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The Long hunt (stranded overnight)

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The Long hunt (stranded overnight)
 Had Friday off, and it was time to get out and hunt the chosen location.
Just me and my old bird hound (Ol' Alex.)

I remember making a short list of things to do before the trip:
Grab a few lighters and a couple of wool blankets.

A 2 burner propane heater & an olive colored WWII wool navy P coat to throw on Alex if he was laying in the wind soaking wet for too long, a big sandwich that My better half put in the ammo can for me.

I warmed up the truck, It was cold and clear out.
I finally was able to inch the hitch under the socket, but had to swear some and sweat some to consummate the union of truck and trailer.

It is an art and a skill, the making of this sacred union.
It comes with luck, cold numb fingers, and more error than trial (for me.)

By the time I had the boat hooked up, Alex was curled up in the back of the truck.
I’d let him and Ginger out to stretch in the back yard while I hooked up the boat. He’d jumped in the back of the vehicle & curled up on a mountain of gear, head resting on the hutch cover between the front seats.

He just knows we are going and gets in.
I grabbed my shotgun and we took off into the night.

We headed west and could see the stars. Orion was out.
Orion goes on most of our hunts.

I stopped and fueled the boat in the mill town chevron, saw some other guys out to hunt and wished them good luck.

“Stay dry and warm today” they said, I hoisted my coffee mug to them and nodded.

Listened to the radio along the way.
It is all part of “the ritual.”

There are all kinds of broadcasts. AM radio is best before the sun roasts the signal that bounces off the ionosphere.

Talk shows with prophetic dreamers, alien abductees, fortune tellers... seem to be on the air before the sun rises. Just click the switch on, and you will hear all kinds of wild stories.
Some laughable, some intriguing & some weird. The darkness seems to lend credibility to the otherwise incredible.

The launch was iced up, but the tide was incoming, and no one else had been on the ramp, So I had a dry drop off into a saltwater cove that was plates of sheet ice.

We eased the boat in and could hear the creak and crack of the ice.

It is hard to muscle the bomber in sheet ice. But we did,
& soon we were on our way.

Alex likes to be the masthead, but since we were alone on the water, in an area rife with pilings and shoals, I called him back close to me.

We arrived at the chosen location and I beached the bomber. Still had more than an hour of incoming tide and I left the boat in 2 feet of water. Should be able to hunt and move it out in a few hours.

Alex took off and made rounds.
I could see his eyes reflect my headlight.

He likes to check out the place while I throw the decoys out.

Soon, the sky grew pink and it was time to hunt.

Alex and I laid low in the grass and birds came in, pinners, widgeons, teal.
Birds in the spread,
Our ears ringing with the blasts,
and Alex crashing into the frigid waters to fetch them.

Managed a nice “Scotch double” on a set of drake widgeons.
Alex brought the first one back and then I sent him into the water for a 2nd.

He was on autopilot.
I didn’t have to tell him anything,
and if I had,
he’d never have listened anyway.

He is known for being stubborn,
he is his own dog.

The sun started to get high enough to take a few shots with the camera.

A hawk of some kind worked its way along the spread.

Apparently, he had an itch that needed to be scratched.

Some shorebirds ripped through the spread and startled us.

Alex did his job,

He is untrained and on his own.
He’ll sit,
He’ll fetch.

He will guard his home.
He will hunt long and hard.

But he is “on an island.”

Not head over heels to make a man happy,
Not up to meeting another dog unless it is to hunt or fight.

Good on his own.

He survived on the streets as a stray for the first year of his life.
He has a set of skills that come only with experience in living.

He is good at living.
I admire him for these hard won qualities.

Soon it was just after hi tide, and I decided to go and check on the bomber.
It was too late. The current and wind had me high sided at nearly the highest point of the morning’s tide.

I walked with Alex over the rise to see the boat laying on its side.
Half laughing, half not.

“You did it again,” Alex said.

We were stuck.
There is no way I could pry 1800 lbs of boat loose with a hull 2 inches stuck in sand.

Alex said, “You’d better call someone that cares and let them know we’ll be here a while.”

“Aye, that is good advice I said."

I called my better half, said I was safe and sound but wouldn’t be back for a bit… How long was not known, maybe 12 hrs, maybe 24.

She was worried, but we told her not to be.
She worried anyway.

Called my buddy Mike at work. Asked if he could give me an eta on the next hi tide for the chosen location.
He asked, “you ok?”
“yeah, I am fine.” I said.

He said, “look man, can you wait about 30 minutes? I am in the middle of work and can’t step away just now.”

I laughed and said “you take your time, I will be here a while.”
He laughed.

It was 1000 hrs.

My Boat was stranded at about the 7ft tide mark on shore.

I took an assessment of the situation.
I had 1 sandwich, and 5 pints of fresh water (frozen solid)

I decided to walk the hi tide mark to look for water bottles washed up.

Managed to find about a liter of water in bottles that were uncracked (fall offs from fishing boats.) Saved them for Alex, since the estuary is too salty to drink.

There was a good deal of ice on shore, and Alex ate some, but I tasted it, and even it was salty.

So we had a little bit of water and it was solid ice.
We’d have to thaw it to drink it.

Alex said,
“well, since you got us stranded on the island again, I am going to go get some sand rats and eat.”

“Ok buddy, you go to it.
I didn’t mean to get us stuck Alex” I said.

“I know, we’ll be ok, just keep your head” the old boy said.

He managed about a six pack of big sand rats.

“Those any good?” I asked.

“Yeah, but the sand is worse than seagull feathers” he replied.

Mike rang me on the phone.

“good morning I said”

Mike said, “you have no idea how much I didn’t want to make this call.”

“What is the word on the tide?” I asked.

“You are going to have to dig in and wait about 22 more hours.”

Well then, at least I know.

Mike asked “you sure you are going to be ok? it is going to be in the low 20’s tonight and you are supposed to have freezing rain and snow moving in”

I looked at Alex, he said, “just tell Mike we are on an island that is loaded with firewood and we’ll call him in the morning.”

Mike said, “hey man, you have Alex with you, you’ll be fine,
just stay warm and dry.”

At that point I decided to dig in, lay up a stock of firewood before it got dark, and get out the gear we’d need to stay comfortable.

Then Alex put the sneak on some pipers.

They figured him out, and he used an old coyote stalking maneuver,
(the look in the other direction).

They still figured it out.

Took a few minutes to snap some photos of the stranded vessel.

Well, “least we’ve got clear skies” Alex said.

I decided to carve out letters in the sand to indicate I was not in grave danger in case the coast guard flew over.


With the wood and shelter made, I decided to jump shoot a few spots.

A trio of high flying mallards worked the edge of the island,

We remained motionless and just let them come in. I shot and had one start to sail off crippled, we watched it coast and crumple about 500 meters away,

Alex was off and on it.

He found it!
“Did you think I’d let us loose our dinner? We’ll need this for tonight,”

“Good boy Alex.” I said.

He decided to walk back to the camp with his bird

The tide swings long out where we were.

Soon it was time to brace for the long cold night.
It started getting cold. Really cold.

At dark, Alex ran to the boat and sat in it like we were going to go home.
“Come on and help me with this fire” I yelled.

Alex couldn’t hear, or didn’t listen.

I blasted the dry grass with some wd-40 hit it with a spark.

Soon I had a fire and Alex came down.

Since it was clear out, I decided that I needed to dry the undergear I was wearing, since I soaked it with sweat and was getting chilled.

I stripped down and hung my gear on limbs near the fire, taking time to turn them as they evaporated out the moisture near the heat of the fire.

Took off Alex’s float coat and he took a position near the fire and steam poured off of him.
Figured that mikes advice of staying warm and dry was good, so I did what he told me to do.

2 pairs of wool socks, 3 polypro shirts, a thick wool sweater, my hat… all of it.

After it was all dried out, and my body was nice and warm from the fire, I put it back on.

The big Dipper was starting a long progression in a giant arc across the sky.

In the dark, everything seems to change.
I could hear ships out on the water, their big engines sounded like freight trains.

I was getting hungry and thirsty, so was Alex.

I pulled off the grate from the propane heater and cleaned a couple of the ducks we got in the firelight.

Stuck them on the heater grate and laid it on the coals.

It was the best meal I’d ever had.

Me and Alex ate 2 whole ducks and their hearts, livers and gizzards.

Stars started to shoot across the sky.

It felt good to have some hot food.

I grabbed as much dry grass as I could find and laid it on the sand, then I laid the Old wool coat on top of it and made it a bed for Alex.

He promptly curled up and went to sleep.

I tried to get some sleep, but it is hard to sleep when one half of your body is hot and the other half is chilled.

So I made a long fire so that I’d be warm from head to toe….

I made about 6 wood runs in the night,
I think I got about 45 minutes of sleep.

I laid in the sand near my fire.
I looked up at the stars.

I was stranded on an island. It was surreal.

I could see the big dipper,
The 7 sisters,
The North star.

I was so tired.
I’d close my eyes and see crazy dream like images.
Like bad cartoons, some terrifying, some beautiful, some mysterious.

I figured I was really dehydrated, and exhausted.
Too much A.M. radio.

I thought about my whole life.

About my father and what he’d have done,
how he’d have told the tale I was living.
I laughed.

About my wife wondering if I was ok.

When you are isolated and just trying to get through the night, your mind can wander.

Sea lions barked out periodically.

I’d close my eyes and start to get to sleep, and the fire’d get low… I’d get up and haul more wood .

Some of the water I’d set near the fire had thawed enough to drink… I was glad to have it.

Stars shot across the sky.
I could see Orion off to the S.E., and knew it had to be @ 0230 hrs.

Alex said, “look, you need to rest some, you’ve been up since 0230 yesterday and had a long day in between now and then.”

I laid down in the sand and looked at the sky.

Alex came and laid his head on my chest.
Alex doesn’t do that.

I realized that in my many years of hunting with him, all of the adventures, all of the triumphs and mistakes along the way, he was always right beside me when things got bad, when I needed it most.

So I rested with my old dog in the sand and soon the moon rose in crescent.

I listened to him breathing.

I wondered what he was dreaming?

A solitary loon called out 2 or 3 times. It sounded about as alone as anything I had ever heard before.

After about an hour or so, I could see the moon had crossed about 60 minutes of sky.

Soon the sky was growing light to the east.

As the tide rolled in, it doused the fire.

We loaded the boat and soon we were afloat.

Fired her up, and made the way back to the launch.

Ducks flew in and across the bay,
Pinners, widgeons, mallards.

A hearty lot they are, to survive without a fire in that frigid place.

I arrived to an iced in harbor, had to bust ice in the boat to get to the launch.
Crawling along as the bomber crushed and churned chunks of sheet ice.

We were glad to be back to the truck,
what a time we had.

For as much of a bad thing that being stranded was,
It was one of the most memorable and meaningful experiences I’ve ever had.

Any time a tried and true bird dog lays it’s head on your chest and sleeps, and you’ve got a fire going to keep you warm.

You are a lucky man.

May you be so lucky.

Don't just do something, Stand there!

Last edited by:

todd tennyson: Jun 12, 2017, 3:16 PM
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Re: The Long hunt (stranded overnight) In reply to
Todd, THAT was probably the BEST story I have ever read!! Thank you for sharing it with us!
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Re: The Long hunt (stranded overnight) In reply to
Thanks. Don't know what you do for a living but you definetly have a talent for writing.
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Re: The Long hunt (stranded overnight) In reply to
That boat pic with you and the dog is priceless!
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Re: The Long hunt (stranded overnight) In reply to
Great Adventure!!!! Thanks for sharing!

***Phil (Chesapeake Boy) Nowack***

Nothing like the north wind pushing snow at your back, a bird in your hand, and chessie with ice on his coat at your side.

Birds brought to you courtesy of Nikon, Benelli, Kodi, and Otter
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Re: The Long hunt (stranded overnight) In reply to
Having been stranded there is a period when you are completely relaxed when you know you've done everything possible to fix your situation. Your stories would fill a GREAT book. Thanks for sharing.
wis boz
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Re: The Long hunt (stranded overnight) In reply to
Great story and pictures. Thanks.
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Re: The Long hunt (stranded overnight) In reply to
An unfortunate situation to put yourself into but I enjoyed the read.

You were lucky.
It's all about the doin'

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Re: The Long hunt (stranded overnight) In reply to
Todd...don't normally read the long ones, but really enjoyed your story and pics. Glad things turned out well.

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Re: The Long hunt (stranded overnight) In reply to
Todd! Thanks for taking the time to tell us your story. We can all learn from it. I believe all of us that read it were there. You are a very good writer and I have missed your stories lately. Have a great week.

Gary March
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Re: The Long hunt (stranded overnight) In reply to

Outstanding story with a happy ending. I'm glad to see you were prepaired. There are far to many people who head out and are not as well prepaired as you were and their stories don't end so well.

Best of luck and watch those tides a little closer

Capt. John
SEATRACKS Outdoor Adventures
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Re: The Long hunt (stranded overnight) In reply to
Thanks, sure is a lot to think about. Did you ever think about trying to publish any of your stories. They remind me of the stories I use to read in Outdoor Life when I was a kid. I forget what they were titled, but always looked forward to reading them like I do yours. Thanks again for sharing.
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Re: The Long hunt (stranded overnight) In reply to
thanks for the write up.

I was thinking how you were going to hear how lucky you were to live thru this, and its true....... just like walking across a busy city street.

But I was also thinking how common it was just a couple of generations back for a woodsmen or laborer to have to put up for the night in the bush. And somehow they lived to procreate and get us here.
Way to make a night of it, and show Alex just how much he needs you with that fire trick that the old guys figured out back in the cave. Lewis and Clark would be proud of you.
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Re: The Long hunt (stranded overnight) In reply to
Love your story......isn't it funny how people can freak out because you are stranded at low tide and you would have to sleep out in the cold? My buddy and I used to sleep in our boat with our dogs so we could be in the marsh at first light and go winter camping in January with no tents. I love duck hunting because of guys just like you. You didn't freak ou, you didn't call a helicopter to rescue with a hot latte waiting for you at the sucked it up, used your skills and judgment and enjoyed yourself. Bravo man Bravo! On the other side maybe next time you will consult a tide chart...and or hunt from a BBSB so you can pull her off the sand LOL.

Thanks for the great read!

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Re: The Long hunt (stranded overnight) In reply to
Great story,thanks for sharinig. Alex is one lucky guy. Good reminder to the rest of us who go out and may have to spend the night out.
"There is nothing- absolutly nothing half as much worth doing as messing about in boats or with boats. In or out of 'em, doesn't matter." Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham

Shiny side up,
Wicker T, Booker T & Charlie Brown
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Re: The Long hunt (stranded overnight) In reply to
What a great story an adventure for sure. I always wondered how I'd react to having this happen. Glad you had the weather to find dry stock to burn. Should remind everyone the importance of bringing some type of blanket or survival gear. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

Bill V
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Re: The Long hunt (stranded overnight) In reply to
Outstanding as usual. I've come to expect great reading with your posts and I'm never dissapointed.

The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those willing to work and give to those who would not.
Thomas Jefferson
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Re: The Long hunt (stranded overnight) In reply to
What a adventure. A great story. Every one who ventures out in the outdoors should read this one. Keeping ones head is the ultimate survival skill.
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Re: The Long hunt (stranded overnight) In reply to
Todd, that was an incredible story and hit close to home. I have been fortunate enough to be able to float my boat when the tides of the east coast threatened and almost stranded me in similar situations. Glad to see you were prepared and that you used your head, making the best of the situation. I would much rather read a story in an outdoor magazine about the mistakes made by hunters and how they over come obstacles rather than a story about an all inclusive "million teal" weekend in Mexico. All of us have made mistakes and the ability to pass this info on to others is priceless. Very well written......I hope you screw up again so I can enjoy another wonderful read. dc
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Re: The Long hunt (stranded overnight) In reply to
Man, I've been stranded before but never like that!
Good thing you were well prepared and had good company too.

Mobile, AL
DHBP Member since 1998

"Life is too short to drink bad beer."
Disclaimer: This post and/or report is not a substantiation of or reflection on the true accuracy of the present surveying methods. It is only a report on or comment concerning local observation and/or results. Your results and observation may vary based on your location, local water conditions, food supply, weather conditions and migratory patterns "
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Re: The Long hunt (stranded overnight) In reply to
I'm not much into reading long hunting stories, but I LOVE long adventure stories. That was a great story, thanks for sharing.
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WOW! In reply to
That is a classic chapter in all the posts you've added to this website.

Great to hear you were able to share.

Proud to be a DHBP Member Cool
Shoot them in the lips!
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Re: WOW! In reply to
Wow... I also wonder at times what I would do. Luckily, I hunt quite close to settled areas.
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Re: WOW! In reply to
Glad you kept cool and a very well written story. Glad your back. Thanks Hank
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Re: The Long hunt (stranded overnight) In reply to
Nice writing Todd.

Is it time for a Danworth anchor and a 3,000 lb winch and a lot of cable? Not much of a story in that though, just a lot of sweat and hard work.

Having "camped out" while salmon fishing up here I can relate to your sleepness night. At least you didn't worry about bears sniffing your toes.

I have been in situations where people wanted to panic and call in rescue squads. However, cooler heads prevailed, and the boat(s) were safely "de-swamped", and once the wind calmed down we made it back to the village with no issues and everyone was laughing about the adventure that morning. The adventure left me with a lasting impression of native cultures and how so many of them have abandoned the "can do" nature of their ancestors for the quick cell phone call to the rescue squad.

"Where all men think alike, no one thinks very much......It requires wisdom to understand wisdom: the music is nothing if the audience is deaf." -- Walter Lippmann