Three strikes, I'm out.
For the Salesville River Bottom Duck Hunter’s Club (SRBDHC), an ultra-exclusive outfit based in Gallatin Gateway (formerly known as Salesville), the first week of the 2017-18 waterfowl season was off to the best start ever. A couple of geese and a few ducks kept the club members and our nine-year-old yellow lab Tillman happy. After all, how can you be a duck hunter without a dog? That would be like going on your honeymoon without your bride; you could do it, but why would you want to?
A crisp morning in the duck blind usually guarantees a beautiful start to the day. My neighbor Jim, who is a very accomplished big-water waterfowler, expressed interest in going to the blind, and the day he joined Tillman and me was his 66th birthday. I made him blueberry muffins with a thermos of coffee—the SRBDHC takes care of its guests! My friend and I share a common love of all things outdoors, especially duck hunting, and are also bound by simultaneous serious health problems, he with MS and I with heart disease. Our personal relationship with God completed our bond. It was a pleasure to have him in the blind.
My first mistake that morning was not staying with the usual routine. SRBDHC members take a less-is-more approach, so 8-12 decoys usually works, especially early in the season. But this morning, I put out about 15 decoys. While finishing the spread, I neglected to untangle the anchor cord in the lead decoy. That was my second mistake. From that point, things went south fast.
The birds were flying early and I wasn’t ready. And then my first shot was a misfire. Previously, I’ve never had a misfire with the gun I was using; however, the shells did not seem to seat well when I loaded the gun—another mistake.
The devil finally revealed himself when a flock of geese flew within range. I pulled up on them without having my gun shouldered properly. As I shot, I lost my footing and fell on my chair on my left side. As I bounced off the chair, I tossed my gun safely away and landed face first in the snow.
As Jim approached to help, all I could mutter was “Don’t touch me.” I hadn’t felt ribs hurt like that since I played against the Western Michigan Broncos in 1972. After taking a reading of my present state and determining that a hospital trip wasn’t in order, we painfully packed up and pulled out.
It took six weeks to get back in the blind. By then it was time to deer hunt.
This season, my neighbor and I returned to the duck blind for his 67th birthday, and I gave him the prime seat. The ducks were a little out of range, so no shots; however, we were treated with a show of an otter family frolicking just downstream from us.
I’ve been bucked off horses, charged by a grizzly bear, fallen off a couple of mountains, and had some good wrecks—but nothing like the day the devil came to the duck blind.