With the 2001-2002 season coming to an end, Joe, Buck, Dick and I headed back out into the marsh to close the season on the last weekend. Joe, Dick and I set out toward Venice Friday morning. Buck would come later Friday evening. The weather was nice. We set up the camp site then went fishing. We tried fishing the flat in the Gulf of Mexico, but the water was dirty so we went inside. As we trolled down a narrow bayou, Joe hooked something big! He kept saying “I think I have a big fish”. Well, indeed, he had a 36 lb. redfish. It only took him about 15 minutes to land him. After a few pictures, Joe released the fish. It was the only fish we would catch all weekend.
We fished a little while longer then went back to the camp. Joe and I made a run in the mud boat to get firewood. In the early afternoon, we dropped Dick off in the duck blind, then Joe and I went to the back cut to set out our decoys.
After we set out the decoys, we decided to sit back against the canes and hunt. The weather was too nice for the ducks to fly so we just sat back and enjoyed the beauty of the marsh and drank a few beers. Joe took Annie for a walk in the marsh. Eventually a teal did come in over the decoys and Joe bagged him with an excellent shot.
As we sat enjoying our afternoon, the fog rolled in very quickly. It was quite eerie. In the matter of minutes we were engulfed in fog.
Joe dropped me at the flatboat, then went to pick up Dick in the blind. The fog got very heavy on the ride back to the camp but we made it back with no problem. Dick had shot six teal. I plucked the ducks while Joe brought Dick back to the launch and picked up Buck. Dick’s shoulder was bothering him and decided to pack it in for this trip.
When Buck arrived, we started drinking heavily. The three of us started horsing around on a huge log that had come ashore next to the campsite. I walked out to the very end of the log and was jumping up and down to see if I could move it. It moved only slightly when Joe decided he’d come help me. As he ran down the log I could tell right away he was moving way too fast to stop. I was at the end of the log with nowhere to go but the bayou. I quickly got down and straddled the log just as Joe reached me. He couldn’t stop and fell over my shoulder into the water. It was definitely a spectacle.
We built a large fire so Joe could dry out his clothes. We finally made it to bed around 8 p.m. but not before spending a couple of hours laughing over Joe’s escapade. Ask Joe how cold the water was.
Saturday morning we awoke and found the mud boat nearly submerged. Buck bailed the boat out while Joe checked the battery, gas tank, engine oil & transmission oil. The transmission had taken on water so Joe changed the fluid. These guys outta be NASCAR pit crew members. It was classic Hunter S. Thompson “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” They had the mud boat running in no time.
Joe dropped me off in the back where I hunted alone while Joe and Buck hunted the regular blind. It was a bluebird kind of day. I only shot one teal. Joe and Buck shot 13 teal. We went back to the camp and while Joe and Buck were cursing Dick for taking his fishing pole and FM radio with him back to town, I suggested they fish and drop me back in the blind to hunt. With no radio to listen to the NFL playoff games and only two fishing poles, they agreed with the plan and dropped me in the regular blind while they fished.
I shot only one teal. They picked me up a few hours later. We went back to the camp. Joe and Buck took a nap while I cleaned the ducks. Later that afternoon, Joe dropped Buck off at a different spot while Joe and I hunted the regular blind. A long anticipated cold front blew through the marsh about an hour before sunset. We had waited for this cold front hoping it would get the ducks flying. The wind shifted instantly from the south to from the north. But we were disappointed – not many ducks flew in our direction.
Joe went to pick Buck up and left me in the blind. It started getting dark and I was appreciative of the extra time in hopes some ducks would come by, but I was concerned they hadn’t come to get me yet. Finally Buck shows up in the flatboat and yells to me to get in the boat that we had to go rescue Joe in the mud boat. As I was throwing everything in the boat and trying to figure out how I was going to throw a 150 lb. Golden Retriever in the boat, Joe shows up in the mud boat. Apparently a rope got caught in the propeller of the mud boat. Joe had to get out into the water and reach under the boat to cut it off. In the process, water came over and into his waders. Joe was wet once again. The only highlight was that Buck had shot a Greenhead that afternoon.
We finally made it back to the camp after dark. We built another roaring fire so Joe could dry out again. Buck fixed fried potatoes and a steak for each of us. We ate and went to bed.
Sunday arrived with great anticipation of finishing the season with a bag full of ducks. Joe made coffee and we headed out toward the blinds. Buck hunted his spot while Joe and I hunted the regular blind.
As we settled into the blind it was still mostly dark. It was about 30 minutes before sunrise when I had my gun loaded and was ready to go. I just happened to look up and there was the silhouette of a very large duck. I couldn’t tell exactly what it was – either a Mallard or big Gray duck. In an instant I swung my barrel straight over my head and let off one shot. The duck fell into the marsh about 50 feet away. Joe and Annie jumped in the mud boat to go retrieve it. Annie found the duck. It was a very nice large gray duck (gadwall). It was a great shot since I normally don’t shoot well over my head, especially in the dark. That highlighted the hunt Sunday as we only shot one other duck – a teal. Buck only shot one teal, so we didn’t make the limit.
Over the weekend, we ended up with 22 teal, one Mallard and one Gadwall. We ended the season with a ceremonial burning of everything we could find laying around the camp including a homemade water ski Joe found back in November and kept at the camp for some unknown reason. Joe called it the “Bigfoot Ski”. Buck burned his old tattered sleeping bag and Joe tossed in his camouflaged jacket that he’d burned the sleeve off on the exhaust pipe of the mud boat. We made these sacrifices to the mighty Campsite God. We cleaned the camp site, packed the boat and headed back to the launch. It was another successful duck hunt and one of the best overall seasons in the last few years. Thanks Joe!
It’s nine months ’til Teal Season in September. The countdown begins now!