Crosswinds: The Flush

This thrilling moment is a float hunter’s ultimate rush

© Tom Samuelson

It’s a mid-creek standoff, minus the tumbleweeds and ponchos.

The ducks know something is not quite right, but they haven’t figured us out yet. Behind me in the canoe, Jack sculls the paddle, moving the boat almost imperceptibly downstream. I peer through a curtain of cut bamboo and holly that fans out across the bow of the canoe, and move my shotgun muzzle a couple inches to port.

We’re almost too close now. Five wood ducks are head-up alert at 25 yards. I watch the closest bird, a stunning drake woodie that cocks his head slightly to get a different angle. My heart is pounding. I won’t shoot until the ducks flush, so I wait for that split-second when a duck’s entire body convulses—the webbed feet pushing from below, the wings clawing for air, the head outstretched.

Twenty yards now, and nobody’s budging.

Eighteen.

This is the great thrill of float hunting, the spot-and-stalk approach in a canoe so burdened with brush that you can barely tell it’s a canoe. Every split second could be the split second when the ducks flush. And with every split second the tension builds.

“I’m gonna get ‘em up,” Jack whispers. “Get ready.”

But I’ve been ready for 20 yards now.

“No,” I whisper back. “Let’s see how close we can get.”

Fifteen yards and I can see water beaded up on the woodie’s wings. Another yard closer and I can make out a glint of blue sky in the duck’s eye.

Wait for it. It’s going to happen.

Just a little closer. Always just a little bit closer.