Thursday, August 4, 2011

Magellan Hunts at BEAVER DAM - Day 2

DATE: 1/19/2011
LOCATION: Beaver Dam Hunt Club (Triple Tree Blind)
WEATHER: 30's-40's, overcast with a NNW wind
KILLS: 19 ducks (again, mostly gadwall with some shovelers and ringnecks mixed in)
FRIENDS: Kelly Fortner, Kevin Graves, Hutch Hutchinson, Gill Jackson

We met at the Blue and White for breakfast on this day that was to be our second hunt. We enjoyed breakfast and again headed out towards the lake. When we arrived at the lake the routine was the same, transferring gear from the trucks to the boat. I stopped and just admired Hor’ace and Molly’s shack for a bit once the boat was loaded. Then it was off to the ramp and on to another days hunt. Once the boat was in the water and the truck parked, away we went. There was no fog today, just a quiet, peaceful ride down the lake to the blind. The only decoy that we added to the spread on this day was Magellan. He was placed in the water approximately 10 yards from the blind, with a bit of separation from the rest of the decoy spread.

We unloaded the gear and got into the blind. Everyone seemed to be a bit more relaxed on this, our second day of hunting. Gil wore one of Nash Buckingham’s very own neck ties. It was handed down to Gil from another outdoor writer that knew Nash many moons ago. The wearing of the tie was done to honor Mr. Nash, while hunting on his old stomping grounds.
Gil also shot an old Walter Betts side by side that was made in 1912, and was 99 years old at the time of the hunt. This gun was number 712 of 1000 made and was quite a treat to handle.

The ducks worked much like the day before, coming into the decoys in ones and twos, with most shots being at singles. On this day, Hutch seemed to be a bit off his game, missing a few shots and soon becoming the topic of amusement in the blind. Hutch is an old P3 Navy pilot and can take anything that can be dished out by a mere mortal, so he took it all in stride. Also, just as the day before Hutch would make some great shots later in the morning like Kevin did before him.

Our host Eric kept a watchful eye out for the birds all day each day. This was an open water blind and he had hunted it too many times before, knowing how the ducks can sneak up behind you at the drop of a hat. When he found a gadwall trying to skirt the decoys unscathed he would say “kill it boys, it’s in the wheel house.” I have to admit that he said this many more times than our group shot over the course of the two days. I also have to admit that on occasion some of the shots that he tried to call seemed to be a bit long to me. I know they were longer than shots that I normally take. So, I called him out a few hours into the hunt the second day and asked him to step up to the shooting rail. He did so, but you could tell that he was a bit apprehensive and felt the pressure of the moment. It wasn’t long before we had some blind/decoy shy gadwalls that seemed to know just how far to fly from the blind to stay out of harms way. So in like fashion, I said “come on Eric, those are in the wheel house….” he agreed, jumped up and pulled the trigger. Now, I would love to tell you that he whiffed and missed that ole duck only to be heckled for the remainder of the day, but that just wouldn’t be the truth. The truth is that Eric pulled the trigger on what I consider to be a very tall duck and he stoned that bird, just like you used to read about ole Nash doing on that very same lake.

The shooting was steady each day, although not fast and furious. This was a perfect fit, as it allowed us to talk about the lake, the history and those that had hunted it before us, quite frequently each day.

Then we would spy some birds that were looking and go to work on the calls finally doing a little shooting. The time spent became bitter sweet as the noon hour neared on the second day. We wanted to do a bit of sightseeing before leaving the lake on this day, so we decided to call it a day a bit early to provide time to do so.

Gil made the call and said, “Let’s give it five more minutes and then head out.” Well, it wasn’t but a couple of minutes and we had two gadwalls working and responding well to the call. They worked in nicely and we killed both birds. As everyone was about to pack up their stuff, I noticed a single bird, pitched and coming fast into the decoys from Hutch’s side. I told everyone to get ready and be still, letting them know where the bird was coming from so they would be ready. I called the shot with the bird back pedaling over the decoys at 15 yards. I saw that it was a drake spoonie and simply said “kill that duck.” Well they tried and at least a couple of shots were fired with no success. So, I shouldered my gun fired a shot along with Hutch, killing the bird. Now, I need to take time to mention that Hutch is a mallard purist and feels that spoonies are the rodents of the duck world. I very quickly called out “Hutch killed a spoonie!” He was quick to blame me, as I called the shot and told them to kill the duck on his side, all of which is true. I have to admit that I told a bit of a story in the moments that followed and said that I didn’t shoot, giving Hutch no choice but to claim the bird. I may never tell him what really happened, because it’s too much fun to watch him torment over having shot such a fine specimen of the waterfowling world.

We quickly packed up our gear, loaded up the boat and pushed away from the blind that had been our home for the past two days, the “triple tree.”

We immediately headed over to the “Hog Stand” blind, took some pictures and did plenty of talking and admiring. It was very easy to take a look back in time and visualize the gunners from the days of old that must have hunted in this place. After a brief time, we picked up and headed over to the “Handwerker Stand.” On the way, we took some pictures of the small shack at the water’s edge on the Owens property. As we approached the “Handwerker Stand”, you could tell that they were still hunting, as you could see the shooters in the blind. I hate to say it and sound like a broken record, but oh the stories that this place could tell. We took some pictures from afar and then headed off to the ramp.

We loaded the boat, admired the ole cypress tree, took some more pictures and headed up the hill.   On this day, we took some pictures against the board of fame, asking our host Eric to join us for the photos.

Once all the pictures, smiles, hand shaking and storytelling was done, we headed up to Hor’ace and Molly’s shack. Once there, we stepped up on the porch got the key and entered the house. As one would expect, it was a very modest old house with simple lines and floors and three small rooms. We peered into each room, I guess hoping to soak in some of the history. Before leaving, we found an appropriate spot on the wall to place the picture of Gil and his fallen comrades. Once this last act was done, our trip had come full circle and it was then time to go. We loaded up, looked over our shoulders on the way out and all said goodbye, silently and with great remorse. I hope to visit this magical place again someday, however if that doesn’t happen, I can now say that I have hunted and killed ducks at the famed Beaver Dam Lake.

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