After the leaves have changed and the weather turns chilly, most people begin to look forward to the holiday season. But, not everyone. That cold November weather means one thing to a group of camouflage-clad, shotgun-wielding outdoorsmen and women: duck season.
After the insane year of 2020, I was absolutely ready to spend some time in the duck blind and see if I couldn’t bag a limit during the season’s first split in November. I was hunting with family along the coast of South Carolina, where a nice push of ringnecks, teal, and a few big ducks had come in during the previous weeks. Stepping into my waders and slinging my Remington V3 Waterfowl Pro over my shoulder, I headed to the blind.
The morning promised to be ducky – cold, cloudy, and with a nice breeze to keep the water moving. We had a few birds land in the decoys just before shooting time, and could hear more in the air around us. As soon as legal hour hit, I stood up and knocked two ringnecks down right off the bat. For me, making a great shot (much less a double) first thing is the metaphorical “kiss of death” – I almost always shoot poorly during the next few volleys. Somehow, luck was on my side that day and three of my next four shots brought down 3 more ducks.
The hunt was over pretty quickly, as the ducks seemed to abruptly quit flying around 8:00. Knowing that is just how duck hunting is sometimes, I unloaded my gun and we called it a day. One bird shy of a limit wasn’t a bad way to kick off the season!
Fast forward a few weeks, and the season’s second split came in hot. I mean, like, real hot. Hunting with my dad and my husband, we hopped in the blind just before legal hour and loaded up. We could see ringnecks and mallards working around us in the dim morning light, watching more than a few land in the decoys.
After the first shot rang, it was a steady tornado of wings buzzing, shotguns firing, and ducks falling. About the time we’d get a little breather and let the dog rest, another flight came zooming by and the madness began again. As anyone who’s hunted them knows, ringnecks can reach (what feels like) Mach 10 with a little wind behind them. You can hear those little fighter jets long before you can see them, and it made for some sporty shooting. We spent just as much time laughing and high-fiving great shots as we did actually hunting.
Time seemed to fly by almost as fast as the ducks and, before we knew it, we had a 4-man limit by 8:30 that morning. Talk about a real barrel-burner! It was a great way to say goodbye to 2020, and hello to 2021.
It is a good thing we got such a successful hunt in while we could. The next few hunts did not turn out the same. Reports from all over the state seemed to show a steady decline in the number of ducks seen in the area (much less shot during hunts). I was able to sneak in a few more mornings in the blind though. After all, a slow day of hunting in the duck blind is better than sitting at a work desk!
Thankfully, a number of ringnecks were still in the area, and we were able to eke out a limit or two more in the ensuing weeks.
Unfortunately, the season went out with a distant whistle of a far-off wood duck, rather than out with a bang. Talking with fellow hunters from Arkansas to the Carolinas, the season apparently ended that way for a lot of people. The weather stayed nice and chilly though, and, at the very least, we got to enjoy a few more sunrises in one of my favorite places. I’m already looking forward to November, when we can start it all over again!