Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Unfair Advantage ?
On my recent waterfowl trip I learned I have some competition. The weather has been lousy for duck hunting. Temps in the mid 60's and barely freezing at night. No northern storms to push waterfowl south. So the resident population are taking it in the shorts.
The habitat that I hunt on is a mix of alfalfa fields that are flooded seasonally, as well areas that are not cultivated but have a mix of natural foods and give waterfowl a safe haven from predators. Some of the fields have a few high spots (mounds) that we sit on when we hunt over decoys. The field are flooded by a complex series of ditches and head gates. These are the dikes that I walk in search of jump shooting dabblers. There are not many ducks using the place right now, and it takes several groups of hunters set up through out the property to keep the birds stirred up and moving. Being one person is not conducive for decoy hunting at this stage of the season. I most likely would be more of a spectator instead of a participant. So that is why Jet and I walk and walk and walk in search of ducks.
This last trip was fairly successful considering the conditions. I didn't take any short sleeve shirts and paid the price. The lightest shirt I had was a long sleeve chamois and I still sweated buckets in it. None the less onward we trudged and on Saturday afternoon headed to the back ditch. Typically this is my honey hole and is usually worth a couple opportunities for Mallards.
As Jet and I got close, I peaked my head over the top of the dike to look for ripples on the water. I saw a whole lot more than just ripples. Looked liked a wake board tournament was going on. There weren't ripples but waves! I scratched my head and looked hard for the intruder. Surely there couldn't be a Muskrat putting out a wake like that? Nope, it was a large River Otter and Jet was ready to go after it. Whoa girl, this one will bite back. I was dumbfounded. Never in all my 30 years of walking these ditches have I ever seen an Otter in them. He was a good half mile from the Klamath River. This was starting to make sense now. That is, the fact that there weren't many ducks using that ditch. Also the remnants that I'd found the day before of a Red Shafted Flicker, several duck carcasses and a Skunk were littering the top of the dike. Mmmm, I can see that someone is eating well. Jet and I watched as he swam around and then realized he had an audience. He then swam through the culvert into the flooded field and began to make a hissing sound at us. Well let me tell you, I hissed right back at him. I was not impressed and if only I had a Fur Trappers License I'd, I'd, ahhh well maybe not. She -he- it! I have been out done by an Otter. I can just imagine him stealthing beneath the water in search of little orange feet. Then grabbing them and pulling them under. Can you imagine the look on the ducks face? Wow, and all without a duck stamp or license.
After taking a few pictures of my worthy opponent we continued our walk down the dike. Hoping that he hadn't been where we're heading and just maybe there was a duck within 40 yards of the ditch. As it turned out we jumped 2 drakes and 1 hen Mallard as we neared the end of our walk. I was feeling a bit smug, knowing I had beaten my nemesis to the quarry. Jet retrieved steady as a rock with hand signals for 1 of the drakes. The other 2 she marked visually and didn't need my help.
We began our walk back to the truck and thankful I had only 3 ducks in my game vest. It was about 3 p.m. and I was hot and beginning to drag a bit. We got back to the truck and never did see Mr. Otter on our return trip. I just hope he found his way back to the Klamath River. We got our birds field dressed and called it a day.
Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt