Saturday, January 10, 2009


Rather than try and capture the raw essence that is Tule Belle with another epic story, I thought it better to chronicle the everyday encounters of the average Duck Man.
Curtis bonked his head on the counter. Everyone's making fun of the way he looks, but even though I haven't seen him yet, I know better. He'll come out of this whole thing with just another scar that makes him more attractive to the kind of woman he attracts. They're out there and I'll leave it up to the reader to decide exactly what kind of woman that is. Suffice it to say that Curtis does have some game.
It's Saturday afternoon and I've got some time to hunt. Heyman, Skiddy, DZo and his buddy (the boys) are out at the firing line, using up all the shells they don't want to see rusting this summer. They've got a few birds on the hook and Heyman tells me I can't bring my dog. Pattyo is out with Ole' Man Phil and Rizzo (remember that chic from Grease?) his Chesapeake that won't lay down but doesn't break either. Gary and Tom anchor down "the middle" of the club.
I decide that Montana is the best company out there and to take a trip down memory lane, I head for plan B. "The Rice Check"is an undesirable section of the Tule Belle that I have permission to hunt. I've noticed that it's been holding birds of late, probably because no one has hunted it for the last few weeks. So I pull off the club road late in the afternoon, before I arrive at the shack, and pull on my waders and begin the three-hundred-yard wade.
Not ten minutes into the hunt, with Montana sticking out like a sore thumb, a bull sprig and widgeon make a circle in the forgotten zone. They split up and the widgeon circles within range. I let it go, hoping the sprig will come around and of course it doesn't.
Meanwhile, Montana's got nowhere to hide. This is the first time I've hunted these blinds all year and, besides having absolutely no cover, there's no dry land for the dog. A good retriever will endure the most severe of conditions, but there are some necessities that they require, much like a visiting Rock Star. First and foremost being a dry place to lay-in-wait.
Luckily Gary and Tom are in good spirits, and buzz by my blind, hoping to scare some birds my way. For reasons inexplicable to even the most seasoned, they're trying to help me out. Nothing jumps even though I've been watching widgeon throw their nose in the air at me all afternoon, only to land a few hundred yards to the east of me, where they're running their boat now. When they turn down the "main ditch" however, the widgeon get nervous and jump.
They're headed right for me and I can't "duck" (pun intended) down far enough into my spider infested "porta-potty" as they fly overhead (Ok infested might be a little harsh but I did kill a big ole' black widow earlier). A pair decides to come right over and I revert to my firing-line, sky-scraping days. The hen drops and I can't pick up the drake diving to follow her. Montana throws the lid she's been sitting on out into the pond and engulfs the widgeon, delivering it to my waiting hand like she was born to do.

Basking under the glow of the propane hand-and-face heater on Gary's porch, watching the Arizona Cardinals face the North Carolina Panthers, (a game which I could care less about but which apparently is the catalyst on everyone's parlay card) I decide this wasn't such a bad hunt for a new spot. I'm also thinking you should never bet against Curt Warner(sic?) and Edgerin James (ditto?).
Heyman and Skiddy racked up two limits compared to a handful by Derek and Co. (chalk it up to experience, a good dog and the fact that Skiddy is nobody's punk when it comes to knocking down ducks out of the sky). Pattyo comes weaving down the slough just as the marsh takes on that orange magical glow, outlasting even the most die-hard of diehards, his partner 70 something year-old Phil Smith. Phil is notorious for waiting out even the most gung ho of club gunners. Pattyo proudly held his sprig up for all to see. He offered it to me to make into sausage. "You want it?" he asked.
When I said "Sure", he plucked out the six inch tail feathers and handed it over.
Not a bad evening at the old club, especially considering that the weather man was right for once. It was sunny and clear, with a slight breeze.

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