Before the '95 season closed, veterans take last shot at ducks

OUTDOORS

January 15, 1995|By LONNY WEAVER

This year's duck and Canada goose seasons have closed, but not before I joined Annapolis area waterfowlers Ted Warner and Bob Barnes for one last hunt.

By the time I found my way to their shoreline blind, off the Choptank River, they were putting the finishing touches on the decoy set.

"There are two basic patterns that duck hunters use," Barnes said. "The 'I' pattern works best for puddle ducks. For this pattern we arrange groups of between four and nine blocks strung out in a fairly straight line.

"In the string we leave breaks in the decoy grouping of up to 25 feet for landing areas and make sure those landing areas are within range of our guns, say not more than 40 yards from the blind. We use this set anywhere puddle ducks are trading -- in a cove or along a shoreline, like this one. It works very well on a point, too."

Warner said that if we were going after diving ducks like the classic canvasback or redhead "the fishhook pattern is the only set I'd consider from a shoreblind like this.

"The layout is just what the name implies -- a fishhook shape, with the bulk of the blocks at the bend in the hook. The shank or tail of the spread should lead seaward, and as you get farther away from the blind, the blocks should be spaced wider and wider apart. Diving ducks will pick up this tail and follow it to the main concentration of the decoys. They usually will land on either side of the bend."

Warner and Barnes have been waterfowling the bay area together "forever, it sometimes seems," Warner said, "but realistically, I guess it's been close to 30 years."

"At least that," Barnes agreed. "We were working the swing shift at Beth Steel when we started going out together. We've sure emptied some shotgun shells, I'll tell you that!"

What little wind that was blowing that chilly, overcast morning was coming right over my left shoulder, in a quartering direction. Just before what was to pass as sunrise, two drop-ins caught us unprepared, so we stopped talking and paid proper attention to the task at hand.

"Four mallards coming for a look," Barnes noted and in the next instant began working a call. Warner and I kept quiet and down out of sight. At just the right moment Barnes commanded, "Take 'em."

Our three 12-gauge autoloaders flew to our shoulders as we tracked individual birds. I swung on the lead duck and missed it clean, but recovered as it began to climb and somehow managed to connect. It was a nice drake. Warner connected on another drake, but Barnes held off taking the single hen.

We had steady shooting for the next couple of hours and came away with a bag of mallards, a black duck that was mixed in with some mallards and a surprise pintail. It was a nice way to close the waterfowl season.

Get your boat out of the water

The Department of Natural Resources warns, "Icy conditions make boats susceptible to sinking and also make it difficult to get out to a moored boat for periods of time during the winter."

The best advice is to get your boat out of the water during winter months.

As the DNR's Boating Administration says, drain systems in self-bailing cockpits may become clogged by leaves or other objects, thus holding water and causing the system to freeze or burst.

Ice may relocate a vessel and mooring during spring thaws and high winds, and in wooden vessels, ice tends to adhere to caulking between planks and can pull the planks apart when the vessel moves.

Learn more about boats and boating at the 41st annual Chesapeake Bay Boat Show, Jan. 28-Feb. 5 at the Baltimore Convention Center, 1 W. Pratt St.

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