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Thread: Shooting Hens (repost)

  1. #1
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    Default Shooting Hens (repost)

    I originally called this A Change in Latittude but I think "Shooting Hens" is a better title in honor of raybird's hen thread...

    November 14, 2015
    Today is a freebie; one of those beautiful, quiet, warm, clean mid-November days when North Carolina is open and South Carolina is closed. Iíve got a fat September buck in the freezer and thank goodness for that because the October rut was a literal and figurative washout. Thereís little pressure to add another deer, though, especially since both kids are out on their own.

    I pulled my boat the 25 or so miles across the state line through eight empty lanes of non-traffic. Duck hunting in the coast never feels like this. Iím always rushed, worried about that one rig that might turn into the landing just ahead of me. A Lowcountry hunt starts with my being torn between wanting to drive faster to beat that guy to the landing and needing to slow down so I donít explode into one of the many whitetails that wander into the curvy two-lanes of what I call the South Carolina Outback. But, this far inland thereís no sense of urgency. No one hunts within a mile of my favorite deepwater hole and Iíve never had anyone show up right at daylight and be forced by a quickly rising sun to set-up 200 yards down the bank. The invisible geopolitical line that marks my intrusion into the tar-heel state makes me a living example of that old saying, ďa change in latitude is a change in attitude.Ē

    I take my time readying the boat at the landing going purposefully slower than I have to just to prove my point. Even with that, Iím starting a longline in less than 10 minutes. I use a rangefinder to mark 45 yards from where Iíll stand and drop the first anchor into twenty-five foot of crystal clear water. I start clipping decoys as I idle toward shore ending up about 20 yards out. I changed all of my drops from corded line to heavy clear mono just to hunt this way a day or two each season. Iím absolutely positive decoying ducks looking straight down can see the heavy corded mainline but from my acute angle near the bank I no longer have to fret about seeing the drops. Iím well aware that my decoy details are more about me than the ducks.

    Another longline and some fill-in-the-gap singles and Iím ready to hunt.

    Like most of my North Carolina hunts, there is absolutely no early bird activity Ė nothing. Thirty minutes and finally, a great blue heron gives me something to look at. I like seeing blue herons at the foot of the mountains and I remember seeing one on a trout stream last summer somewhere near 3,200 feet. Why do they bother to make the inland migration when the equally big, white egrets always stay near the coast? Iím sure thereís a reasonÖI slide into a thoughtless world of simply existing. Itís pleasant but Iím slowly, reluctantly, pulled back into an awareness of my purpose. Theyíre gadwall.

    If duck hunting was high school then gadwall are not the redheaded head cheerleader nor are they the regal blonde daughter of the townís richest resident. Gadwalls are the attractive yet ordinary brunette from just down the street; accessible and from the same caste so they donít come with the pressures of the cheerleader or the blonde. This is duck hunting in its most simple form.

    I call at the six or so birds and they tip their wings but instead of circling in the bowl of the lake, they take the river channel. Itís not long and theyíre back, tough. They donít fly the rim of the bowl like I expected. They cut across the open water, high but straight to my decoys. If this were a South Carolina hunt Iíd be a nervous wreck that someone somewhere would shoot at this most precarious of moments but the world stays quiet. They drop as they follow one of the long lines slowing to a hover just where the lines meet the singles. I shoot the biggest one and roll another as they exit. One look at the dying birds and itís clear that I just killed a hen and one of her brood. The four remaining birds arenít quite ready to leave. Instincts take over as I grab my mallard call and blow a quick cadence. Iím sure ducklings recognize their motherís call but in a hope against hope they return only to confirm their worst fears. I have a reloaded gun but donít take a shot. Iím just not that hungry. Alone in the world the inconsolable survivors refuse another cocobolo offer and take the river channel that leads them to the rest of their fate. This time they wonít return.

    Even after 35 years of duck hunting I donít really know how I feel about shooting hens. Theyíre legal and seem no less smart than the drakes but shooting an adult hen seems so final Ė like the end of a long successful line that has lasted since the dawn of time. But I have some confidence that she has taught her young everything theyíd need to know to survive the wild and that her final lesson might teach them what they need to know to survive the season. Maybe the line isnít broken after all.
    Ephesians 2 : 8-9



    Charles Barkley: Nobody doesn't like meat.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
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    great writeup as always.

    Quote Originally Posted by Duck Tape View Post
    Clemson gained 744 yards Saturday night, the most ever against South Carolina.
    Quote Originally Posted by JABIII View Post
    All they do is win...

  3. #3
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    I feel like soft music needs to be playing in the background as I read this!
    867-5309

  4. #4
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    Oct 2012
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    Fine writing Rubberhead.

    Call me an extremist but if I can help it, with the species possible, I do my very best not to shoot the hens. It doesn't always work due to various reasons but when I pick up a hen Pintail, Redhead or other I always cringe a little inside regardless of that 20% mentioned in the Wildfowl article.

    I might even go further to say that hen mortality in other species, besides the mallard hen referenced around 20% in the Wildlfowl article, is likely higher.
    Genesis 9;2

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
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    Great read , finally somebody that’s gets it!

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