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By Jonathan Haverkamp
The perfect forecast was in the cards for the solo hunt coming up, I had been hunting this hole for a few days and mallards had been hitting the woods hard those few days and I knew that time was running low to take advantage of the opportunity. So as all the guys stood in line to draw in for a comfy blind I was racing off through the darkness with a headlamp off to one of my favorite timber holes. And just my luck I was the only guy to go into the walk-in areas that day and it was worth it.
The morning was settling in and I had the simple spread set, jerk rig, and 8 decoys. It was the middle of the season and Spinning wings tend to flair birds here more than anything. So I settled into my swamp seat and waited for daylight. About 15 minutes before legal light I begin to hear wings whistling over my head and things are sounding promising. Just as the first shots are firing off in the distance, the first splashes sound off in the timber as the darkness still looms in the timber. Finally, that daybreak through the trees and I'm able to work the first group of fat greenheads of the morning, and like magic, they suck down into the hole squared up and back flapping right in the spread, As I pull the trigger I see the first bird fall and as I squeeze the trigger the second bird falls I am already halfway to my mallard limit. The next group works just as well and I drop a single mallard drake out of that group. Then to my surprise, I group of Shovelers (what we call Spoonies) works down into the woods and I pop a shot off and bag one. I think to myself, awesome I am almost to my limit but just as I get back to my tree those dudes swing around and give me another look and I'm able to get my bonus birds for the day and bag my second spoony!
Just as I think my hunt is coming to an end, there is a group of what looks like ten
greenheads starting to work the hole, the whole time I'm thinking “remember just one more,” I give them some subtle calling and I can tell that they are hooked. After a few passes I see the wing beat slowing and they are starting to cup their wings and they are dropping out of the sky. Just like that they did it as perfect as the first group and just like that the hunt was over, but that wasn't even the best part; the final bird of the day was banded, and I had finished my limit the way many people dream of four mallards and two shovelers.
I think back on this hunt many times not because it was my first band, but because it led to the next few days of hunts where we we harvested a few more mallard limits and another band, making it more enjoyable. Knowing that I got to share that experience of someone’s first mallard band, and seeing eyes light up when birds are crashing down through the limbs reassures me why we do what we do. But then someone listens to the shots and sets upon us the next day and the birds get wise and headed elsewhere, but that public hunting. That is what makes it fun, the challenge of scouting and sharing the experience with others, but also taking time to soak it all in on a solo hunt, that was one that I won't soon forget.