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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Big-River Ducks

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by Keith Sutton: catfishdude@sbcglobal.net

The year, 2001. 4 a.m., 5 a.m.—I'm not sure. No one in his right mind is up this time of day or night. I'm trailing my hunting partner through a cocklebur field to a sandbar on the Arkansas River. It's pitch black outside. Mean little cockleburs stab my ankles. Mouth's as dry as a Canadian pothole.

Suddenly, I'm clotheslined at the waist. "Watch the fence," my buddy notes.

Sure. Thanks.

"I'll carry the decoys, you carry my bag, OK?" Whatcha got in here, pal, a case of shells? Must be at least a case. And a six-pack of sodas. Gun in one hand, bag in the other, cockleburs swarming in my socks. I must be crazy.

Finally, we reach the sandbar. I know it is a sandbar because my face is buried in it. "Don't trip on that rock," he calls from up ahead. Yeah, right.

The sun rises, despite my apprehension. The river is postcard perfect. Knucklehead wades out in the shallows and sets the decoys.

Canada geese are calling from a sandbar downstream, but the ducks aren't flying. I twist the top off a soda. Sand grates against the glass like fingers scratching a chalkboard.

Better load my shotgun. Ooooooh! Another chill down my spine. Sandy receiver sounds like a coffee grinder.

Two scaups buzz through the chute. The great white hunter tries dumping one on the pass. Fast little buggers. They fly on. I'm caught dumping sand out of my boots. Couldn't reach my gun.

Three hours later, we call it quits. Several flights of ducks pass by out of range, but besides the scaups, none are close enough for a shot. My friend, undaunted, shrugs his shoulders and says, "Well, that's river hunting."

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