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Opening day of duck season, 2006.

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Opening day of duck season, 2006.

With my wife, Bev, in Wisconsin for the past three weeks I have had some time to rummage around and begin cleaning out two closets of mine. That is when I found a smaller notebook that I kept up some daily activity for about 2 months back during the 2006/2007 duck season.

Here are my notes on Opening Day which was October 25th and for us back then it most likely was on a Wednesday.

It was severe clear. Down here that means no clouds because it is that dry! Over the years I found out how good it was to hunt on severe clear days in New Mexico.

7:10 AM I had a small flock of F16s/gwt land in my decoys. I stood up, they flushed and I took out three of them which were two adult drakes and one juvenile hen.

7:50 AM a single hen mallard came in and I took her. She was an adult.

8:20 AM another single drake mallard came in and went down on my second shot. Chili did her best to find that bird but to no avail. I then walked out to be with her and we scoured the entire area more than once but still no duck. Damn it. I hate losing ducks. Not only that but I'm believing that Chili does, too!

9:30 AM I had two greenheads come in to check on the spread and I got them both. One drake was an adult and the other a juvenile. I did something that I hadn't done in 3 years and that was shoot an extra duck. Technically, I hadn't but I had made up my mind that all cripples that Chili and I couldn't find would be included in my bag limit. By the way, that also means following the flight of the ducks after I shot at them. Yes, I can see when a bird is hit and will sail on me then collapse a half mile away. I promised myself to be more careful. I can understand why I most likely got so darn excited when I saw those two drakes come in. It had been an hour and ten minutes of me waiting to see ducks. Yup, even this 65 year old still gets excited when it is duck season.

I saw very few ducks. As for my truck, I drove it 81.3 miles to where I parked it and then put on 2.3 miles on my four-wheeler. That total for the day was 167.2 miles. I was the only person in the entire area hunting. I heard some shots but whoever it was had to be at least 5 miles away or further. I used 11 shells.

Fall hunting is my favorite time of the year to hunt ducks. Why? It is during elk, bear, deer, quail and dove season also. Those folks who also hunt ducks make sure they do all the other hunting first before they go duck hunting. That means more days for me to hunt with no one else around.

Back then I used Chili 100% of the time and at this juncture she was breaking in the new kid on the block who was Pepper. Pepper's forte' was lining out on a bird. Her very first retrieve while hunting with me on the Rio Grande, had to be a quarter mile away when the Ross' goose that I shot went down with one bb in the last wing joint. The only reason I can tell you about it was when I got home and looked at the pictures I had taken on my computer. When she got next to the goose, it dove in the river and that is when I had one picture where I didn't see her. She, too, dove under the water and got the goose. Man, was I ever proud of her! As you can see I am not one who spends much time building a blind. I always wear a mask and a boonie hat and don't move. It was easy for me to control Pepper. She understood commands and caught on quickly. Chili new better and was a great instructor. She is the dark yellow female lab and Pepper is the light yellow female. When all three of us pretend to be inanimate objects it is amazing what ducks don't see. They are darn good surveying an area when coming in to decoys. That keeps them alive. So I have to admit that if you have never tried it---give it a go. What do you have to lose? After looking at this picture I now just remembered what I did do after seeing this shot. I painted the frame of my chair flat black.

Here are two of Pepper's first litter of pups. It was via a mistake but the mistake turned out to be most fortunate. We were on a vacation to WI when I had a good friend of mine take care of our dogs. I had Pepper staying with Chili in the smaller kennel that was easy for me to go to when duck season was on. Well, little did we know that Pepper was coming into her first ever heat cycle. When Joe let them out to run around a little and then go to the bathroom prior to putting them back, all of a sudden he couldn't find Pepper. He told me when we got back that she had run into the village of Luis Lopez and happened to see her there. Well, guess what, there happened to be one light yellow male lab besides ours in a ten mile radius and that is the dog that bred her. When she started showing some signs like nipples getting a bit larger and her mammary glands beginning to swell a bit, I brought her to the vet and Dean looked at me and said, "Do you see this? There's another one. Al, she has at least 6 pups that I can find." Well, Pepper ended up being one fantastic mother and she had a total of 8 tiny snowballs. There was no paperwork on the male so we decided to put an ad in the ABQ Journal to sell the pups. My gosh the phone rang off the hook! We were amazed at the reaction we got from the folks who drove a minimum of 85 miles one way to see our pups and then were willing to give us $125 for a male and $150 for a female. That is when we decided to raise Labrador retrievers and the name Enchanted Desert Labs was born. Lots of memories when it comes to Chili and Pepper.

This is one of my favorite shots that I ever took. As long as my brain functions, I will never forget this day. It was during an early teal season and we had just finished a successful day of hunting having taken four bluewing/cinnamon teal. We just sat there motionless in the sunlight and watched teal come in to feed. I apologize for not putting this up on the top of the photo instead of the bottom.

The last photo is of Chili that morning when she looked like she was winking but actually she was shutting that eye everytime that the teal's
head would smack the side of her head.