Monday, January 27, 2014

Final Day of Duck Season in VA

Saturday was the final day for Waterfowl season in Virginia and it was a cold one. With temps below freezing all week, things were starting to freeze up and birds were heading for bigger water. We decided to do the old find a spot that was holding birds and break a hole for them to land and wait for the to pile in. We drove to our spot breaking ice with the boat the last 1/4 mile.ONce to where we wanted to set up, we broke a big hole in the ice with the boat maybe 80ft x 50 ft and peppered it with decoys. Before the decoys were in the water, our trail in had refroze locking the place back up.

Once set up we waited, and waited, and waited. Nothing decoyed. Saw a few birds but nowhere near the numbers that we saw just days before and all of them wanted to be on the river. By 10am I decided we needed to make moves to salvage the day the view was great but the hunting was not!
We headed back to Seaford to one of my shoreblinds to try and scratch out a few birds but it was doubtful it would be a memorable finish to the season... boy was I wrong. We were setup by 1pm for our evening hunt praying for even a couple buffleheads to slip in just so that we didnt get skunked on the final day. Boy were we surprised... we did end up with some buffs in the decoys... along with canvasbacks, bluebills, ringnecks, ruddy ducks, black ducks, mallards, mergansers, and even a couple surf scoters. Most variety I have seen from that blind.. EVER. We proceeded to close out the season on a good note after all. One of my good friends even managed his first canvasback an hour before the season ended.

Lesson learned is that when we get a heavy freeze, stay close to home and hunt saltwater. With all the backwaters and local ponds froze solid they had nowhere else to go but migrate south or open saltwater... I guess they chose the salt!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Land, Air, and Sea Part Two

Monday, since it was a holiday for me and Kegan, we headed back to our scouted spot eager to see what the day would bring. We took our 6 jugs with us again to see if the first time was just good luck. Pulling out of the ramp at 5:15am we deploy our jugs along our route this time all closer to the spots we caught our fish the day before. After getting those out we make our way to our location and get the decoy spread out and looking good. Time is running short and legal shooting time is 15 minutes away. We get in the boat start to set the blind up and I hear that sound we all love to hear just a hair too early, the sound of birds landing in the water 25 yards away. We have no choice but keep setting up and quickly the pair of wood ducks flush just as fast as they had appeared.

First a group of 5 teal pitch in and I manage one at about 15 yards. While that sounds like an easy shot, those who have seen a teal on the wing and know how small of a spread you have at 15 yards know that this was no easy feat. It was a beautiful drake at that.  minutes later another wave of teal this time I get a misfire on a #3 heavy shot... dud... WTF!

By this time the tide had gone out and we were sitting high and dry on mud so we were in it for the long haul, no moving the boat or retrieving ducks for a couple hours but the way the bank was, the downed birds would be waiting for us on the way out of this narrow creek. 

Next bird to come in range is a black duck he circles once and on his second pass looks like he might just commit fully as he is dropping altitude steadily. Then right overhead at 45 yards he flairs and decide now or never and pop two shots. First fluffed it and second took out the wing. BIrd crashes down with a THUD! on the dry bank across from us about 50 yards away. No biggie we will pick him up on the way out.

A little while passes with a few flocks not giving us attention or no birds in sight thne I see 4 birds speeding towards us from about a mile away and sky high. I give one long hail call and they lock in like a missile and here they come. As they get close I can tell they are black ducks and so I am out on them as our limit is one per person so it is all on Kegs. Just as they are about to get in range 2 flair left, then one more, and and as the last one begins to flair he crosses the invisible "TAKE EM" line and my partner seals the deal with a great shot. 

You remember my duck on the other shore, well about this time I look over to see him hobbling towards the water through thick cover. I quickly shoot two times and it jumps in the air a couple feet and appears to be down from where I am.

We get a couple more uninterested birds, get checked by undercover game wardens who are dressed to look like duck hunters and then proceed to pack up.

we grab our birds and I go to grab my black duck and low and behid he has vanished... GONE! Just an indent where he landed a few feathers and blood. I looked for a solid 45 minutes but to no avail he pulled the Houdini on me.

We check traps and find two nice muskrats then off to pull jugs. Two more nice catfish and we are officially all smiles for the ride home and a successful Land, Air, and Sea SLAM!

Land, Air, And Sea Part One

With duck season winding down here in Virginia next weekend, me and my buddy Kegan decided to try for the trifecta of fun. The land, air and sea SLAM.

We loaded up some 110 conibear traps on bamboo poles for muskrats, some of my homemade catfish jugs, and set out to scout for ducks on Sunday to hopefully get us the upper hand for Monday. We launch the boat at 8am and set off for the spot we have seen ducks in the past. While in route we stop every so often and throw out a jug with a piece of cut menhadden on the hook. We put out 6 in all covering 3 miles or so.

Next up, the muskrat traps and look for ducks and geese at the same time. Jackpot! Muskrat huts and ducks... all in the same marsh. We nose in slowly to gently push the birds out and begin setting up traps for these marsh detroying critters. You see, muskrats bore tunnel systems all through a marsh and eat the roots of all the grasses that hold the delicate eco-system together. This is why trapping them is important and they are also worth about 8 to 12 bucks each for their fur so its a win/win!

With birds found, buoys soaked for a while, and traps set we start back for the ramp.

First jug, go to pull it up and once i reach the end of the slack I feel that tell tale twisting roll of a catfish on the line... a nice little 6 pounder. Not too shabby for my first time jugging in years. Next one.....nothing..... next one nothing..... After two cleaned out hooks we pull up to our 4th and just as I think that nothing is on the line, I feel something come tight and some serious weight. BAM!!!! A 23 lb catfish! We retrieved the rest of our jugs and called it a day. Pretty good way to spend a sunday in my book.