"There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot." - Aldo Leopold

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hunting for Hunting Answers I - Introduction

Being a technologically savvy individual, I use various analytic tools to get a bearing on how many people read my blog – I’m not sure analytics were designed for such small numbers, but still. These programs enable me to see who is reading what, how long they stay on the site, where they come from, their phone numbers and addresses should I disagree with a comment, etc. I can figure out if someone is coming to my page through an e-mail subscription or bookmark, from another website or through a keyword search. It’s groovy stuff.

It’s this last element, however, I want to approach today. Thanks to Google Analytics, I am able to compile which keywords directed a lost soul to my site via search engine. Often, the combination of keywords bowls a strike for the surfer. For instance, “Do Hogs Rut?” is a common search. Luckily for that person I have a post that articulates that quite well, I think. Hopefully the individual is happy and returns again for all of his or her rut queries or stays and reads other posts.

Then there's the person who rolls a gutterball when directed to The Wild Life. “How to Prepare for an Elephant Hunt?” pops up in the keyword manifest from time to time. That user is invariably directed to the post “The Last of the Elephant Hunters” which, besides being the most wonderful thing I’ve ever written, has zilch to do with elephants. I like to think that whoever was searching to learn about his upcoming elephant safari got so frustrated with my flippant article he stormed away from his computer to slap a butler.

And other times someone is directed to a post that kinda answers the inquiry or is within reach of doing so. The typical question is usually location-specific. Like “What was the biggest buck taken in Green Swamp WMA?” I’ve written about bucks and written about the Green Swamp, so they are directed to my page though I’ve never actually written about hunting deer in the Swamp. I am pleased they found my work and hopefully gleaned some knowledge from it. And it increases my notoriety and fortune. Yet as a know-it-all, I’m discouraged I don’t have a solid answer for said person. But, I can’t answer all of these questions and won’t pretend to try – not hunted everywhere, sadly. Now, I get e-mails all the time about particular places, and I help out or try to point people in the right direction, but I can only write about what I know, or think I know.

Which gets us, finally, to my purpose. In these lists of search words are many, many questions about general hunting concepts I’m more than happy to address based on my experience. Like, how to field judge hogs? How to start duck hunting? What weather is best for deer movement? Using my analytic tools I am able to uncover ground I’m missing in my writing. I wouldn’t call it heroic that I want to help others, but it is close. Chivalry-ic, maybe?

I started this column thinking I would be able to bang out these three above topics in a couple pages. Then I realized how complicated the answers are and how limited my attention span is. So, I am going to break them up into several different posts and start a little series. To my knowledge, I am the pioneer of this concept; I will know if others copy!

One funny story – and I’ve learned it’s important to preface my writing with lines and words like “Just Kidding” “Ha!” and “One Funny Story” because there are a lot of knobs out there who are not regular readers and don’t realize a quarter of what I write is a joke - or an irresponsible lie - and probably scrambled off the computer the second they read I could get their phone numbers and addresses from Google Analytics.

Anyway, one funny story. As of this writing, there have been 11,552 different keyword combinations that people have punched into search engines that resulted in a click to my site. They are ranked from 1st to last of most used keywords. For example, “espn wildlife camera” ranks number 1. This doesn’t count the multiple other searches that use some word variation of this concept. (By the way, ESPN Outdoors no longer exists; neither do their game cameras, but please keep searching and coming to me.) Number 11,552 is “you tube wildlive.” Whatever the hell that is.

Coming in at #185 is “nance sucks at bowfishing.” I’m forced to wonder who has been Googling that often enough to put it in the top 1.6% of keywords. I feel friends and family may be snickering at me behind my back. Probably Mom. Or there is another unfortunate Nance fellow in the world who is as incompetent bowfishing as I am.

I may never unearth these answers. Of course, I’m glad I have the exclusive scoop.

Anyways, hope people find this helpful. If anyone has any questions and wants to save me some time scouring through 11,000 different possibilities seeking a new topic, please e-mail.

It’ll help me achieve my ultimate goal of Hunting Website Dominance.

Next post in the series – “Do Deer Move Better in Cold Weather?”

Monday, September 26, 2011

September Duck Stuff

The only flock of teal Saturday morning were blasted by another group of hunters that had set up super close. Since it’s early fall in Central Florida, huge bluewing numbers on Toho weren’t all that expected. The wood ducks held court.

We got our limit of eight woodies – and somehow managed not to get pictures of that. Two other boats of friends hunted nearby and experience solid action. It was scattered shooting but consistent. This appetizer September duck season was the first serious outing of the fall. But then again, duck hunting isn’t all that serious.

With the newborns, I couldn’t participate in any long range trips. Most of the guys headed south on Sunday to hunt Okeechobee and the STA’s. Word out of Uncle Joe’s in Moore Haven is the water levels were low prohibiting access to the back marshes. Bad news was, FWC officers told a buddy that the level would remain low while a part of the dike around the lake is being repaired. This could carry over into the regular season.

Also, remember to have functioning navigation lights when underway in the dark. The Man ticketed two boats on Toho Saturday morning. Of course, they had to run through their “How Dangerous It Is To Not Have Lights” bit. Nevermind the vessels in question navigated by spotlights and that the FWC boat had no lights itself. But they are safer than us. You aren’t going to avoid a ticket. Their budgets need the money.

The Early Teal and Wood Duck season ends Wednesday the 28th. The daily limit is four ducks, with no more than two wood ducks in your bag.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Bobcat Mount

I’ve seen plenty of crappy bobcat mounts. In most cases, the head looks all wrong, as if his skin and fur were pulled back in preparation for a face lift. The tufts that make the cat so distinguishable are flattened; eyes bugging and whiskers lay bare the resemblance of a feline that had been rescued from a storm drain.

And as I’ve written before, I have a personal preference for how I have animals mounted. I didn’t want him chasing a bobwhite, quarrelling with a raccoon, lounging on a tree branch or covering his feces with dirt. Nothing wrong if others choose these poses, I simply prefer a fair representation of the creature’s nature when the Moment of Truth arrived.

Bobcats are also lithe animals that are much more impressive in Real Life. Without antlers, it’s difficult for taxidermy to capture the trophy or quality aspect of the animal. Being skinny creatures, a lot of mounts – especially those in which the animal is lunging for a flying quail – emphasize this. The manufactured eyes are oftentimes searing yellow or grasshopper-green with the queried lifelessness of a politician whose teleprompter died. Or so fake you look for a red button to push so the cat's jaws will move and start crooning "Cat Scratch Fever." It becomes the first thing one notices about many mounts. The eyes on a live bobcat – while hypnotic for sure – typically aren’t the first things I recognize in the field. You instantly see that cunning, fluid animal. As I said, it’s tough for a taxidermist to capture that.

Being one to loathe wasting money, I was trepidatious when deciding to have a large wildcat mounted last February. But I have been taking animals to George Norwood of Plant City for 15 years and know the quality of his work.

I was not disappointed.

I set out with the peculiar set of goals described above. With this cat, I wanted his hockey puck feet visible and not buried in any background. Since he was shot while prowling around after a female, I preferred a semi-stalk form with his mouth slightly turned and mouth open, but not so much that he’d be snarling. I wanted his ample manhood hanging well below his thighs...

No, but what was really important was to capture the body size of this beast. This was a 20-30 pound cat - pretty large for this neck of the woods. Looking through the taxidermy catalogues, I couldn’t find quite the form I wanted and allowed George the artistic license. With that, it just became a waiting game to get the mount back

And here are the results.

In the end, I wish the head was tilted down a little more and those damn eyes were softer. But that's being ticky-tacky - the craftsmanship of this mount is outstanding. The eyes are set well into the head, his muttonchops are prominent, and the half-crouch/semi-sneak pose does justice to the cat’s frame. My photography talents betray the size of the animal, as well as the handiwork. Perhaps I should have put a handle of bourbon next to it for a size reference.

Anyway, very, very pleased. If you ever decide to get a bobcat mount, always ask the taxidermist for samples of his work and a few phone numbers from other clients. Remember, no matter what style of mount you prefer, poor quality is never cheap and approaching it in this manner will leave a bitter taste. Shop around for what you feel comfortable spending – but remember to gauge the taxidermist’s work. It’s a unique piece of work; think value over cost.

This will be my only, foreseeable, bobcat mount; happy it turned out this well.

(If you’d like George’s contact information, please e-mail me at inance880@aol.com. His work is excellent and prices more than reasonable.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The PSE Buck

On September 14th, my wife and I welcomed our baby girl and boy - happy, healthy, beautiful, perfect. As one may imagine, the twins have delayed the start of Ol' Huntin' Season. At least for long-range, all-weekend deer.

As much as I hate missing archery season, I should be back on my grind towards the end of October with a muzzleloader.

I took this buck three years ago and the story was posted on my old Polk Voice blog. Since that original website is long gone, I thought I'd re-post this and reminisce.

"All things on earth point home in old October; sailors to sea, travelers to walls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken." – Thomas Wolfe

An honest 30-bird covey of bobwhite is a rare sight these days. But here they came, a pair or three at a time, near endlessly scooting out from the palmettos, chirping as quail do, picking their way though the short grasses of the oak hammock in their uniquely nervous, quirky procession. And though given the opportunity I’d hunt them with fervor, just seeing these strikingly handsome birds was a pleasure, just enough to knock me out of a foul mood.

See, my gentle disposition in the woods is dictated, sadly, by favorable conditions; too cloudy, too windy, too rainy, or too hot and I start poo-poohing the hunt, second-guessing myself and moping like a jilted bride. And this day was a steamer. Surely, no deer would get within bow range the way I’d been perspiring, scent killer or no.

Making matters worse, my stand was a Frankenstein job – 8 feet of ladder and seat, with a blind fashioned from PVC and camo cloth, barely wide enough for my shoulders. I couldn’t hang a taller stand in the hammock or I’d never see anything through the branches of the live oaks. I wanted to put a ground blind in here, but didn’t want other light-fingered hunters to relieve me of one. This stand was an abomination, uncomfortable and ill-suited for taking bow shots. But there’s one philosophy I do subscribe to; even if your stand is less than ideal, the only way to kill deer is to be where they are, and this hammock swarmed with game.

But, oh, the heat. The quail, my only entertainment in three hours of sitting Saturday afternoon, abandoned me alone, I thought, until I caught the swishing tail of a young doe feeding under the short oaks to my left. A 60 or 70 pounder; if she got in range, she was going in the freezer.

As she slipped behind some palmettos, I awkwardly rose from the seat, catching the stabilizer of my PSE Octane in the blind, and tangling the Grim Reaper in the netting. Ugghhhhhhh. I worked deliberately to right my situation, mad I’d even messed around building a blind, sweating even harder in the desperation and anxiety of having a target nearby and the entire prospect of success rapidly going to pot.

Thank the Heavens though, even with all this commotion, the doe fed undisturbed. Still, it wasn’t to be as she meandered away from the stand, until finally disappearing back towards a creek bottom.

Discouraged and still convinced that’d be the only action for the day, I cursed my way back to the seat, bow dangling over the edge of the blind, and began second-guessing my stand placement. I should have put it closer to the swamp line. But then again, I’ve hunted this hammock for three years. I’m right where most deer cross in the evenings from the creek to get a mouthful of acorns before entering a palmetto flat at dark - the classic transition zone. And there’s still plenty of light left. Luckily, through all my buffoonery, I didn’t spook the doe and wasn’t winded. Hope remained. Just settle back down.

Around 6:30 a cow bellowed in the distance. Almost as a response I heard the unmistakable, “bahhhh, bughhhhh,” of a grunting buck. I stood slowly, this time avoiding hanging the broadhead in the blind, just in time for a tall and wide swamp buck to come trotting out, a mere 15 yards behind my stand.

I half-expected the deer to keep walking to a small clearing where the quail had been feeding. I slowly turned that direction, but the buck – and remember, while I am in a ghillie suit, surrounded by a blind and oak branches, I’m still only 8 feet off the ground – caught my movement. He stopped, bobbed his head a couple times, peering under a low-slung branch, hoping to catch me screw up more.

Avoiding direct eye contact with him, I waited for him to put his head down. When he obliged, I spun back the opposite way, guessing he knew something was wrong and would return to cover. Call it once-in-a-row, but I was right. Not spooked, but definitely alerted, the buck slowly turned around to head back towards the swamp.

I had one window to shoot through; the buck just had to cross there. As he did, with the bow already drawn, I grunted with my mouth and in the next motion as he stopped, touched the release and delivered the arrow to the strike zone, him taking off with two other whitetails that I’d not noticed.

On the ground, I found my arrow with good sign, but still resisted the urge to immediately follow-up. I returned to the truck, called Dad, and chiefed down a couple smokes, just trying to rein in the adrenaline.

After returning to the scene and an easy tracking job, the beautiful eight-point rode the game carrier back to my Dodge for pictures and the triumphant return to the check station where the biologists took a jaw for aging, and examined the kidneys for fat content while hunters approached to congratulate us. As it turned out, mine would be the only buck taken from the property this weekend – blame it on the heat, or moon phase, or lack of acorns.

For all its aggravations, when success finds you, bowhunting is immensely rewarding, and in a couple weeks, I’ll be back for another round.

In all likelihood, sporting a much better mood.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Moorhen Hunting Mania

It’s not essential to purchase a specialized moorhen shotgun, but something out of the ordinary waterfowl gun adds to the challenge. I opted for my single-shot H&R Topper 20-gauge I’ve had since I was six, the Twenty more than enough muscle to splash a moorhen (In the picture above, though, is a Mossberg 500). But, since I’ve had this gun since I was six, the firing pin is not what it used to be. Sometimes the round would detonate on the first attempt. More than not, on the third or fourth try. This either gave the bird enough time to run across the lily pads into the safety of cattails. Or, the water exploded under the creature, and we could go collect my prize after enough comments were made about my flinching between dry fires.

Moorhen hunting is prima facie absurd. These are inoffensive water birds that do not dip from the sky into decoys. They do not flush in front of a beautiful pointer. They do not strut or gobble, and there is not enough of a tradition to justify hosting a BBQ after a shoot. But, in Florida, and many other states, they are considered legal game birds, and there is plenty of opportunity to hunt them.

In case you do not already know, moorhen are those water-walkers that inhabit your neighborhood duck hole. They are the creatures that cackle and scream and splash in the darkness, conjuring up thoughts of brain-eaters and other haints and goblins. Not to be confused with coots, there are also striking birds. Mature specimens are dark coal with vivid white markings on their wingtips and underside. Their long yellow legs with spindly, splayed toes and sharp claws enable them to navigate on lily pads and other aquatic vegetation without sinking into the drink. Finally, they have a bright orangish-red shield on their foreheads – coots have a white beak. Honestly, one day I’ll get one mounted to add to my waterfowl display.

What they possess in fashion, moorhen lack in sporting appeal. As related above, they don’t flock into decoys or perform other ritual rites that endear them to hunters. To my knowledge, no Moorhen Unlimited organization hosts chapter banquets with Hooters Girls peddling raffle tickets every year. Hunting them is not particularly challenging. It’s a wonder there is a season for them at all.

But there is, and it’s not without benefits. One, it’s the earliest firearms season in the state, opening around the start of September. Since the good folks at the USFWS don’t deem us deserving a dove season in accord with the rest of the country, this is our first chance to sling some lead – er, steel. And with Early Teal starting at the end of September, a moorhen shoot is often combined with duck scouting. In the past, we have had moorhen tournaments, which is fun. With literally thousands of birds on most duck-huntable lakes I’ve been on and liberal bag limits, it is high-volume shooting. Finally, they don’t taste half-bad breaded and deep fried.

Maybe it’s just the Redneck Human Condition, but anything that involves an early-fall day with buddies burning through a box of shells and ends with food dipped in hot oil has my attention.

Our modus operandi for hunting them is pretty straight-forward. Spot a few birds in the open and motor within firing range.

Now, I’ve never discovered any literature on what it legal or illegal about all of this, so if something we’re doing runs afoul of the law, just take this as a fictional read. The most important thing we do is make sure all motors are off and our forward momentum has halted before shooting. With the vegetation present in the areas moorhen prefers, mostly hydrilla, lily pads, and water hyacinth, coming to a quick stop is no big thing.

Sometimes the birds will fly, and, oh well, on to the next group. Other times they’ll scamper to the cattails before slowing on the inside edges of cover, in which case, bang, bang! Yet in some instances – and we moorhen masters consider this the Holy Grail – they’ll up and fly, and you wingshoot them. Moorhen are not particularly wary, so there are plenty of opportunities if a few individuals don’t cooperate.

As I said, I’ve found no clear laws regarding what is legal or not for licenses in particular to moorhen, but I won’t hunt without at least my FL hunting license and a migratory bird permit as stated in the Migratory Bird Regulations published every year. I usually have state and federal duck stamps by this time. I’m not sure these are required, but it should calm any rattled game officers. Steel shot and shotguns plugged to three rounds in accordance are required.

For meal preparation, let me warn you of one thing – get them cooled down as soon as possible. I lost my entire bag a couple weekends ago, and I am sickened by it. I kept them in a cool spot under the bow until we got to the ramp when I then iced them down. I was unable to dress them that evening, but re-iced them before going to bed. The next morning I got up early to complete the chore. There was still plenty of ice in the cooler. Before I had the first breast finished, the blowflies had covered my work station. The smell of the birds gagged me. The moorhen had spoiled, presumably under the bow. Ice them down immediately.

When you do, the meat is surprisingly tasty. Cut the meat off the breast – it’s not much more than a forkful. You’ll note the flesh is paler than duck. Soak in a little ice water or milk to remove any bloody or gamey taste. Toss in cornmeal or crushed saltine cracker and deep fry for a couple minutes. I had my doubts the first time I reached to the plate. The meat is mild and would be great dipped in a horseradish or deli mustard.

Moorhen hunting is an innocuous event, but with a little creativity, it’s a fine reason to get out on the lake and do some shooting. And in Florida, it’s a cinch to find a place to hunt.

Just need a reliable moorhen gun.

Season September 1st to November 9th
Daily limit 15 per person

(In addition to moorhen, soras and rails also share the same season. Purple gallinules are not legal game)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dove Hunting, Beyond the Usual

When it came to doling out dove hunting seasons, Florida got the Purple Nurple. While seemingly every other state in the Land of the Free is sanctioned to start whacking dove on or around Labor Day, the Sunshine State must wait a full whole month before the muzzle music can commence. I’m sure there exists a reasonable scientific explanation for this, but in this battle between Religion and Science, I am siding with Religion. I wish The Powers That Be would open Florida's dove season along with everyone else.

Dove hunting is the traditional kick-off to hunting season for most of the country. By the time it starts in Florida, bow season is underway; but a classic dove hunt in this state is the same as anywhere else, regardless of the calendar – BBQ’s and Fish Fries, friends, lots of shooting over cut millet fields, and SEC Football and celebratory libations afterwards.

That’s the usual practice, though. There’s still plenty of dove action – on public and private lands - that doesn’t necessarily instill the atmosphere of a fraternity party.

Once upon a time, Autumn Dove relied on Mother Nature to provide them with a meal as opposed to erstwhile hunters planting and cutting acres of millet or milo or sunflower. Even today, when plowed fields are unavailable, it is more than reasonable to expect periods of hot shoots if you discover what natural seeds and topography attract the birds.

I’ve written about it before, but many years back, my dad and I, with help from friends, spent the better part of June's weekends planting millet. It was the hard, sweaty work one would expect. The problem was the drought conditions over a good portion of the summer. When rain did finally fall, it was a deluge that effectively washed away our dust basins and malnourished plants. Lots of money was burned.

Well, we’d promised a dove hunt, and by God, we were going to have a dove hunt. Towards the middle of the property was a wasteland of thinning ragweed and dog fennel that had no real value for deer hunting. It’s the kind of mess that you’d hate if you had allergies or fears of small spiders. But the dove loved it.

Once Season arrived, with little work other than spreading out and sitting down on a spinning-top bucket chair, a dozen or so hunters way-laid the dove. To this day, it was my best shoot as we all filled our limits early.

A few years later on a late season hunt in Immokalee, Travis and I gave midday jump-shooting dove a try. It is maddening, I’ll clue you. But, we discovered they hung around wax myrtles, feasting on the little black berries that stick to their branches. One person would stand guard while another went on a zig-zag through the myrtles spooking the birds into flight. I don’t think limits were met, but we collected enough to satisfy the open fire pit at camp.

I’ve hunted fields of cut dog fennel with varying degrees of success – any cut pasture, really, will open up seeds for dove. Sandy creek banks or cattle ponds where the shores are clear are fine ambushes. Dove collect small stones in their gullets to help crush seeds, and they concentrate in washes with sandy substrate to collect these items. Plus, dove prefer to gulp water before calling it an evening. These places should be clear of shoreline vegetation and tall grass as dove are nervous little birds and prefer to keep a clear eye on the horizon.

As you can imagine, I don’t exactly spend a great deal of time scouting such places. They have just kind of happened over the years. However, if you don’t have access to a planted dove field this fall, you will probably be able to bag a few birds seeking them out in similar areas.

2011-12 Florida Dove Season

Mourning and White-Winged Dove Season:
First Phase - October 1 - 24
Second Phase - November 12 - 27
Third Phase - December 10 - January 8

Shooting Hours: First Phase - 12 Noon to sunset
Second & Third phases - ½ hour before sunrise to sunset

Bag Limit (daily/possession): 15/30

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Smothered Wild Pork Chops

With wild pork, sometimes, you just don’t know what you’re gonna get. Take a sow I shot back in March. Her shoulder roast turned into fantastic Mojo pork, but all attempts to make a meal of her backstraps or cube steaks have landed with a thud. Grilled or fried, I was not impressed. She was plenty fat, dropped where she stood, and was properly dressed and taken care of in a prompt manner. In the kitchen, I have marinated overnight and used a tenderizer mallet, but the meat has been tough, tough, tough.

Wild hogs will throw you for a loop. I have eaten backstraps from big boars that cut like butter after grilled and many others that would vacate a soup line at a homeless shelter. Sows aren’t much different. The younger – better tasting – ones don’t usually have much of a backstrap. The older ones can be chewy. And a wet sow? Forget it!

None of these are general rules for wild pork; I just find there are more problems cooking it than one runs across when dining on deer.

So how to cook the rest of this hog? I am brought back to slow-cooking – a crockpot can make an oak coffee table tender. But I had the processor cut chops for me out of her backstraps.

Despite my Southern upbringing and love for all things gravy, up until a couple of weeks ago I was unfamiliar with the concept of a smothered pork chop. I blame my mother – Yankee. I can still smell the aroma of that kitchen where the lady introduced me to them. I would have rolled in it, to be honest.

At once, I understood the benefits of cooking wild pork in this manner. Simmering meat in gravy is a fantastic way of tenderizing your meal, though a little tough on the ticker. I’ve fried pork chops for years. I have slathered gravy over fried pork chops for years. How the heck did I not think to combine the two in the pan? Idiot!

Anyway, it worked. So here is a simple recipe for Wild Hog Smothered Pork Chops. Depending on other recipes you find online, some variations include adding onion or mushrooms. I prefer to skip these and add more salt.

1 pound wild pork chops 1-inch thick
2/3 cup of flour
2 cups of water
1/3 cup canola oil
Kosher Salt
McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning

Pat pork chops dry and sprinkle with kosher salt. Then coat them with Montreal steak seasoning – the McCormick’s really comes though huge in the gravy. Coat chops in flour and set aside.

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add chops and brown on both sides, no more than a minute or two per side for these small cuts. Remove to a paper towel-covered plate.

Add water and scrape up the browned bits of flour in the pan with a spatula. Slowly add the remainder of the flour – about 1/3 of a cup – and stir until it thickens and begins to bubble. Shake some more salt in there, if you dare.

Reduce heat, and put the pork chops back in with the gravy, cover, and cook for at least 35 minutes – and going longer won’t hurt depending on how hungry you are.

But, as your house fills with the smell of pork chops simmering in homemade gravy, it’ll be a challenge lasting 20 minutes.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Learning to Call All Ducks

At age 31, I’ve decided to call ducks. Never owned a call. Never had much desire to. But I feel - as an outdoorsman of the highest esteem - something has been missing from my skill set.

Plus, I had a Cabela’s Gift Card to blow.

Calling ducks isn’t a requisite talent for killing waterfowl here in Florida. One is much better off paying attention to set-ups and camouflage. Numerous hunters more experienced than me claim birds just don’t respond with the same gusto as ducks do up north. Perhaps because we are largely mallard-poor in this state.

Or maybe because numerous hunters as experienced as me blow wildly on mallard chuckles and teal whistles at passing ringnecks and hooded mergansers winging it across public lakes and marshes to the point every avian creature in the state is call-shy.

I have attempted to make duck-like noises – on the safety of a patio or around a campfire – with others’ calls. The results and insults were predictable. So this, more than actually caring about quacking a duck to the decoys, is what has lit my fire.

But what calls to buy? For answers I went straight to the Cabelas Bargain Cave website. Lo and behold, they had a solution – a combo package with a Buck Gardner Mallard Magic Call and Buck’s Teal Call for about fifteen dollars. Then I got really crazy and decided to purchase a Primos Classic Wood Duck call.

Out of the package, the best I can do with the Gardner calls resembles my doe bleat. The Primos is higher pitched, but basically the same bleating noise. The Mallard Call claims to “easily produce rolling feeding calls, a full vocabulary of quacks up to, and including, mid-range hail calls, snappy come-back calls, and that awesome nasal whine of a contented hen mallard.”

I’m not familiar with a nasally whine from a hen being all that awesome.

Which brings us to practice time. When I was twelve or thirteen and first learning to call turkey, I had endless time to practice after school. If Mom got upset with the noise in the house, I could just tell her to shut up. I can’t do that with my wife. (kidding – about the first thing; not the second.) And when I went into the woods – any time of the year – I could call to turkey and get feedback from my efforts.

These duck calls are very loud and unwelcome in the homestead. I could travel to the local marsh in the spring and summer and call to mottled ducks. The mosquitoes would appreciate that. Teal are non-existent until September. And the mallards around Lakeland would swim up if I wailed on a coyote howl in the full belief my cargo shorts held a reserve of bread.

Soon, though, I will become Duck Caller Commander Numero Uno, and these three calls will hang from a lanyard bejeweled with bands from the waterfowl that cupped and dipped into the decoys at full ease following my irresistible chorus of clucks and chuckles. Or, my hunting comrades will hang me by said lanyard after a couple mornings.

As always, I welcome advice. Below are a few YouTube videos I will be studying.

Provided the house is empty.