This Is Why I By no means Duck Hunt Alone Anymore

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This story, “Two Ft within the Grave,” initially ran within the April 1952 subject of Out of doors Life.

I DON’T LIKE to hunt alone. Too many issues can occur to a person. He lets his ax slip or has a foul fall or makes a dumb transfer, after which he’s in hassle, with no accomplice to assist him get out of it. I do know. I went out alone for geese a few seasons in the past, and almost disappeared from the face of the earth.

Some associates and I’ve a duck camp on the Crimson River, which divides Texas and Oklahoma and flows into Lake Texoma. There’s loads of duck meals in that space, and Texoma is a tremendous duck haven. However we wish to hunt upriver a number of miles, so we are able to get them coming and going from the fields. 

I had a tentative date with a few the fellows however on the final minute their wives started twisting their arms they usually stayed dwelling. My spouse put a half nelson on me too, however I managed to get away and drove as much as our camp. It’s on a small cove of the river, and the water is evident proper out to the principle channel. The river itself is stuffed with deep silt, apart from the channel. If the water stage drops a bit it’s unimaginable to push a ship out from its shores, so there’s no place for a camp. 

I used to be out of the sleeping bag by 5 subsequent morning and able to launch the boat, which we had left on shore. I slipped into my waders, stowed my gear within the boat, and shoved it throughout the mud into the water. The wind was roaring via the timber, and low, scudding clouds obscured the japanese horizon. That was all to the nice; the blow would discourage the geese from rafting, and preserve small flights of them cavorting up and down the river. 

Our blind was a number of hundred yards upriver from the camp. We’d positioned it on a big silt bar close to a sheltered stretch of water. Regardless of which method the wind blew, from north or south, the waters across the blind have been quieter than on the open river. 

I’d received my decoys out, hid the boat within the blind, and was loading my pump shotgun when a flight of a number of dozen mallards came visiting. A hen was within the lead, a wily outdated fowl that twisted her head backward and forward as she chattered on the decoys. I turned my name downward and gave a delicate answering yip. Six occasions the flock labored over the blind, their gentle underbellies vivid in opposition to the gloom, their lengthy necks outstretched. However there was some factor concerning the structure that the outdated lady didn’t like. Lastly, with a pointy name, she pulled the flock upward like so many puppets and headed west. 

However then a hen and a drake—possibly uninterested in the outdated lady’s tyranny—peeled off the flight and coasted towards the decoys with set wings. I pulled down on the drake once they have been a few foot off the water. He dropped, and the hen shot up like a rocket. I received her, too, after a foul miss.

I paddled out and retrieved the mallards earlier than the river present stole them. Simply as I received again into the blind a flight of 4 came visiting. On their second cross they have been low and nonetheless quick, however I hit a drake. The wounded fowl struck the water between the blind and the silt bar, and began swimming in a circle. I used to be about to complete him with one other shot when, curiously sufficient, a hen out of the identical flight came visiting the blocks. Clearly confused, she bored straight in, then flared wildly when she noticed me standing within the boat. I received her on the high of her climb and he or she fell beside the boat. 

I appeared round for my wounded drake. He had swum to the silt bar and was now strolling throughout the dry crust, dragging a damaged wing. I hurriedly shot him, and he flattened, invoice down and wings outstretched. 

Earlier than the hen might drift away, I poked out the pole and pulled her with in attain. Getting the beached drake could be one other matter. However since no different flights have been heading my method, I made a decision to offer it a attempt. 

It was pretty simple to paddle many of the strategy to the silt bar, however when the water shallowed to inches I needed to pole. By the point I had pushed the craft as much as the sting of the caked, dried silt, my arms and shoulders have been aching. With the bow smack up in opposition to the crust, I used to be nonetheless about fifteen ft from the drake. 

I thrust a foot over the bow and examined the crust. It gave barely however appeared pretty agency. With the pole in my arms, I stepped gingerly out of the boat and eased alongside about 5 ft till I might contact the drake with the pole. 

Possibly I received careless, or possibly it was my rocking movement as I labored the duck towards me. However simply as I used to be about to choose up the fowl my left foot crashed via the treacherous crust. In a second my leg was hip-deep and the silt was pouring into the highest of my wader. 

As an alternative of mendacity flat throughout the pole and attempting to tug my leg out gently, I instinctively threw my weight onto my proper foot. It crashed via the crust, and nearly instantly I used to be waist-deep in a nicely of slimy ooze—and happening quick. 

April 1952 OL magazine cover
The April 1952 cowl featured a photograph by Grancel Fitz. Out of doors Life

My again was to the boat. Frantically I twisted the higher a part of my physique round towards it and positioned the pole throughout the break-through. It held me up for a number of seconds, however then one finish broke via the crust, and I began sinking like lead. I lunged ahead and unfold my arms throughout the crust, maintain ing on like a skater who has damaged via ice. Minutes turned eternities as I felt the chilly silt move into my leather-based jacket, ballooning it out right into a heavy sack that dragged me deeper into the grave of muck.

Subsequent I attempted to drag myself out onto the near-by crust, however my elbows instantly broke via. I fell ahead and threw my arms over an unbroken patch. The chilly silt was now as much as my shoulders, and I used to be full of despair. The subsequent break-through would drop me mouth-deep into the stinking stuff. 

I heard a tractor bark into life far throughout the river. I known as out, however the robust wind slammed the phrases again down my throat. Moments later I caught a glimpse of the tractor going over the crest of a hill. 

Panic rushed over me as I felt the nippiness silt creep over my shirt collar and grasp my neck like chilly fingers. The crust I used to be clinging to was bending beneath my weight. I considered lunging ahead and making a do-or-die attempt for the boat, however I knew my head would promptly go beneath the muck if I attempted it.

The three ft of crust that now lay between me and the boat was a urgent downside. I must eliminate it if I used to be to achieve the bow. Cautiously I shifted most of my weight to my left arm, then eased my proper hand out and began breaking off items of the crust edge with my fingers. Slowly, inch by inch, I opened a foot-wide path towards the boat. Once I had reduce via about six inches I introduced my proper arm again, redistributed my weight on each arms, then labored my method into the brand new opening. 

I maneuvered on this trend till my proper hand was a few foot from the boat. However now my fingers and the muscle tissues in my forearm have been so drained I couldn’t transfer them. I attempted to show .in order that I might work with my left hand, however the crust bent ominously. I gave that up and wearily clung to the shelf of crust, fastidiously holding my head again in order that my mouth stayed barely above the silt. 

Once more I attempted to chip away the crust with my proper hand, however the uncooked, bleed ing fingers couldn’t handle it. Then I observed that the boat’s bow rope was hanging down, its finish simply inches from the crust. With a superb lunge I’d be capable to attain it. 

SPREADING MY ARMS out over the crust, I took a deep breath and tried to drag myself out on high of it. The crust instantly broke. Wildly I lurched ahead. My fingers grasped the rope simply as my head sank into the silt and my mouth was full of the gritty muck.

Frenziedly I clutched the rope and pushed my head freed from the silt, gasping and spitting out the choking muck. However greater than that I couldn’t do, for the silt-filled waders held me down as firmly as anchors. Even now, nonetheless, I didn’t surrender. 

I rested in addition to I might for a couple of minutes, then cautiously began to work my method out of the waders, loosening them with one hand whereas I held on grimly with the opposite. It was a determined wrestle; the muck within the waders held onto my legs just like the suction cups of an octopus. However inch by inch I freed myself from them. And at last, as if the satan have been after me, I heaved myself up and over the facet of the boat, and flopped exhausted on its backside. 

It started to sleet, and I felt as if I have been turning right into a block of ice. However I simply lay on my again, unable to maneuver. And at last—hours later, it appeared—I sat up, a silt-encased mummy, and slowly labored the boat away from the bar and out into deep water. 

Again on the camp, as I washed the muck from my physique and slipped into dry garments, I assumed that whereas solitude in lonely nation could have its virtues, it’s undoubtedly not for me. Hunt alone? You’ll be able to have it!

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