple jerk rig with discarded boat anchor, a few feet of bungee cord and 100 feet of cheap synthetic rope from the hardware. I snap the decoy cord to washers looped on the line. If your shotgun has a shiny action, just cover it with a little brown duck tape from Walmart. Ditto for your thermos, and anything else which will flare ducks. You don't have to use expensive gear to have fun. In fact, I would suggest, you'll have more fun if you go spartan. Quality used pumps are available for under $300, Steel shot for about $12, decoys shipped free from Cabela for $29 and a Faulk duck call for $15. The rest you borrow or improvise.
Duck hunting doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. It's a way for men to get to know one another and share adventures that can lead to lifelong friendships. Friendships which extend far beyond the confines of the duck marsh. It happened that way for Dick and me.