By HUNTER REDFIELD – Student Contributor
Fourteen hours after Keith and I left my house, we were finally able to step out of the car, knowing we were not obligated to get back into it for a while.
As we began unloading the car, a snow goose feed could be heard in the background while snows and specklebellies could be heard drifting into the feed through the darkness.
We carried all of our essentials into the house before running to Walmart to get my license and a few items for dinner. Once we were back and ate, the beds were calling our names. So that is where we headed with alarms set for 5 a.m. so we could get some breakfast before heading out.
However, when the alarms went off, I spent my allotted extra time hoping we would have a good morning hunt and checking the radar. We entered James’s truck and drove to what is known as “The Full Body Pit,” and as we stepped out of the truck, thunder rolled across the sky. After waiting a few minutes and then checking the radar, it was verified the storm had passed and we would have a couple hours to hunt before the next storm rolled in. We walked across the field, which was flooded ankle deep, and entered the pit awaiting the first bird.
Through the growing light, I could see flock after flock ranging from 25 to 100 birds in each one. However, none were close enough to work until one flock of about 15 could be seen. As they crested the top of the blind, James and I shot until our guns were empty and both looked at each other in awe when no birds fell. This group of birds was soon named the “phantom flock” as Keith didn’t see or believe there were actually birds above us.
After thinking we had messed up our one good chance, I saw three shadows coming over the speckle belly decoys and swinging around Keith’s end of the pit, and then they were straight out front, hovering over the spinners when my gun cracked and one fell. A shot followed, dropping the other one, and as the third attempted to get out, everyone unloaded on it.
Full of excitement, I exited the pit to retrieve the birds. The third one we had all shot at somehow got enough energy to pick up and fly out of the field. So, we all watched it, making sure it did in fact get away, and then I continued to walk out and pick up the two hen Northern Shovelers and make my way back to the pit.
After I got settled back in, we all watched as flocks of pintails and mallards faded in and out of the clouds above us, and the only low birds seen after that point were some low specks that gave us a very hard look, but decided against dropping down low enough for us to try them.
After those specks, the thunderstorms were supposed to be nearing, according to the weather radar. We grabbed all of our gear and made it back to the truck just in time for lighting to crack in a nearby field so close the thunder almost seemed to come before it.
Once back at the house, we listened to thunder crack across the flooded rice fields all day long, and by the time they had passed we had an hour to hunt, so we gave it a shot and killed one drake mallard just after getting into the pit.
After that bird, we all waited on darkness to arrive, hoping that the ducks would come with it. However, they didn’t so we went back to get some food and sleep before what we hoped would be an amazing hunt the following day.