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The Westmoreland Journal
King George, Virginia
January 21, 2015     The Westmoreland Journal
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January 21, 2015

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www, THE JOURNAL Wednesday, Jan, 21, 20157 MARK FIKE After what appears to have been an abysmal duck season, our region finally got the big push of Arctic air that supposedly shoves the ducks south. The problem with the cold air is that it came very suddenly and very powerfully. Local creeks and ponds froze overnight and appeared to have stayed that way for the most part since the bitter cold last week. That is until this past weekend when things started to thaw. Given promising reports of ducks starting to show up with one week left in the duck season, we figured we had to give it a try at least once this season. Saturday morning looked to be as good as any. The only thing that could have made it better weather-wise would have been some rain or snow. As with any trip that begins with a boat, particularly on very cold mornings, we had technical difficulties. Despite the electric motor working flawlessly during three different checks the night before, it refused to turn the prop an inch in the water come duck time. Of course, we had our trusty outboard that had also fired right up many times the previous few weeks when testing it in the yard. The trip would have been abnormal if things went well, so the outboard decided to be cranky, too. Five minutes into the launch, it finally caught and idled while warming up. Good thing we had extra time to get to the blind and set up the dekes. The creek was covered in ice and the metal boat cut through it with a roaring, crushing sound. "Watch for icebergs," ! remarked to my young hunting partner. "We don't want to be like the Titanic and hit one and go under" My daughter gave me a fearful look. She had never been out on an icy morning cutting the way through to the duck blind. I knew the ice was going to pose a real nasty problem at some point in the morning once the tide starting rolling. Ice and tides never go well with decoys. The boat cut a big arc in the ice just downstream of the cedar brushed The decoys were iced in and had to be repeatedly freed up lest the ice carry them away. Mark like duckblind. The roar oftheice against changed. After we completed that The tide was all the way out and the approaching ice flows and dreading the metal hull made my daughter a task, I dumped two bluebill hen water was super shallow. Years ago, what it meant. The sun was slow to bit nervous and I could understand decoys and a drake bluegill decoy I had propped up my motor in a crawl into the sky and water that why. It was very loud. But, I knew the overboard. Next, I slipped a pair of situation like that and the lower unit had splashed on my gun was frozen ice was not too thick. At that point, Canada geese overboard to ride the froze. When I lowered it again, the to the receiver. I could hear the ice I guess it was good that I have some icy waves. Third, we untangled four water pump would not pull water crunching and cracking in front of hearing loss. I cannot imagine what mallard decoys and threw them into and I burned it up. Knowing better us as the tide moved. Some pieces the crushing forces of frozen water an ice free zone and began heading this time, I grabbed a paddle and popped and shimmered on top of slamming into aluminum was doing towards the blind where we would poled us the last few yards to the the main flow and others went under to the dog's ears. clamber out to get our guns uncased, blind and left the motor in the water, the top layer and could be seen being We continued to make tight Before we got to the blind though, I The prop would-just have to take a carried with the tide past us. circles trying to break up a huge put out a moving decoy to add some few dings. A half hour past dawn, the first swath of ice to thin out chances of life to the spread. Kristy, Baily (her yellow lab) ducks surprised us screaming down our decoys being picked up and Just before we got to the rear of and I got set up in the blind and the creek before we could even grab moved with the ice once the tide the blind, the motor hit the bottom, waited. I caught myself eyeing the a call. Several other pairs did the same and none seemed interested in our setup. They had business to attend somewhere that was already predetermined. Duck hunting can be predictable at times. It was about at this point in the morning that I predicted what would happen next. I would have to go chase iced decoys and the birds would start flying. While I was freeing decoys and placing them in front of our blind again, ducks were flying over and actually coming down for a look while I was poleing the boat around frantically trying to complete my task. When I would reach for my gun they would flare off and head up the creek. This scene repeated itself several times before we finally realized that the ice was going to win and we would lose. Because I was curious about what may have been on the big water, we gathered our gear, unloaded our guns and took a slow ride to check things out. When we rounded the bend, I was stunned to see hundreds of diver ducks take to the air. The number may have been near a thousand. They parted into three groups and headed toward the north. Around the next big bend, where the creek tripled in size, we flushed 50 or more canvasbacks. Other species of ducks went up at various points on the creek and geese were sent skyward too. It was nice to see so many ducks after not seeing or hearing of many birds much of the season. Each time the ducks took off, my daughter's lab would mark the birds and look at us as if to ask if we were going to shoot. She may not know it, but she probably is glad we did not shoot as the water was icy and even with a neoprene vest she was sure to get bone cold in that water. With only a few days left, we hope to give it one last try and maybe take home a duck or two for supper. To those of you that enjoy bone-cold mornings, soggy waders, frosty breath, good hunting partners and the weight of a good retriever leaning on you as you all wait for cupped wings and the command to take 'em, best wishes to you and the fowl shooting you hope to get. • New Homes • Sunrooms • Additions • Kitchens 8( Baths • Garages • Decks • Custom Woodwork • Replacement Windows ,';ales & Service • (804) 493-8509 -Showroom Now Open- Class A Ltscensed & Insured • 15115 Kings Hwy. , VA 22520 R.C. 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