Posted by Steve Sutton on May 28, 1999 at 16:40:51:
I started chasing ducks at the age of 13 in Cocoa Florida and have been doing it for the 34 years since that first Drake Bluebill shot out of a yellow Navy surplus raft. During that time I have never missed an opening day and have missed only one close, (last year when a favored Aunt passed away).
I was fortunate to have been hunting during the days of 10 bird Pintail limits and in the GOOD OLD DAYS when the Bluebills wintered in Florida in numbers that darkened the horizon like smoke when they flushed.
I have a deep and abiding passion for not just the "NOW" of our sport but also of the past. I try to make at least one annual hunt to someplace that has an historical connection with a favored writer of the early part of this century.
I have hunted in, at last count, 27 states and am fast approaching my goal of taking all of the legal waterfowl in the U.S.
I own a bunch of boats, from a jet sled to 4 BBSB's, and will build my first wooden boats this summer. I also carve my own decoys, as well as collect those of other contemporary GUNNING DECOY carvers.
For a long time I hunted with a favored partner and occassionally one of my brothers but the recent interest shown by two of my nephews has caused me to spend more of my time introducing anyone interested to duck hunting in general and sea duck hunting in particular. A favorite of mine is to take a dyed in the wool puddle duck hunter on a Sea Duck or diver hunt and watch him answer his own questions about what people see in shooting Divers.
I have the great good fortune to live in a state that has a season that lasts over 100 days and also have the ability to hunt over 70 days a year.
I hunt Upland birds on occassion and have been known to chase Turkies in the spring but it is Waterfowl that holds my allegiance.
A SHORT STORY:
I was 13 and lived where the sight of a young kid with a shotgun tied on the handlebars of his bicycle caused no undue alarm. I could buy my shells at the local 7-11 and they would break a box if you asked them. My older brother and I had shot quite a few Bluebills off of the docks in the Indian River in Cocoa but what we really longed for was to be PUDDLE DUCK HUNTERS.
The only puddle ducks that we knew of were the resident Mottled Ducks that we saw as we rode our bikes to and from the docks that we hunted for Bluebills.
One afternoon, after a particulary poor shooting display by myself, the regular sight of 5 Mottled Ducks that could always be found along a certain area of the RIVER ROAD became too much for a duck crazed thirteen year old to stand. Barry had done quite well that afternoon and wanted nothing to do with my plans to jump shoot the Mottled Ducks in what amounted to a VERY large houses front yard. He did tell me he would wait for me up the road.
I hid my bike and commenced my sneak, darting from tree to tree as I closed in on the unsuspecting fowl, (actually they did suspect something, specifically to be fed as I was to find out later). When you are thirteen and in hot pursuit of your first BIG ducks you don't question why they would swim towards you rather that away from you. NO SIR, you just chalk that up to your good fortune and Indian like stealth.
When I lept out from behind the last tree at the river bank them big boys was RIGHT THERE. It took a couple of shouts to get them to flush and when they did I went to work with my 20 ga. Stevens double, dropping 2 on the first shot and 1 on the second. Later Barry would tell me that it was probably the home owners rushing across the lawns that frightened the ducks but I swear I never heard em.
This was WAY better than I had expected so I jumped in to the river to retrieve my trophies. I think it was about this point that I heard the first scream from behind me as a tiny blue haired lady got within ear shot. The retrieve was much more difficult than expected because the bottom was about 3 feet of slop and one of the the birds was a cripple. I also could not lay my gun on the bank byecause there were now TWO lunatic BLUEHAIRS on the bank screeching as if it was them that I had shot.
I finally coralled the swimmer and started vectoring towards shore and my hidden bike. A little grove of trees on the bank was enough of a hinderance to those on the bank to allow me to get to my bike ahead of them and I breathed a major sigh of relief as I pedaled furiously away while performing quite a balancing act with a gun and three BIG, BEAUTIFUL MALLARDS!!!
My euphoria was short lived as I reached the spot where Barry was supposed to be waiting and found instead a police car with its lights on approaching me at a high rate of speed.
I was at least smart enough not to try to escape the police and was summarily taken to the slammer along with my gun, bike and three precious ducks. Barry, by the way, was no where to be seen.
My long suffering parents were called and they soon arrived to claim me. The police released me to there custody and advised me that I should try to make amends to the extrememly irate homeowners who might still press charges.
I recall that my parents were extrememly aggitated to find that I owned a shotgun, a trifling little thing that Barry and I had thought it best they not know, and that I had been so foolish as to do something that required their attendance at the police station.
I remember my dad thundering that "HE CAN BY GOD JUST STAY IN JAIL!!" Based on what I figured was coming once I got home I would have rather stayed right where I was but no one asked me what I wanted. I figured that the Police wouldn't murder me but I wasn't sure about the old man.
My mother, fearful of legal action, marched me straight to the house where I had killed the ducks where, after hearing that I had MURDERED their pets of many years, I apologized and my parents received the assurance that if I was never seen to stop pedaling while in sight of their house the issue would be dropped.
I was grounded for the rest of the my early life and my gun was taken away, or so they thought, but the worm had started to turn and no amount of punishment could have made me not want to be a duck hunter. After all I was the hero of all my "GUNNING BUDDYS" because, regardless of the circumstances, I had still taken the first BIG DUCKS!!
I would save my nephews the trauma of those first BIG DUCKS but not the thrill that has led to this lifelong obsession!