Our Greatest Day by Chris Price
As Justin and Jonathan picked up the decoy spread, Dad and I stood in the blind smiling and laughing. Dad said, “ Mark this one down. It’s a day we’ll always remember.” Looking at our mixed bag of puddle ducks, I smiled and agreed. Today, had been an amazing day. It was our greatest day.
We met Justin and Jonathan at the Oregon Inlet Coast Guard Station boat landing at five o’clock that morning. We loaded the boat and were soon on our way. It was a cold, yet relaxing ride. We were hunting Vic’s Snow Blind that morning, and when we arrived I had a hunch we were in for something special. We could hear Pintail, Teal, Widgeon, Gadwall, and Black Ducks all behind us, quacking and whistling to one another. We all listened for a few minutes, taking in all the sounds before putting out the decoys. Once the decoys were placed, and the boat hidden, we settled in to prepare for the days forthcoming adventure. As the sun began to rise, we watched flock after flock of ducks and Tundra Swans fly over the marsh behind us. Dad and I were in a daze, staring in awe at the sheer number of the flocks flying overhead. Then suddenly, Justin snapped us back to reality. “Shovelers! Three of them! All drakes too! Right through the decoys!”, Justin exclaimed! Our first ducks of the morning and I didn’t even see them. Dad and I stayed on alert for a few more minutes, but went back to watching the ducks fly behind us. Again we missed more ducks, this time it was two big bull Pintails. Dad managed to get off a couple of quick shots, but was to no avail. After that, we decided it was time to get serious and start shooting some ducks, and shoot ducks we certainly did.
A few minutes later, a single hen Pintail entered the “No Fly Zone”, and quickly fell to simultaneous shots from Dad and me. Even though we both shot it, I let Dad claim it. Last year, Dad shot a nice bull Pintail while we were hunting with Joey down in Hatteras, and he was hoping to get a hen to go with the big bull he already had mounted, so he was pleased with his first duck of the day. I was watching for ducks, when I saw a pair of ducks go down in the creek behind us. I decided I should attempt to sneak up on them for a shot, so I left the blind and started my trek through the grass. I got down wind, and out of sight, and quickly closed the gap. When I got up to them I realized they were Gadwalls. I watched them for a second before they jumped, and when they jumped I was ready. I effortlessly shot the hen, but the drake was a little more difficult. I’ve never seen a duck take off like a rocket until this guy. He went straight up in the air and was quickly widening the gap between us. Unfortunately for him, my sweet shooting Winchester 20 gauge was ready, and so was I. He fell from the sky just as quickly as he rose from the water. Since I didn’t feel like chasing him all through the grass, I had to finish him off with a second shot. I then waded out into the creek and claimed my first ever Gadwalls. When I turned to return to the blind, I saw Justin, Jonathan, and Dad standing on the seat of the blind waving their guns and pumping their fists in the air in celebration over my shots. I raised my ducks in the air acknowledging their approval, and continued my march back to the blind. The weather that day was in the low 30’s with a good Northwest wind. Between the weather, the mud, and the grass, I was cold, wore out, and shaking. My legs were so tired, I even fell down several times while walking back. My speech was even beginning to slur.
Dad, being the wonderful, caring, man that he is, tried to warm me up with his gun blast. “All rrriiggghhtt! Another Pintail!”, exclaimed Justin as he hit the water to fetch it. This time it was a nice Bull with a real good sprig. Right after that, three Gadwalls came by, and none made it past the blind. The first two fell dead as a hammer and the second hen crashed into the grass. Dad was standing there with his gun in his hands looking at us asking who all shot. We all replied that it was all him. I think Dad was impressed, right along with the rest of us. Dad has always told me of amazing shots on dove and duck, and today he was showing me what he’s all about. Dad then asked why I didn’t shoot, and I told him I saw he had everything under control, but in reality I was still freezing cold.
After the Gadwalls, we had a bit of a lull in the action, along with some missed shots on more Pintail. We noticed they would be coming in close, but would flare off at around fifty yards out or so. There were about 20-30 decoys laying on the bank from the day before that the sun was casting a nasty glare off of, and warning the ducks of our evil intent. The ducks in return would happily flare away, and probably laugh to themselves at our mistake of not setting them out with the others. We were about to disperse the decoys into the water, when Dad noticed a group of five Pintail headed our way. They were 100+ yards away, so we knew we didn’t have a shot. However, one single drake broke away from the bunch, and got a little too close for Dad’s liking. Dad was sporting his x-tra full turkey choke in his Mossberg 835 Ulti Mag so he figured he’d sling some lead er steel in the ducks direction. He lead the bull about six feet, and nailed him at 80+ yards. The duck was so high up, that Justin didn’t even see him until he hit the water. After that we put out the other decoys, and prepared for the next flight. Jonathan, then left to get his and Justin’s lunches. Justin, Dad, and I then sat there reliving the day thus far, and thinking about what was yet to come. A short while later, Dad and I were standing in the blind still talking when I looked to my right, and saw a very realistic looking Black Duck decoy. I studied it for a few seconds and then quickly grabbed my gun and shot the lone duck before she had a chance to escape. The water quickly turned a dark red thus assuring me of a good shot. I hit the water at retriever-like speed to fetch my duck, but when I went to grab her, she took to the air as if she didn’t have a care in the world. Severely befuddled, I quickly got off two awkward shots that were to no avail, and helplessly watched as she landed down in the grass. Justin and Dad marked where she went down at, and Justin and I began our search for my duck. We had been looking for about five minutes, when I heard splashing in a small water hole. I looked and saw my duck trying to bury herself in the mud in an attempt to evade her capture. I quickly grabbed her, and as soon as I did she died in my hand. I was ecstatic at this point. We had a mixed bag of puddle ducks that any hunter would be proud of.
Shortly thereafter, Jonathan returned, and was just in time to see Dad make another magnificent shot on what Justin called the biggest damn drake Gadwall he thought he’d ever seen. It was indeed a big one and beautifully plumaged too. A little while later, a single bull Pintail entered the “No Fly Zone”, and again Dad dropped him. Dad looked at me laughing and said, “Darn another Pintail.” Dad had shot everyone’s limit of Pintail, and it wasn’t even one o’clock yet. We also noted we were one duck away from our daily bag limits. We waited an hour longer and had a merganser hen swim into the decoy spread. Dad and I weren’t going to shoot a merganser when we had all those beautiful puddle ducks, so instead Jonathan shot it, claiming he doesn’t allow free rent in his decoy spreads. The ducks had pretty much flying at this point, so we decided we’d call it a day. Our greatest day to be exact. On the way back to the landing, we stopped to let Vic see what all the commotion was all about. He seemed quite pleased, and Gabby looked as if she wished she could have been there to fetch all of the ducks. I don’t remember how well Vic’s group fared, but I do know that their smiles weren’t near as big as Dad’s and mine were.
Along the way back, Dad remarked on how much he had enjoyed the trip and how we’ll never forget today. ( This trip was a surprise Christmas present for Dad from my girlfriend, Amy, and me.) We agreed this is a new father/son trip we’ll make for many years to come. Today was a day that made my dad’s and mine relationship even stronger. Today was a day we shared, and a memory we made of our greatest hunt together. A day not every hunter gets to enjoy, either by themselves or with loved ones, but when it comes its a great day. For Dad and I, today was a great day, and it was our day.