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The Great Cover-Up

Staying hidden from the keen eyes of ducks and geese is an age-old concern.
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By Gary Koehler

Who has not wondered why a flock of ducks or geese flared from a blind or pit at the last minute? You know, when you were hunkered down, gun in hand, waiting for what seemed at the time to be the birds' bank into their final pass.

All of a sudden, however, just when it appeared they were headed in, they veered one way or another and departed to points unknown. What turned them off? Or what turned them on to your location? What gave you away?

Many years ago, longtime friend Paul Gillmann and I were returning from a fruitless hunting trip in the historic Illinois River Valley, where at one time the waterfowl hunting was second to none. Upon approaching the river bridge from the south at Peru, we happened to glance down at a farmer driving a tractor in the cornfield along the river bottoms below.

For whatever reason, the farmer looked up. "Geez," Gillmann said, "his face looks like a pie plate. Did you see how shiny his face was?"

Yes, I did. And that splendid, sunny, early fall afternoon registered a monumental click in our respective brain pans. If we could see that farmer's face so clearly, what would ducks think of his ultra-bright mug? We learned, and called it the pie plate lesson. And on subsequent weekend waterfowl safaris we took to "muddying up."

That entailed dipping the edge of an oar into the bottom of Lake Senachwine, and rubbing the resultant goop on our faces. That, we figured, would solve the pie plate problem. Removing the goop later in the day was yet another matter.

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