A Hunter’s Journal, Part Two

8 Nov

Friday, Nov. 7
Clear and cold and still. Low Temp +23F 
Forecast called for “south, southwest winds, 10-15, gusting to 25, laying down later in the day.” At Belva Deer south winds are not the best, but they can still be hunted effectively. Thursday, while I volunteered at the Food Pantry, the wind howled out of the North, and the temperature dropped to more winter-like numbers, and the sun was apparent only briefly.
The full moon was day-bright at 4 a.m. and the temperature was a cool 23F as I loaded the two Labs that make up my hunting party for the hour’s drive. As we launched, Ark, Kris, and I became absorbed in the stillness that comes with the changing of the seasons. An eerie mist was rising off the cooling waters, and hanging in tendrils straight up to the moon that made the fact I’d left my spotlight home on the counter meaningless.
As we navigated the flooded woods out of the county’s refuge, I could see with unbelievable detail the point I usually hunt on west and north winds, and we kept to the far shoreline where the forested hills end abruptly at the waterline without fear of ramming a snag as they were clearly visible.
When we got to the bay with the southern shoreline, I sat in the boat for an hour waiting for the slightest hint that the wind would indeed come from the south, if it came at all.
The wait gave me time to soak in the beauty of the moment, knowing that no matter how hard I might try, I’d never be able to convey that feeling to those who’ve never experienced it, and knowing full well that those of us who have don’t need words like these to remind them.
Finally the mist started slanting from the south to the north and I set the decoys knowing that the diver ducks like to land at the head of the flock while the mallards, geese and other puddle ducks prefer to land at the rear. I alw77ays remember at that moment a lesson from years ago, “How would you like to glide in for a landing over a bunch of birds who at any second might pop straight up in front of you?”
But all my strategic placement of decoys and careful concealment of the boat blind were wasted on this morning. Other than three LBDs (a takeoff on the mycologist’s scientific term for unidentifiable “Little Brown Mushrooms) and a lot of crows, there were no birds on the lake.
I can only conclude that the heavy north winds and sudden drop in temperature sent the hundreds of birds I’d seen on Wednesday on their way south. That’s duck hunting in the temperate climes of the U.S. – a here today; gone tomorrow proposition. There is no real reason for birds to stay in the refuge on Belva Deer. Everything they find here is available hundreds of miles south of here except for the cold.
We wrapped up the vigil and were back home before noon with nothing to show for our efforts but a hauntingly beautiful memory of a mirror-like lake bathed in the wash of the moon as spooky mists of warmer times made their escape for the season.


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