Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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Early season duck hunt fantastic for a couple of youngsters

Here in the southeastern corner of Pennsylvania, the one week of the early season for duck hunting opened this past Saturday.

Heavy rains that fell a few days prior to Saturday flooded a corner of a pasture on a farm we have permission to hunt. A friend told me there were ducks on that big puddle when he passed the farm on the Thursday prior to the Saturday opener. I made a Friday afternoon call to the farmer, told him my partner and myself would be there Saturday morning, and if any of his young help wanted to go with to be at the farm by 6 a.m.

When I pulled into the farm early Saturday, the small group was already waiting. There was my companion and his chocolate lab, a teenage boy, and Abby, a young lady recently graduated from high school, who performs part time help at the farm while she furthers her education.     

She is also an enthusiastic beginning hunter.

The kids hopped on the back of my truck, and my companion with his lab followed in his pickup as we drove down a lane and parked at a spot where we could walk to the flooded corner.

The morning was nice, neither cold nor windy. Not a great day for ducks I thought to myself. We walked across the field to the water's edge and looked for a spot that would provide plenty of space for ducks to land. And although the water was shallow with abundant grass and weeds clogging much of it, we still found a good-sized spot to float some fakes.

We scattered seven decoys – that’s right, seven, no need for a lot – and headed for our hiding spots. I put the kids in some high grass along a fence line that looked closest to the spot where ducks would land. I told them to be careful with their guns, that I would call to them when to shoot if we were lucky enough to have ducks come, and that when they did shoot to make certain they stood up first to clear the fence with their shooting line. My companion, the dog and I headed up the fence row another 20 yards to a small blind we had built.

Shooting time was 6:45, and I told my companion at 6:43 I had expected ducks to be there already because the eastern sky was lighting quickly, and ducks come early. Often too early. And then at 6:45, unbelievably, fast flying mallards quacked above.

Perhaps a dozen circled and landed. I was ready to yell to the kids to shoot – I knew my yelling and their standing would flush the birds – when another 15 or so mallards caught my eye. They circled and dropped into the water also.

I could imagine the kids were asking themselves what I was waiting for? But with my mouth open, I held as a third flock circled and landed. That was it. “Take ‘em”, I shouted. They stood and shot, and so did we two older hunters.

Birds flew in every direction, but only two fell. The lab, crying with anxiety to retrieve, was on a leash. His master was ready to unhook him when more ducks came. They pitched to the water, and again I yelled to the kids. They shot, but nothing fell, and those birds escaped in a direction opposite from where my friend and I sat, so we could not shoot.

I’ve hunted this spot many times, but this number of ducks was pushing the most I’ve ever seen here. But surprising even me, more came, this time wood ducks. The kids shot again. Nothing dropped.

That had to be it, no more ducks could possibly come with all the noise of shotgun blasts filling the early morning. But within a couple of minutes a pair of mallards did come. I yelled, the kids stood. Abbey shot and one fell, her partner dropped the other. A nice hen and drake floated unmoving.

A true rarity, even more came, allowing us to take a total of seven on the morning, all within a 25-minute span. The kids did the majority of the shooting, but Abby confessed she was sure she only shot that one of the pair. She said that was her goal, to shoot at least one.

I hope that morning has not spoiled her into thinking all our hunts are like this, huge numbers of ducks filling the early sky, for they certainly are not. But conversely, I do plead guilty to being spoiled by the smiles and delight young hunters reveal after an exciting morning of hunting, especially a young lady without a hunting upbringing.


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