December 1987. To be precise – Dec. 29, 1987. For days, the temperatures had ranged between zero and nothing. Everything around the capital city of Columbus, Ohio, was frozen solid; everything, that is, except the Scioto River, and that was being keep open by thousands of little orange duck feet.
It was time to hunt!
The morning came bitterly cold. Three of us set decoys and, huddled around a coffee can filled with flaming charcoal briquettes, settled back to await the birds' arrival. Fortunately, we didn't have to wait long.
A small flock of mallards was first and we dropped two. My black lab, Maggie, splashed into the frigid waters for the first, and with ice already forming on her undercarriage, wisely refused to retrieve the second. Tom's autoloader was the next casualty. A dousing with hot coffee revived it, at least for one more volley, and then it was done.
Birds came and went, the three of us sharing the two still-functioning pump-guns until a full limit of greenheads lay in the snow. With Maggie watching from the relative warmth around our improvised heater, we hurriedly picked up the flash-frozen decoys and headed to the truck.
"Doc," I explained. "I don't know what this is. All I know is we hunted ducks yesterday, and when I got home, my hand started tingling." This, it seemed, was the most interesting shades of grey I'd ever seen, a color the good doctor agreed was not normal. Severe frostbite, he explained. "You're probably going to have some sensitivity in that hand for the rest of your life," he said. "Oh, and by the way," he added, "You really shouldn't have been outside yesterday. Didn't you hear the weather advisories warning people to stay indoors unless it was absolutely necessary?"
Smiling, I thought of all those mallards. "But it was necessary, Doc. It was necessary."
My point is this – If you tough it out until the end of the season, regardless of what Mother Nature throws at you, there's a good chance you're going to experience some phenomenal hunting; however, there's also a good chance that that action won't come easy. Still, with determination and a couple of tricks, putting a limit of ducks on your strap at the buzzer might become a little less the exercise in futility it may have been in the past.
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