BRIAN JOHNSON ON OUTDOORS: Best 10 minutes of duck season with little man

Published 8:40 pm Saturday, March 3, 2018

Duck season this year has been amazing at times and horrible at times.

As usual the weather played a big part.  Sometimes we had ice on the pond and hanging from the decoy bills.

The next week we would have summer-like temperatures with mosquitos swarming and alligators looking for a meal.

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The big massive push of ducks we were hoping for never really seemed to appear.  The first split was much better than the second, but I kept my fingers crossed until the very end.  It was the last week of season and I had hoped to finish strong.

On Friday morning Noah and I headed out to our “house hole” to make a quick hunt.  We call it the house hole because it is close to home and we can leave the house as late as thirty minutes before shooting time and still be OK. The hunt was quick and easy as always and we only stayed until 8 a.m.

Although our shooting wasn’t great and we were set up in the wrong spot, I was encouraged by the number of ducks I saw.  More importantly, I was excited about the kind of ducks they were … Ringnecks!

I realize that many of the hunters who read this article will snub their nose at most diving ducks with exception to the mighty Canvasback. I however, not only enjoy shooting divers, I actually prefer them.  Nothing gets me more excited while in the duck blind than the sound of wind rustling through the wings of a diver.

The noise sounds like a group of mini fighter jets passing by at high speeds. Shooting these aviators is way more challenging than picking off a back pedaling mallard, and watching them skip across the water is an amazing sight as well. Divers have and will always be my No. 1 choice, so I was hopeful that the season might end well.

We had a pond reserved on the local refuge for Saturday morning so our divers would be given a day to rest.

As it turns out … so would we. With my alarm set for 3:30 a.m., I settled down early Friday night to be sure to get the extra rest my duck hunting weary body needed.  By this point in the season to say I was sleep deprived would be an understatement.

By 3 a.m. my house was shaking and it wasn’t because I had fallen out of the bed.  A thunderstorm of epic proportions rolled in dumping close to 8.5 inches of rain overnight.  The weather was way too bad for us to make the drive to the refuge so we went back to bed.  I tossed and turned unable to rest for fear that the season would slip away without another hunt.  We didn’t get to hunt at all Saturday, but there was still one day left.

After taking the advice of my good friend J.P., we decided to abandon our marsh blind and spend the last day of the season at the home hole. I liked this idea because it meant I would get a couple of extra hours of sleep.

Since it was the last hunt of the year, Noah and I decided to try something different.  Rather than hunt from our usual spot on the dry bank, we would wade out into the pond and hunt standing up in the near waist deep water.  We had noticed a clump of grass that would provide us ample cover in the same area where most of the ducks had landed on Friday. We also decided to increase the size of our spread and add some extra coot decoys for realism.  These few changes meant we’d have a little extra work to do but we felt it would be worth the effort.

With our game plan well rehearsed we headed out with eager anticipation for our final hunt of the season.

Once we turned onto the road to our blind, we were faced with a decision. The rain from the day before had flooded the road making it questionable to pass.  Noah, being 15 years old, said he didn’t care how deep it was, we were going hunting.  I however, wasn’t interested in flooding my truck so I carefully studied the situation.

After further inspection, the water appeared to be only a few inches deep and I could still see the stripes on the road. I eased ahead and after a few hundred yards it was back to normal driving conditions. We were able to safely drive down the road to the ranch and then down the levee to the area we intended to hunt. There was water everywhere from the rain.

Noah and I had become quite a team this season so we each knew our role.

We both unloaded the gear and I went to park the truck while he readied things to take to the blind.  By the time I walked back, he had already placed the dog stand in the reeds, so Penny and I waded out with a load of decoys.  Penny sat on her perch while Noah and I meticulously placed the decoys. I also kept a close eye on the gator whose eyes I had seen across the pond.

Once the decoys were set, we gathered in the reeds near Penny and said a prayer together.  We thanked The Lord for the good season we had had, the time we were able to spend together, and for letting us enjoy his beautiful creation. Then I asked him to keep us safe, send us lots of ducks, and help us to shoot well.

Some people may scoff at me asking for something like this, but the Bible says “You have not because you ask not,” so I always make sure to ask.  After Amen, we were locked and loaded.

This time, the ducks did not disappoint.  They were everywhere. Little jets soaring through the air. We were like fighter pilots gunning down the enemy air craft.

We both shot out of our mind, hitting everything we aimed at.  I even managed two in one shot.  Noah was testing out the new Remington V3 12 gauge shotgun and loving it. Flawless operation and dead ducks everywhere. I was shooting my trusty VersaMax and grinning ear to ear.

Shooting time was around 6:40, if I remember correctly, and we were limited out by 6:50!  These were the best 10 minutes of the season.

We were so glad that The Lord answered all of our prayers with a yes.  He always answers them, sometimes he just says no.  Today that wasn’t the case. The season ended literally with a bang.

As we stood there in the water, I could clearly see that my little boy had been slowly transforming into a man. Through this season he had become more responsible, more respectful, and learned how to hang out and fit in with grown men in the duck blind.

These are things that can’t be learned playing video games or watching television. No doubt I was tired of the early mornings and extreme weather, but it was worth it.

I guess it’s like I’ve always been told. Duck hunting separates the men from the boys.  This season I started hunting with my little boy but felt like I ended up hunting with a man. I guess now I’ll call him my little man.

Brian Johnson, originally of Port Neches, is pastor of the Outdoorsman’s Church in Winnie, owner of and outdoors writer for The News.