It’s been a few years since I hauled a john boat down to the Willtown Bluff Landing for a duck hunt in the ACE Basin.
Joining the crowd at Willtown on the opening day of waterfowl season had been a fun, longstanding tradition among my friends, back before jobs and marriages and kids (as well as other outdoors pursuits) took precedence.
Last week, a few days into the first leg of the 2012-2013 waterfowl season, a few of us headed back down to the popular landing to give a friend’s new, decked-out War Eagle a shakedown cruise. It turned out to be a somewhat slow hunt, one of those “bluebird” mornings with clear skies, a pretty sunrise and high-flying birds. But we managed to lure a few ducks into our decoy spread, which is all it takes for me to declare success.
The highlight — and lowlight — of the morning came late in the game, as we were getting ready to call it quits. A big, beautiful woodie drake zipped by, slightly out of range. When three of us onboard hit our calls, he banked sharply and started calling back. He cut a wide circle around us, dropped low over the creek and locked into our decoy spread.
He flew right in, in full sunlight, at full speed. The three of us shot a total of four times and missed him clean. Not a feather dropped, and the big woodie hit the gas and blistered down the river, obviously unharmed.
I think we were all just too busy admiring that bird to remember to aim.
Honestly, duck hunting is one of the finest forms of outdoor recreation available here in the Lowcountry. You don’t have to sit for hours, not moving or making a sound, as you do when still-hunting deer. There’s plenty of gear to play with, from boats and blinds to waders, decoys and calls. And since you can hunt as a group, the boat or blind or bank is usually filled with the joking, ribbing and good-natured griping that makes a hunt memorable.
So give it a try. The waterfowl season restarts Dec. 8 and runs through Jan. 27.
To help get you started, or to get you motivated to dust off the gear and make a trip happen, check out Tideline magazine’s first-ever waterfowl hunting section, inside the current edition.
Free copies are available at tackle shops, marinas, boat landings and waterfront restaurants across the Lowcountry. You can also find the story at tidelinemagazine.com, with tips and links covering regulations, resources, etiquette and advice for hunting ducks on public land and without a boat.
Shoot ’em up.
Contact Matt Winter, Tideline editor, at 843-937-5568 or firstname.lastname@example.org.