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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Ducks the Color of Autumn

Shooting a wood duck in flooded timber is like trying to gun down a stone released from a slingshot, only harder
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  • photo by Robert Sendlein
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I came to this conclusion while hunting ducks in a green-tree reservoir near Stuttgart, the self-proclaimed Rice and Duck Capital of the World. Mallards had not yet made their way into Arkansas' Grand Prairie in appreciable numbers, but wood ducks, year-round residents in the Natural State, were buzzing through the pin oaks like bumblebees round a flower garden. My purist waterfowling companions, who hunt only mallards, agreed that the lack of greenhead action made woodies fair game—for me. They wouldn't join my follies, but I was told I would be "allowed" to try pass shooting some of the birds streaking past our blind.

The wood ducks usually appeared in pairs, squealing loudly as they flew past. Oo-eek! Oo-eek. Their distinctive flight calls left no doubt how they earned the nickname "squealers." Those that weren't calling still were audible on their approach. The noise made as air rushed through their pinions closely resembled the sound of a bottle rocket fired on the Fourth of July.

It seemed that shooting one would be an impossible task. And in several instances, my assumption was correct. Many birds passed at such breakneck speed, there wasn't time to shoulder my shotgun and shoot. No problem, I thought. I'll just keep my gun at the ready and take the next one that comes by. But after 15 minutes waiting, I no longer could maintain a shooting stance. And, as one might expect, the instant I brought my shotgun down, two woodies flashed across the opening in the timber right in front of me.

My hunting companions found all this rather humorous. "You might as well give it up, Sutton," one of them said, chuckling. "You'd have better luck hunting quail with a pea shooter."

Undaunted, I continued my quest. And at 10 o'clock, almost four hours into the hunt, everything came together—sort of. I shouldered my shotgun, and almost immediately a pair of woodies came into view, flying fast from right to left, my favorite cross-shot swing. I aimed ahead of the lead bird and fired. The rear bird fell.

"That bird out front was just moving too fast for me to draw a bead on it," I told my hunting buddies. "So I had to take the one behind it."

"Well, lucky for you," Bob said as he waded back with the duck in hand. "The one you got was a drake. It sure is a beauty."

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