Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Big Freeze

I arrived home from a recent duck hunt just in time to spend the following day snow blowing and shoveling for the better part of 7 hours. All things considered I was no better off staying in Klamath County hunting ducks. The freeze is upon us now and here for the duration I'm afraid. Morning temps well below zero and a high in the teens. I had only made two trips to hunt waterfowl and now all the flooded fields are solid ice and the Klamath river also now with dangerous shelf ice and the potential for a full freeze across it's width. It has been many years since I've seen that river froze up tight as a drum, but this may be the year of a repeat performance. When I awoke at 3 a.m. Monday morning due to high winds slamming the little cabin and it's creaking sounds, I was hoping to get back to sleep for a short while. I never did and finally got up at 5 a.m. to a chilly 41 degrees inside, brrr. I fired up the wood stove and said hello to Jet and stalled her from her breakfast for as long as possible. Her internal clock is far better than any watch I've ever owned when it comes to her meal times. I got my cereal and coffee going and snuggled up to the wood stove. I mentally went through the packing of gear and cabin shut down checklist. The previous night it had snowed 5 to 6 inches and the west winds whipped up the Klamath into a fine froth of whitecaps.

On Saturday afternoon when we arrived it was brisk and quite comfortable. We took a lap around to jump our favorite ditches. We did get a nice Mallard, 2 Ring Necked ducks and we flushed a few Snipe, of which Jet made nice retrieves. In hindsight I wish I'd spent more time focused on hunting Snipe, as this was one of their last nights spent here before continuing on their migration south. Some of the ditches had thin layers of ice forming as did the flooded fields. Very few ducks in either places with the exception being the Klamath River where there were quite a few divers.

On Sunday the weather was turning colder with snow flurries, strong winds and white caps on the river. Jet stayed in the cabin as it was to dangerous for her to go in the river and I didn't want to take any chances. With her hearing about gone she is on auto pilot when a bird goes down and I didn't want her to get into trouble, or myself for that matter in rescuing her. I had a few good shots on a drake Spoonie and 1 Pheasant. The Spoonie was close enough for me to wade to it. I had to work hard to find the Pheasant, as he piled into a wide swath of tule's next to the river. This particular patch is dangerous because it has hidden water holes that are quite deep and ones footing is somewhat challenging. Tough enough for hunters but even worse for our 4 legged partners. They get more tangled that one can imagine, plus if they go front feet first into a water hole it can be life threatening. I've had to pull Jet out a time or two before when she's gotten herself into a predicament. When she gets that Pheasant scent in her head she is like a dog on drugs, she will not stop until she flushes them or I physically pull her out of there and convince her to come with me. Pheasants truly are her drug of choice.

Back to my story of retrieving the Pheasant without Jet's assistance. I spent a good 1/2 hour looking and had no luck finding the bird. I decided to walk the dike towards the old boat dock and loop around the field side of the dike in hopes of flushing the other rooster that I missed. After the better part of 1 and 1/2 hours I never did flush the second Pheasant and was now back up river from where I had dropped the Pheasant. I looped back to the river side of the dike and proceeded to go look some more for the downed Pheasant. I again "marked" the point from where I shot and took a straight line and this time after about 15 minutes I had succeeded. I was out to far before and made my way back in just a little and there he was crumpled in a pile, still warm to the touch. I was ecstatic as I hate to lose any bird or animal that I shoot. I was laughing to myself that Jet typically goes to short and now I tend to the opposite. Somewhere in there is a happy medium I'm sure. I felt like I deserved a can of Alpo for my efforts.

Throughout the day the snow squalls came and went as did the gusty winds. I retired to the cabin before quitting time and was happy to get my birds field dressed before darkness set in. The temperatures plummeted that night and I wondered if the cabin pipes would freeze and if there would be any birds left come morning. I knew with the temps being in the single digits the only open water was going to be the river. While I love to hunt the river it's no place to be by yourself in a winter storm. Even in fair weather early season hunts, I won't use my boat unless I've got a friend hunting with me. So the stage was now set for the arctic blast and big freeze of 2010. Jet and I hit the pavement at 0630 after a windy night in the cabin. The roads were glazed ice and not more than 3 miles down the road did I see my first SUV in someones front yard with a sheriffs patrol vehicle next to it. Driving north along the Upper Klamath Lake is a dangerous and treacherous piece of real estate. We drove slow and steady reaching home in a little over 3 hours for 120 miles. Happy to be home and looking forward to a good nights rest before we had to start the chore of snow removal in the morning.

As I sit here and type this story I am thankful for many things, even the ability to do the not so fun ones like snow removal. Jet and I want to extend our very best to you and your family and friends for a wonderful Thanksgiving. Please take a moment and think of those who are serving this country in harms way and their loved ones. We are fortunate to live in a wonderful country and lets not forget that freedom is not free. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Be safe out there.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt


The Hunter's Wife said...

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Terry!

Main Line Sportsman said...

Great photos...I am jealous. Gonna Goose hunt all day tomorrow....

Jennifer Montero said...

Nothing beats a lost bird found. When you have to do it yourself without a labrador's scenting ability, you get an even deeper appreciation for your canine partner.

We had a lab here last week which is totally blind and retrieved strange ground on scent alone. The owners had to be careful of barbed wire fences but in a flat field he did wonderfully. It was great to see and I thought of you and Jet.

Have also shared your hats with a few women pheasant hunters from the UK and from France. They loved them!

gary said...

Sounds cold cold cold. We've had our share over here too, even O last night again. Glad you got a good hunt in before it really came down on you.

Thanksgiving was great here, two of the three boys and their families made it home. Loved having them but when the last one left last night it was nice to put the feet up and not worry about getting hit with something. Both two year olds love throwing (most anything).

Keep warm!

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