William Chester Hazelton.

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B W SDl 217












Being Narratives of Duck-Hunting Experiences; Habits of Our Wild-
Fowl and Methods of Hunting Them; Facts Concerning Their
Migration, Breeding Grounds, Food, Etc. Also a Few
Short Articles Concerning Some Other of Our
Game Birds, and Several Interesting
Anecdotes of the Hunting Dog.

191 5


Cliicago, Illinois.

Used by courtesy of The Peteis ("lutiidije Coiiipjiny.

This Ixiok is respect fully dedicnted to

Ernest McGraffey, Victoria, British Columbia;
J. F. Parks, Hot Springs, South Dakota;
Dr. William L. Baum, Chicago, Illinois:
D. S. Sattler, Chicag"o, Illinois:

and to the
Sportsmen and Duck Hunters of America.


There is a comradeship among sportsmen and hunters that warms the heart.

Quail SliootiiiiJ in Indiana Corn-Fields, Ernest MeGaflfey.


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8uinise at Seniichwino Lake, Illinois, on the Illinois River.

This l)ook is jtresented to the siiortsmeii aiid (hick huntors
of America as the combination of the efforts of several
writers. It is a council of the experts.

Former works of this character gave a description of
the plumage of wild-fowl. I think I have adopted a far
better plan by giving a colored plate of the bird in its
natural colors. I have also added plates of several other
of our principal game birds besides wild-fowl.

I have to thank the following writers for assisting me:

Ernest McGaffey, Victoria, British Columbia.

Ross KiNER, Prophetstown, Illinois.

R. P. Holland, Atchison, Kansas.

J. F. Parks. Hot Springs, South Dakota.

Herbert K. Job, West Haven, Connecticut.
Edmund W. Weis, M. D., Ottawa, Illinois.

Flossie Ray, Olive Hill, Kentucky.

George Tj. Hopper. Buckabush, Washington.

TliG ont-donr ninti, aftor all, is the one with lieart. — Ernefit McGaffe\i.

"After the Day's Sjxnt is Over,"' Canvasbacks, Long Lake, Illinois.

The Art of Duck Shooting — Ernest McGaffey 1

The Canvasbaek — William C. HazeUon 8

Duck Shooting as a Pastime — William C. Hazelton 10

My First Duck — Boss Kiner 11

The Calls of Birds— William C. Hazelton 13

Mallard Shooting at Coke's Bayou — William C. HazeUon 14

The Plumage of Wild-Fowl — William C. HazeUon 15

The Gadwall, or Gray Duck — William C. HazeUon 16

The Art of Calling Ducks— K. P. Holland 17

The Green Wing TeaA—W iUiam, C. HazeUon 20

A Duck Shoot on the North Platte River— J. F. Parks 21

Duck Shooting on the New England Sea Coast — Herbert K. Job 27

The Pintail— William C. HazeUon 28

The Pleasures of Wild-Fowling — Dr. Edmund W. Weis 29

A Duck Hunt on the Kankakee — William C. HazeUon 33

The Woodcock — William C. HazeUon 38

Reminiscences of Shooting on Chesapeake Bay — George L. Hopper 39

The Nesting Season of Wild Ducks — Herbert E. Job 43

Camping Along the Illinois in "the Good Old Days" — T. S. Van Di/ke 45

The Tree Ducks of South America, Mexico and Texas — William C. HazeUon. 46

The Tale of a Swan— William C. HazeUon 47

In Fair Kentucky^ — Flossie Bay 49

On the Marsh — Boss Kiner 51

Tlie Chesapeake Bay Dog — J. F. Parks 53

A Lucky Half Hour With the Blue-Wings— William C. HazeUon 59

The Mallard— William C. HazeUon 62

An Eighteen-Mile Row and Some Mallards — William C. HazeUon 63

A Narrow Escape — William. C. HazeUon 65

The Wood Diick— William C. HazeUon 66

On the Migration of Wild-Fowl — WiUia^n C. HazeUon 67

Passing of the Passenger Pigeon — William C. HazeUon 70

The Dog Who Was Determined to Go Hunting — William C. HazeUon 71

On the Grand Old Illinois — William C. HazeUon 73

The Use of Decoys — William C. HazeUon 74

Mallard Shooting in the Overflowed Timher—William C. HazeUon 77

The Blue-Wine Teal — William C. HazeUon 78


The Passing of the Marshland — Boss Einer 79

Senachwine Lake in the Last Days of the Old Muzzleloader — T. S. Van Dijhe. 8]

The Prairie Chicken, or Pinnated Grouse — IVilliam C. Bazelton 82

A Shot at a Prairie Chicken — Boss Kiner 83

The Wild Goose Who Lost His Bearings — Williom C. Hazelton 84

In November — Eoss Kiner gg

The Old Squaw, or Long-Tailed Duck — William C. Hazeltoii 88

Hunting the Old Squaw Duck on the Eastern Sea Coast — Herbert E. Job .... 89

Three Empty Shells — Three Mallard Ducks — William C. Eazelton 90

On the Habits of Various Varieties of Water -Fowl — William C. Haselton ... 92

The American Widgeon, or Bald-Pate — William C. Eazelton 94

Old Times on the Green Eiver Marshes — Boss Einer 95

The Hunting Dog — Ernest McGaffey 95

The Quail — William C. Hazeltoii 98

Whirrin ' Wings — Flossie Bay 99

A Stormy Crossing on the Illinois — William C. Eazelton 101

The New England Euffed Grouse — C. B. Wliitford 103

Shooting the Bluebill Over Decoys — William C. Eazelton 106

Hunting Bluebills in New England Waters — Eerbert K. Job 107

The Old-Time Market Hunter— William C. Eazelton 108

The Goldeneye — William C. Eazelton 110

Observations and Conclusions on Duckologj' — Dr. Ferdinand Brown Ill

Wild-Fowl in a Storm on the Massachusetts Sea Coast — Eerbert K. Job 114

One of America's Most Famous Duck Hunters — Williavr C. Eazelton 115

The Wilson Snipe, or Jack Snipe — William C. Eazelton 116

Propagation of Wild-Fowl by the United States Government — E. K. Job. ... 117

Tribute to the Dog's Faithfulness — E. W. Thomas 120

The Hedhesid— William C. Eazelton 122

Favorite Foods of the Wild Duck — Willia7n C. Eazelton 123

Some American Ornithologists — William C. Eazelton 128

When I Could Have Won First Prize (and Did ISlot)— William C. Eazelton. . 129

A Journey on the Mississippi — John L. Matthews 132

Making A Double — William Bruce Leffingwell 134

Queer Experience of a Duck Hunter — William. C. Eazelton 135

An Interesting Trip to Florida — Flossie Bay 137

Notes — William C. Eazelton 139

With the Canvasbacks at Aux Sable Lake — William C. Eazelton 1 40

' ' Jack ' '—Wtlliam C. Eazelton 142


"Water King." (8449, P. D. S. B.)
("ourtesy of L. K. Mason, Hastings, Iowa.

The Art of Duck Shooting.

The wild rice dips, the wild rice bends,

And rustles in the breeze.
As down the marsh the west wind sends,

Its message from the trees.

— Poems of Gun and Eod.


Duck shooting is a science ; likewise an art. The seasoned
duck shooter smiles at the quail hunter, the snipe shooter,
and the man who eases around in a "buck-board" after
prairie chickens. They are mostly "parlor" shooters in his
opinion. "Whisper," now — men take their lives in their
hands quite a bit who follow the sport of duck shooting.
The marshes and lakes take something of a toll of human
life in that respect, and more than a few good staunch fel-
low^s have gone under in the "sink-holes," perished from
exposure, or drowned in sight of shore while following their
favorite hobby. You need to be some resemblance to a man
to go after ducks year in and year out.

Spring shooting has mostly been cut out; and a good thing,
too. Some lively sessions I have seen occasionally, in the
Spring time, when the ice came down on the "blinds."
Narrow squeaks at times, and rowing aimlessly in sudden
blizzards, stiff fingers grabbing at ice-mailed decoys, and
squalls that made gathering dead birds no child's play.
Well, I've weathered it, but I just make bold to say in
passing that you need to be a good swimmer, a good man


with a pair of oars, and as tough as a leather hinge to stand
the racket.

Fall shooting isn't quite as dangerous, but you have to
watch the weather conditions, and mind your eye generally.
Duck shooting has so many angles, that it has both the safe
and easy degrees as well as the other ones, and by and large
it is the most fascinating sport of all with the shot-gun.

Shooting over decoys, "pass" shooting, "jumping" ducks,
"tolling" ducks, and shooting from a battery, make up the
principal ways of getting the birds.

Decoy shooting can be had with either wooden or canvas
decoys, or live wild decoys. These latter are mostly used in
mallard shooting. Wooden decoys are mainly used in shoot-
ing bluebills, canvasback and redheads, although many mal-
lards and teal are shot over wooden decoys. Bluebills and
ringbills decoy easiest. Mallards come in to live wild mal-
lard decoys where they would not look at the wooden coun-
terfeits. Pintails decoy to mixed pintails and mallard de-
coys, and teal will come to all teal, or a sprinkling of teal
and mallard. Goldeneye, ruddies, butterball, widgeon, wood
ducks, spoonbills and other "trash" ducks I have killed in-
termittently over various decoys. Canvasbacks require all
canvasback decoys, and redheads decoy best to redhead de-
coys, although some canvasbacks will not hurt in the flock
of decoys.

"Pass" shooting only requires good markmanship and a
close-shooting, hard-hitting gun. A reliable retriever is also
a necessity in this branch of the sport. It is simply
finding out where the birds come and go from one body of
water to another and stationing yourself on dry ground
and shooting them on the flight. Winged birds are readily

Teal Ducks, Thompson's Lake, Illinois, Kiiiest MfGaffey.


gathered by a trained dog, and the sport is one mainly de-
pendent on accurate shooting.

Jumping ducks may be done by going in on the compara-
tively shallow overflowed river bottoms or along the edges
of lakes and sloughs, and shooting the birds as they jump.
Or it may be practiced from a boat, with one man to paddle
at the stern of the skiff or duck-boat and a man in the bow
to do the shooting. Or a man may paddle about by himself
and drop the paddle as the ducks climb up.

Tolling ducks is to hide in the cover along shore and draw
the birds within gunshot by having a dog trained to the job
lure them in by jumping about on the shore. I never had
any experience at this style of duck shooting.

Battery shooting, or "sink-box" shooting, is by having a
box weighted and sunk almost to the water's edge and sur-
rounded by a big flock of decoys. At the birds come in the
shooter rises from his cramped position in the box and fires.
It is an effective way of getting ducks when they won't come
in to the shore "blinds," but keep to the middle of the large

In all grades and kinds of duck shooting the knowledge
necessary 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 shoot-
ing from "blinds," and hundreds of other lesser and greater
vital requirements make up what might be called the scien-
tific duck shooter's arbitraiy book of rules.

Almost any man can break a few hundred blue rocks, buy
a good dog and do something at quail without further delay,


especially if lie goes out with some one who understands the
way to get "Bob White." But each duck shooter must learn
the inner peculiarities of the duck-shooting game for him-
self. And each year that he goes out he will pick up new
wrinkles from some grizzly old "pusher," or from some
one of the canny boys that lie around the lakes.

You may shoot fifty pintail off of a high, brush-built
"blind" from a comfortable platform one day, and the next
day, with a still, bright day succeeding a dark and blo^\^^
yesterday, be compelled to take a narrow duck-boat and go
out in open water and build a grass "blind" almost level
with your boat to get any shooting. Ducks are queer "crit-
ters," and I have seen them do unaccountable things.

I have been at the lakes w^hen some seasoned old pirate
would sit grumbling 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 other not so hardened
shooters would be working their heads off to bring in a
dozen ducks a day. And then some morning old Groucher
would be missing and would come at night loaded to the
stumbling point with ducks. He had been studjdng the
weather, the flight, the "signs," and when he got ready had
poled and cut his w^ay 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 you
could shoot.

Canvasback shooting over decoys is the acme of the sport.
Shooting over live wild mallard decoys runs it a close second.
Teal shooting is good sport, and bluebill shooting over de-

Live Wild Mallard Decoys Calling in Mallard Drake, Tiliiiois Eiver Country.
Photo by Vincent Taylor, Chicago.


coys, with occasional ringbills, widgeon, pintail, teal or even
mallards dropping in at times is exciting work. There is no
branch of the sport which does not have its particular charm.
When the Kankakee marshes were in their prime a man
conld get all the ducks he could pack in by knocking over a
few birds and setting them up for decoys. Now the corn-
fields stretch where the marshes rippled, and ducks, except
the barn-yard variet}-, are a curiosity.

For the deep-water ducks, canvasbacks, redheads, bluebills,
etc.j lake shooting is more generally followed, while timber
shooting along the rivers in the overflowed river bottoms is
where the best mallard, pintail and teal shooting is had.
Some lakes give good teal shooting, but they like the timber
pretty well.

All sorts of rules have been given, some of them based on
methods of apparently mathematical exactness as to how to
hold 3^our gun to shoot ducks. The fact is, the shots vary
as the flight of the birds does. To get the center of the
charge where the duck will be as his line of flight crosses the
flight of the shot is the trick, and it requires years of j)rac-
tice, and a natural adaptability to master the secret. T have
known men who were good shots at everything but ducks.
And I have never known a high-class duck shot who could
not quickly qualify as a shot at any kind of flying game.
The reason for this is that duck shooting gives all the
angles, towering, rocketing, right and left quarterers,
straight-aways, right and left quartering towerers, incomers,
straight overhead shots, incoming left and right quartering
shots, dropping shots, straight-up rising shots, twisters of
every description, etc.

Ten or twenty years' practice at these angles either de-


velops the crack duck-shot or it develops the duck-shot who
finds his best lines and sticks as much as possible to them.
As the shooting is practically open, and as birds often come
in and go out from a "blind" with a variety of movement,
a man can pick his moment to shoot.

For instance, if he is weak on incomers, he can wait until
a bird swings. If he is good at straight-aways he can pick
birds in the flock as they are going away. The high-class
shot takes them any way. But even a medium good shot
can make a very respectable showing by choosing his birds
and his time to shoot.

The building of a "blind" and the setting out of decoys
is the last word in the art of duck shooting. It is so won-
derfully well done in the case of the expert, and so bungingly
executed in the hands of the tyro, that there is no possible
comparison between the two. Color, size, fidelity to the sur-
rounding cover, and easiness of coming in and going out are
vital features of a well-builded "blind." Accuracy as to
the general habits of the birds is to be followed in the set-
ting out of the decoys, some species being prone to closer
formation than others, and more regular alignment.

Duck calls are very successfully used in mallard shooting,
and when wooden decoys are used they are often exceedingly
handy. In shooting over live wild mallard decoys, the decoys
will do the "calling," as they join in the sport with a most
uncanny delight. It is rather a shock for the novice to see
a drake wild decoy raising himself in the water to call down
some unsuspecting comrade from the far North, and the
new-comers rarely fail to set their wings and come in fra-
ternizingly to the wild decoys.

' ' An ' if that ain 't eheatiu ' why I 'd like to know. ' '


Splendid mallard shooting- is sometimes had in the wet
corn-fields, and in the stubbles, particularly in the corn-
fields. With live deco^^s and a shock of corn to hide in, a
man can get the cream of the shooting at times.

East, West, North and South the tendency is to restrict
the limit. I think this is all right up to a certain point. But
fix a season limit, say seventy-five birds, and let a man kill
his limit in a day if he can, and if he wants to. Men who
have followed the sport know how many days are drawn
blank in the shooting, and if a day does come when the con-
ditions are all right it is more or less of a joke to shoot ten
birds a day. Make the limit even fifty birds, but don't put
the lid on at ten birds a day. A man might get that many
ducks at one shot, teal particularly.

Anyway, what is that long, trailing ribbon over the trees,
dipping, winding and curling about the river bottom! Mal-
lards, by all that's lucky! The northern flight is on. Get
out the 12-gauge, sort over the shells, break it gently to the
Missus and receive her (call it benediction) and set the
alarm clock for 3 : 30 a. m. The old instincts are alive again,
the old blood is jumping, the duck-shooter's primal savage
characteristics are beginning to assert themselves. Yes,
there's nothing like it, and I have "followed the gun" for
forty-three years, come next Micklemas, or any other Mas
that happens to be roosting about the premises.


The Canvasback.

' ' King of the Game Birds of the Continent. ' '

The royal bird! What a keen, racy-looking fellow he is!
Every inch of him a thoroughbred!

The canvasback is undoubtedly the most wary of all our
wild-fowl and his keenness of vision is only equalled by the
goldeneye. His flesh depends for its flavor on the food that
he eats, and since for so many years he fed in the localities
where the so-called wild celerv abounded, which is reallv a
water grass, his reputation was gained as a fine-flavored bird.
There is a doubt, however, whether he is any more. of a deli-
cacy than other members of the duck family who have op-
portunities to feed on wild celery.

The Chesiapeake Bay in the East; Currituck, Pamlico and
Albermarle Sounds in the South ; and Lake Koshkonong, Wis-
consin, and Fox and Long Lakes in Illinois, are noted resorts
of the canvasback.

I take great pleasure in watching the canvasbacks at Lin-
coln Park, Chicago. There are many varieties of live wild
ducks there, but the canvasback plainly shows he is not an
ordinary bird.

AVhile shooting one morning on Swan Lake, near Henry,
Illinois, many years ago, I was stationed about a quarter of
a mile from Abe Kleinman, the veteran duck hunter of the
Calumet marshes, and I could see most of his shooting, and
he killed three dozen canvasbacks before 11 o'clock. His
decoys were set near shore, where the birds were feeding.
During the balance of the time that I was shooting at Swan


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Lake the canvasbacks came no more to this particular spot
to feed. Abe had "burnt them out." I killed thirty red-
heads and bluebills that same morning.

At this time the shooting at Swan Lake and Senachwine
in the overflowed bottom and timber lands resembled a
battle. The shooting was continuous and ducks were in
sight in some direction nearly all the time. The flooded ter-
ritory, including the main channel of the river, was from 2
to 5 miles wide. The river banks were overflowed all along
the river except at a few high spots.

I always use canvasback decoys, with a few bluebills, for
deep-water ducks, and have never owned a redhead decoy.
Many times have I picked out a few canvasbacks from a large
flock of bluebills when they would come into the decoys. I
doubt whether the canvasbacks would have come in by them-
selves, but they came in with the bluebills.

The canvasback is always uneasy and restless on rainy
days, constantly flying about, and it is on these days that the
best shooting is to be obtained.

The main body of birds will be always found well away
from shore on some large lake or river. At intervals during
the day, small parties of ducks, as if unable to withstand the
temptation any longer, will leave the main body of birds and
fly towards the shallower water near shore to feed. Then if
the hunter has his decoys set in the right spot, he will have
some fine sport.

AVhen canvasbacks are disturbed much they become very
cautious, remaining out in open water during the day and
only approaching the shore at night to feed.


Duck Shooting- As a Pastime.

To follow the way the wild duck takes,
To the twilight of the grassy lakes,
To the glory of the Yukon hills.

— A Day on the Yukon.

What sport can be compared to duck shooting for real
enjoyment with a gun?

Hunting quail with a good dog is enjoyable, of course,
and also prairie chickens and ruffed grouse furnish excellent
sport, but for real pleasure what can equal hunting the
various varieties of wild-fowl?

One of the greatest fascinations of wild-fowl shooting is
its constantly changing conditions of weather and many dif-
ferent species of wild ducks almost daily met with. Today
you may be shooting over decoys, tomorrow on a duck-pass
or flyway, and the day following "jumping" ducks from the
borders of a marsh or river.

Duck shooting is also a greater test of your skill with the
gun, for you get shots at many different angles and at
varying speeds. The wild duck is a marvelously swift flier.

And on the splendid fall days all Nature is at her best, and
could anything be more invigorating to your health and tend-
ing toward longevity than to cast aside your cares and go

I have memories of many glorious days spent on the Des
Plaines, Kankakee, Illinois, Platte and Missouri Rivers and
the lakes of Wisconsin. The Illinois River is my favorite
hunting ground, however. Coke's Bayou, Aux Sable Island,
Groiose Island, Twin Islands, Bardwell's Island, Sugar Island,
Aux Sable Lake, Senachwine Lake, S^van Lake, and many
adjacent localities were places of keen sport to me.


My First Duck.

The noisy bittern wheeled his spiral way. — Longfellow.


Do you remember the very first duck you ever brought to
bag? You don't? Has it been so very long ago, and you
have killed so many since, that you have forgotten quite?
Well, I do. Many and many the time had the single-barrel
muzzle-loader roared, spitting fleecy smoke and shredded
newspaper in the wake of a small charge of 5's, trying to
overtake a bunch of scurrying, cloud-scraping pintail, or
neck-craning, towering mallard, but the duck was never
where the shot was, and the shot was never where the duck
was, and beside, like the flea, a boy is never still, you know,
and after I stood and crouched in one location as long as I
could stand it, I would move, then, and not till then, would
the ducks come and wheel and circle over the very spot that
I had just deserted.

It was March, a wind-blown day with winter's chill still
gripping. The muzzle-loader was at home behind the kitchen
door, and in my hands was a Remington 12-gauge hammer
gTin; not the model with the low circular hammers, but an
earlier one, black barrels, with high hammers that stood
upright like rabbit's ears. My stepfather had borrowed the

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Online LibraryWilliam Chester HazeltonDuck shooting and hunting sketches → online text (page 1 of 10)