By Ron Spomer
When I was a kid there was never a shortage of prairie potholes in South Dakota, but sometimes water was scarce. That’s when we abandoned our decoys and crawled up to isolated stock ponds, often little more than rectangular holes dug 10 or 12 feet deep in pastures and sloughs. Texans call them tanks. These collected what little rain we got—and sometimes ducks.
"Okay, you guys ready?" Richard would whisper. We’d nod, double check our actions and safeties. “Keep those barrels pointing ahead and nobody stand until I say so. And keep your butts down!" Then we’d walk, bent double until our mentor began duck walking, then crawling on all fours. Finally, we’d be bellying like snakes in the grass, four abreast until Richard held his palm out. He’d ease his head up, then back down. Sometimes he’d grin and point right or left, indicating in which corner of the pond our quarry was floating. Then we’d all scramble up shooting.
"One teal? One teal? How could you guys fire nine shots and get just one teal? There must have been a dozen greenheads in there," Richard would chide and tease us as we tossed dirt clods to wash our bag to shore. Certainly we suffered more than our share of duck fever, but I think competition was our ruin. He who shot first shot best. Or so we imagined. As a result, we usually flock shot and missed everything.