Frederick Humphreys.

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^eing Duck. and. Goose Hunting Narratives
From Celebrated T)ucking Waters







19 2 2


AUG 24 vSa



This Volume is

Respectfully Dedicated



A True Sportsman and
A Devoted Friend




Copyright by W. C. Hazelton, 1922.



The Pleasures of Wildfowling 1

Jumping Ducks on Current River 5

Duck Hunting on Skis _ „ 10

Ducking on the Susquehanna Flats, Past and Present 14

A Duck Hunt on Big Lake, Arkansas 20

Duck Shooting on a Club-Foot Lake — Reelfoot 25

Goose Shooting on the Missouri River 31

"Old Rusty" and "The Outlaw" 36

After Canvasbacks at Storm Lake, Nebraska 40

A Lucky Half-Hour With the Bluewings 49

Bluebill Shooting From a Floating Blind on San Francisco Bay 52

Blind and Battery Shooting on Pamlico Sound 57

An Outing With the Grays in Manitoba 64

On Far-Famed Little River 75

Old Bob of Spesutia Island 81

California Goose Shooting in the Rice Fields 85

Reminiscences of "Ragged Islands" 92

In the Haunts of Wildfowl in Tidewater Virginia 97

Goose - Shooting Remembrances 108

After Bluewings, Upper Current River 115

Reminiscences of an Old Timer 125

The Chesapeake Bay Dog , 132

Wildfowl in a Storm on the Massachusetts Seacoast 136

Forty -Three Years 137

Books on Wildf owling published by W. C. Hazelton :
1916, Duck Shooting and Hunting Sketches.
1919, Ducking Days.

1921, Wildfowling Tales.

1922, Tales of Duck and Goose Shooting.
Editions now exhausted of the first two volumes.

Chicago address, 407 ,Pontiac Bldg.



CAN any scientist, biologist or philosopher explain the feel-
ing of anticipating rapture to a man when he hears or sees
something suggesting the possibility of hunting? Many
have tried but I have never found a satisfactory explanation.
Whether it is a relic of Barbarian ancestors to want to kill some-
thing, or of atavistic tendency of getting food, or the desire to
circumvent the wary, or possibly to exercise an acquired skill
with the gun, I do not know; but it must be something impera-
tive that will cause a man to give up the comforts of home,
brave possible dangers of sickness by exposure to inclement
weather, to brave dangers of accidental mutilation and death.
It will do all this and yet in spite of the most he can do, the
net results may be — as they frequently are — nil. Yet he has
had such an uplift of spirit, such ecstatic pleasure, that all other
means of sport dwindle to the vanishing point. Far be it from
me to attempt a reason, for as a matter of fact I have done all
and more of these things. It is impossible for me to say just
what motive possesses me. This, however, I do know, and that
is when the season comes on there is an indescribable longing
for a certain something that will only be satisfied by fondling
my gun and examining the ammunition box. Then come the
days of desire and the nights of dreaming. Has there ever
been a duck hunter who has not filled his bag, has made the
most beautiful and almost impossible shots, has gloated over
the fall of birds as they hovered over the decoys or swung past


him on swift wing, who has not had almost as much pleasure
in anticipation as realization? Then the night after, how there
passes in review the incidents of the day, the missed shot, the
accident that caused the loss of the grand old greenhead, the
folding up of graceful wings, the splash of the fall, the chase of
the cripple, and the satisfaction of a clean kill at 50 yards ; all
of these are gone over and over until the keeper yells, "All up
for breakfast!"

Always Something More to Learn.

In all grades and kinds of duck shooting the knowledge neces-
sary of the birds' habits, the effect of the weather on their flight,
where they are feeding, the manner of building a "blind" and
setting out decoys, the best spot for a "blind," the shifting of a
"blind" when the wind shifts, the way to sit and keep still in a
"blind," the rule in shooting from "blinds," and hundreds of
other lesser and greater vital requirements make up what might
be called the scientific duck shooter's arbitrary book of rules.

Each year that the duck hunter goes out he will pick up some
new wrinkles from some grizzled old "pusher," or from some of
the canny boys that lie around the lakes. I have been at the
lakes when some seasoned old pirate would sit grumblingly
around the fire in early Spring, only deserting his warm place
to go outside and look at the sky, or spit on his finger and hold
it up to see which way the wind was blowing. Meanwhile the
not so hardened shooters would be working their heads off to
bring in a dozen ducks a day. Then some morning old Groucher
would be missing, and would come in at night loaded to the
stumbling point with ducks. He had been watching the "signs,"
and when he got ready had poled and cut his way in to where
the birds were feeding and had made a "killing." That, of
course, was in the old days. Days when there was no "limit,"
either to the birds or to the number vou could kill.


In my humble estimation, and it is not so humble either, being
based on forty-five years' experience behind the gun, there is
no sport to equal hunting the duck. My experience extends to
the Far West, North and South.

Lure cf the Fascinating Sport.

Who would not like to peer cautiously through the bushes at
a wood duck, a mallard, or, say, a green-wing drake swimming
there a boat length or two away? What hunter would not walk
far for such a sight? But such things come too far between to
explain our enthusiasm at mention of wild ducks. What sug-
gestiveness is conveyed when someone casually remarks that he
has seen a flock of ducks! What hundreds of scenes, what
thrills of excitement have gone to make up the witchery of that
term! What is there about that subtle quality of wildness in
these birds that it should lay such a powerful hold upon US'*
Why such music in the first approaching whistle of their wings?
Why such a knell as it grows faint again in the distance ? Mark !
a flock! Are they coming? Going? Have they seen us? Will
they see us? Will they be bunched at this point? Will they
pass? How far away?

"Mark north !" Without moving a mviscle excepting those of
your eyes you follow the flight of a "bunch." The voice of the
cedar call, now followed by the live hens out in front, you warily
attempt to twist your neck around as they circle, one, two or
three times and then the supremest joy when they finally set
their wings and float down, as it were, their yellow legs out-
stretched, down, down to just over the decoys, you rise up, slip
your safety and — how you fondle him, admire the wet feathers,
pat his plump breast, admire the beautiful colors! The cup of
happiness is flowing over. The anticipated is realized, coupled
perhaps with a slight regret, that he can never give you that
exquisite moment again.


Wherein lies greater satisfaction than a beautiful double —
perhaps you are in the blind in the midst of a snowstorm, the
peak of your cap is pulled down so that you cannot see well,
or some day when the flight has been poor you are slightly
dozing, you open your eyes and peer through the meshes in
the blind, you see a pair of strange birds swimming just on the
outer edges of the decoys. Involuntarily you stiffen, your hand
begins to reach toward the stock of your gun, and as you rise
the pair head for the sky. They are 35 or 40-45 yards away —
perhaps 50 — crack, crack — and you start and stare as if some
one had presented you with a fine jewel.

Again you are careless in your observation, when suddenly
like a streak there passes some teal. Without an instant's hesi-
tation, it is but a moment to raise the gun, slip the safety, put
it against your shoulder, throw the muzzle from three to eight
feet ahead, press the trigger and they are yours.

Again, and I will never forget this experience, a pair of mal-
lards came in. I made a clean kill with the first barrel and
missed with the second ; the drake began to climb straight into
the sky immediately over the blind ; I slipped in the shell, raised
the gun, struck a rotten limb above me, loosened a lot of punk-
wood which filled my eyes, rubbed them clear and then sighted
on him away up in the blue, when at the crack of the gun he
"let go all hold" and came tumbling down not 20 yards away.

There is no grander passion from which one can realize so
large a per cent of absolute pleasure, recreation and pride of
achievement as from that of duck or goose shooting. Then after
the season is over, you have put gun and paraphernalia away
and settle down to business, take it from me, you will be a
better man, more energetic in your work and do better in every
way from having had a good play.



<« T F you've never jump-shot ducks offen this river, you'ns

I hain't never had the best in duck shooting!" declared

-*- Jess, a tall, smiling, broadbacked product of the Ozarks,

who admitted with a carefree laugh that he had given more of

his time on the river, than he had to books and school.

So when I found myself one bright October day, behind a
little brush screen in the bow, under the guidance of Jess, I
began to appreciate that there were many ways in the duck-
hunting game that I had yet to learn.

The clear river runs like a "scairt dog," as Jess expresses it,
and only in the small pockets formed by the swirls to back-
water, or the long, hurrying reaches of flat, waveless shoal, are
ducks to be found. Truly the sky appeared to be banded with
them from east to wxst. They were not for my river, but for
the feeds of pinoak and smartweed among the submergings of
timber in the Rea Sea overflow of Black River.

We raced down a rapid, and then to our left a bunch of wood
ducks leaped from behind a willow-shielded bar, screaming
startled "hoo-eeks !" I sent the contents of my twenty at them,
positive that the two gaudily-attired drakes it covered would
fall. I was, however, easily spared this conceit, for not a feather
did I touch. The fast water had me guessing! With open
mouth I watched the children of the dark, damp woods wend
their way in hasty flight up stream.

"You sometimes miss !" jibed the boatman.



"Sometimes, and then some," I added meekly. And then 1
agreed again to his comments on my poor marksmanship as a
pair of mallard drakes boiled out of a nearby moss bed, and 1
repeated the performance of missing.

Jess cackled.

It was such a cold-blooded, inexcusable miss that I could not
refrain from laughter. And right then, too, I realized I had to
change my mode of shooting, by making some allowance for the
fast water.

Ozark River of Surpassing Beauty.

Before me now was an expanse of wide, straight river of rare
beauty, and reflecting the saffrons, scarlets and drabs — the dress
of the environing hardwoods. To the west, receding from high
banks, small bars of gravel came to view. Here and there dark
moss beds and stalks of long, coarse grass appeared among them,
promising something in the way of a secreting place for wild-
fowl. A sound must have escaped us, or was it undue vigilance
on their part? From the end of the grassy plot on the last bar
a large flock of gadwalls flew down the river until they were
out of sight. Jess seemed to have hopes of their return, for
he pushed the boat into the nearest plot of grass with the com-
mand to keep down.

For a long while we awaited their return upstream, as is tlie
custom of their kind over restricted water areas. They failed us.

Tingling with impatience, Jess shot the boat midstream, where
I began to experiment. First I learned steady footing, when
str-uling upright, by ridding myself of unnecessary trepidation.
Then I studied what eflfect the vibration and the movement of
the boat had on proper alignment. On the speed of the river I
could set no rule ; it varied too much.

Into the suck of an extensive crescent-shaped rapid we fell
and floated on to a point above Mill Creek Bay. Far to the
east, and advancing our way rapidly, assuming distinctness with


every second, iippeared a line of back dots. It approached us
with almost unbelievable swiftness. Then as it found outline
over the stream in the shape of a great flock of ducks, it forged
up it with almost inconceivable rapidity. And when we were
in the fastest water they swooped over us. To that instant the
bend of the river had concealed us. Now they saw us and
towered, placing dependence alone in the fieetness of their wings
to offset their momentary confusion. How those bluebills did
climb ! Somehow I whirled in their change of direction, fired
my gun and somehow dropped a pair of them on the silver

Teal Frequent Gravel Bars.

Every now and then I jumped ducks, killing a few only, but
deriving more sport from my occasional kills than any I had
ever made. My ducks were not of the same kind. No two
flocks were alike. I would flush a flock of mallards, then gad-
walls, widgeons, an occasional redhead ; and what few of the
scaup family that came to my gun were not flushed on the
stream, but were invariably flight ducks dipping too near us.

Soon I gained some skill in the rapids, and the day ended
with a kill of fourteen ducks. All my shots happened in the
most boisterous water before attaining the foot of a rapid,
where the craft behaved unsteadily. All of the ducks imme-
diately hurtled upstream and seemed to have an almost uncanny,
gyrating method of twisting away from my shot. The element
of uncertainty, without which there is no sport, was not lacking.
Likely looking places where ducks should be found were without
them. Barren spots, as for instance smooth yellow gravel bars,
were the most frequented. Often the swift water carried us
into an innocent appearing bar, when a part of it suddenly de-
tached itself and lifted into flight. Teals were always jumped on
the bars, and many lazy but wise shoveller permitted close ap-
proach, but not quite within killing distance.


When ducks fell on land back of us it required arduous poling
upstream to secure them; and, moreover, it exacted much racing
ability on Jess' part to keep up with a kill in the current. A
cripple afforded the most amusement, for it evoked much pro-
fanity from the boatman as well as an exhibition of skill in
handling a boat in very swift water. Once in a while the ducks
flocked in the open, seemingly enjoying our chase after them.
Paddling as fast as we could, they swam on in advance of us.
They were on the qui znve against surprise.

Wise Old Mallard Drake.
There was the sole drake mallard that I knocked down at a
great distance. He hit the water with a splash that alarmed
every minnow on the shoal within a hundred yards. The river
was wide at this point. Jess and I began our chase after him.
He went on down stream, and as we neared him I emptied my
gun at him. It had no effect. Just a little ways out of range,
I guess, but he gained the opposite bank. There was upstream
water there, and the wary old rascal took advantage of it. We
had to turn and follow. Our task was not such an easy one. I
tried shot after shot at the slowly moving object. Again I failed
to stop him. We had only one thing left to do, follow after
him. How the perspiration exuded from every pore ! The
rapid was a tough one. Finally we conquered it, feeling sure it
would end in the capture of our crippled drake. I looked in
advance, and after peering through the waves of white water saw
the drake take the east bank on us. I fired repeatedly at him.
He surely bore a charmed existence, for I swear that this time
he was within range. Downstream went that old greenhead in
water of a character that we usually avoided. He had set the
pace and there was nothing for us to do but to follow. When
we decided it was safe to neglect the boat we saw the rascal
slowing moving to the west bank. That gun of mine simply
could not touch him. It poured the No. 7 chilled shot right on


him, it seertied, but without ruffling a feather. I was almost
exhausted and Jess in the same state. The duck performed his
same mode of keeping away from us so often, that I hardly
realized we were going over the same places.

Old Drake Makes for Tree Top.

"He's goin' for that old tree top," gasped Jess as the green-
head made a dive and disappeared in a very large semi-submerged
tree on the west bank. "You kin gamble that he's all in, or he'd
outswum us," he added.

In a few minutes we came to the top. The duck could not be
seen. Jess suddenly called my attention to the long mass of
hairy roots hanging in the water from the butt of the forest
monster. He pointed his finger down in the water. I fol-
lowed the direction with my eyes. I saw clinging far up the
butt just out of water the bill of the drake. Almost as soon as
I saw him Jess caught, him with his hand and gave him to me.

I examined the duck very carefully. I could see no wounds,
only a small red line behind his head as though he had been
seared with a single shot. Of this I apprised Jess. I remem-
bered immediately how gamely this fellow had behaved.

"Jess, we've had lots of sport today; this duck ins't hurt and
will live," I announced.

"Yes," drawled the Ozarker, "and I'm thinkin' we'll turn this
greenheaded sport loose for another day."

As vanishing day touched the clear water with an impress of
soft crimson tints, the drake swam with high head to the center
of the river. There we watched him until he faded in the scene.
A moment after two happy duck hunters pushed wearily up-



ONE pleasant summer evening a visitor from Chicago sat
on the porch of a Wisconsin farmhouse near Butte des
des Morts, swapping stories of duck-hunting experiences
with his friend, a farmer lad, who "since knee-high to a grass-
hopper," had spent his spare moments roaming about the famous
wild-duck marshes near his home.

"Did you ever hunt ducks on skis?" inquired the boy.

The visitor shook his head negatively, for this was a kind of
duck hunting that is practically unknown except in the vicinity
of the marshes adjoining Lakes Butte des Morts, Winneconne
and Poygan in Wisconsin.

"These marsh skis," continued the boy, with some surprise,
"are similar to the Norwegian skis, but they are a little wider,
and are made especially for walking on bogs, marshes and rice-
beds where it would be impossible to wade or push a boat. With
them a hunter may navigate such places and get those birds that
fall beyond scent and range of his good retriever, or on brisk
Autumn mornings enjoy some exciting 'jump shooting' out on
the marsh."

Skiing for ducks is to me the most exciting and adventurous
form of duck hunting; every moment is full of expectation that
a duck may jump out of the grass from almost any quarter:
then there are the thrills that one feels when crossing a hazardous
stretch of mud and water. The physical exercise is, to me, supe-
rior to that taught in any gymnasium. The fellow who does



not enjoy physical exercise need not attempt marsh skiing. The
beginner should not over-exert himself, but if he will start out
on short skiing trips after ducks, and increase their length as
he becomes more able and accustomed to them, he will be physic-
ally benefited. Almost all forms of duck hunting are enjoyable
to me, but skiing for ducks has always appealed most to me ;
nerliaps because I am one of those restless sort of fellows that
like to be "on the move." I like the expectation and excitement,
and then the exercise of skiing keeps one comfortably warm on
cold days when the more patient fellows in blinds behind their
decoys are freezing.

Rare Sport in Itself.

Skiing is sport in itself; marsh skiing for ducks has the addi-
tional feature of one of the most fascinating forms of duck
hunting. Many exciting times I have had after ducks on skis,
but there is one hunt that seems to stand out from all the rest.

One raw November afternoon, Ray, my chum ; Nick, the black
cocker spaniel, and I arrived half-frozen at our hunting shantv
on the Butte des Morts marsh, but determined to bag a few mal-
lards. A heavy wind was blowing and as the waters out on
the lake became rougher and rougher the mallards came off the
lake in great flocks. It was too rough for them to ride the
waves. They would circle around over the bogs and wild-rice
fields to the north of us until, finally satisfying themselves that
the place concealed no enemies, they would drop down here and
there, usually beside one of the many small ponds scattered over
the marsh.

It being too late to go out that afternoon, we decided to ski
out there the next day. After a good hot supper, one of the
best ever, we rolled into our beds. In our dreams that night we
experienced all kinds of exciting experiences, made all manner
of difficult shots and had a grand shoot.


Sport the Next Morning.

Next morning we were up early; filled up on pancakes with
maple syrup, bacon and coffee, and as the rising sun began
show its rosy face over the marsh we were out with our skis.

Scarcely out of the dooryard Nick's tail began to wag faster
and faster — up jumped a mallard almost under my feet. Up
went my gun, "Snap !" — no report. There were no shells in the
gun and of course by the time I got it loaded the mallard was
out of range. Ray was not close enough for a shot, but he had
the laugh on me, and I made up my mind that next time I would
have my gun loaded before I started.

We now started out into the marsh on our skis. Soon Nick
caught sight of another duck and we skied as fast as we could,
following him. Suddenly Nick made a jump on a bunch of
grass and after a moment he came slowly toward us with a
mallard in his mouth. It had crawled under the grass out of
the cold and could not get away quick enough.

A little farther on some mallards jumped from the edge of a
small pond near Ray, and as Ray shot, another jumped up almost
behind me. "Bang! bang!" I got him! I had passed within
a few feet of him and he had never stirred until he heard the
gun shot. And so it went and many other ducks met their fate.

When we were returning to the shanty, Nick ran across the
trail of another duck. I hurried up as fast as I could, leaving
Ray behind me, but in my haste I started to cross a little pond
on the thin ice. About half-way across the ice cracked, and
down I went in the water nearly but not quite over my hip boots.

"I'll be back after I get this duck," Ray shouted, as he hurriect
off after the dog.

It seemed a long time that he was after that duck, and mean-
while I was sinking into the mud and the water was coming
nearer and nearer the tops of my hip boots. At last he got back
and nearly split, laughing at my misfortune. He stopped laugh-


ing long enough to push one of his skis out for me to step on
and I got out on to firm bog. If he had not arrived when he
did I would soon have had my boots filled with ice-cold water.

Heard a Yell From Companion.

Soon after I had a chance to laugh. I heard a yell behind
me from Ray. He was going across a stretch of ice and water
and had slipped and fallen flat in the water.

We hurried back to the house for dry clothes; and, besides,
the ducks in our hunting-coat pockets were getting heavy. On
counting up, we found that we had twenty-two fine mallards
that morning.

The visitor who had been listening to the tale now aroused

"How are these skis made?" he inquired.

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Online LibraryFrederick HumphreysManual of veterinary specific homeopathy → online text (page 1 of 10)