Hitting the limit before last light

By HUNTER REDFIELD – Student Contributor

After an exciting morning of watching and shooting snow geese, a nap was extremely desirable. However, we had work to get done to prepare for the afternoon hunt.

After returning to the house, we took a little break to grab some lunch and gain some energy before the work began.

Once we were done with lunch Ben, James and I went out to the shed and began to tackle unboxing the stack of new Specklebelly decoys that we needed for the afternoon hunt.

We cut box after box open, removed each decoy from its plastic wrapping, then passed them to Ben, who placed them in a big white seed bag, while James and I stacked the stakes on the floor behind us.

Finally, we unboxed the last decoys as well as a new A-frame blind, and we were ready to go place the five dozen new full bodies and A-frame in a field.

So we loaded the seed bag full of decoys, the new blind, some stools, a couple bails of rice straw, and our guns in the side-by-side and made our way to the field.

However, once we were there, we realized we needed to place the full bodies in a dry field on one side of a levi. After talking about it, we decided to put floater duck decoys on the side of the levi that was flooded.

Ben grabbed the stakes for the full bodies and made it through the field, placing them how he wanted them for the wind while James and I grabbed as many decoys as we could carry and followed along, dropping them on the stakes.

After this process was over, James left, taking everything we no longer needed and headed to the pit in the next field to grab a couple dozen duck decoys. Then we headed back to the house to get Keith and Ben’s black lab, Rhyn.

While he was away, Ben and I got to work assembling the A-frame, and then brushed it in with the rice straw. This seemed like a fantastic idea until we realized the rice straw was way more yellow than any rice near the levee.

So, we decided to place it into the drainage ditch to conceal the profile better as well as gather a bunch of stuff that was growing in the drainage ditches to break up the color of the rice straw.

Just as we finished up, the side-by-side returned, and we set out the duck decoys and prepared ourselves for the hunt.

We crawled into the A-frame as flocks of snow geese poured into a feed across the road, and every once in a while, a flock of specks would fly by with no intention of coming down.

We watched ducks and began working some, and just when we lost sight of them, I creeped up to take a look out of the blind. A pair of mallards dropped straight down, seeming to come from nowhere. Although they undoubtedly were interested in the decoys, they kept skirting us just on the edge of shooting range, so we were never able to get a shot off.

This continued to happen through the night, ducks and small flocks of specks would work us, but either stay just outside of range, or give up on us and head to a different field.

We could hear snow geese coming, and we were all in awe when we turned around. Around 30,000 birds were coming to join the feed of 20,000 birds across the road. They all began maple leafing and seemed to form a tornado over the field already filled with birds.

This got everything stirred up with so many new snows and specks in the area, and birds began to bounce around and kept us occupied while we watched for specks and ducks low enough to call at. However, we could not find a workable bird for the longevity of the night.

The end of shooting time began to tick closer and closer, and just when I thought we were never going to touch our safeties, I looked out Keith’s end of the blind and saw a flock of specks that were insanely low compared to the birds we had watched all night.

With them on the way and already cupped, I kept my face down and peaked just under the bill of my hat, looking for a “tar belly.” After a couple of quick glances, I found the most barred up bird I could.

They got right over the decoys, and Ben called the shot, and although I wasn’t completely watching the birds, I didn’t forget where the bird with the bars was located.

When I came out of the A-frame following my gun, I quickly located it again, leveled the bead on it and squeezed off the trigger as it dropped. Then, I picked a second bird and shot two at it, taking it down and finishing my limit.

We were more than ecstatic as Rhyn retrieved our birds that were no more than 10 yards away from the blind.

With shooting time finally over, we exited the blind and carried our gear to the side-by-side, enduring a ride full of smiles the entire way to the house.


Columnist Hunter Redfield is a student at Cranberry High School and a member of Cranberry Chronicles, the school’s journalism/publications class.