Last week I was en route to Nebraska amidst the winter’s worst blizzard to date. United must have owed me, because somehow I made it to the Lincoln, Neb., airport, touching down with a clenched heinie on—I kid you not—a snow-packed runway surface. Ninety minutes after I landed the city was closed for a snow emergency, a rather significant fact considering it's not exactly unaccustomed to snow. Dinner was a cheap can of beer and two hot dogs that I purchased at the only open gas station I could find.
Two days later my host picked me up for a much-anticipated duck hunt, but I cringed when he turned to me in the pickup and proclaimed: "I’m 99 percent sure we’re going to have a great day!" Then he further jinxed our chances by showing me photos from the weekend before when he and four others shot 25 mallards.
Oh no, I thought, We are doomed.
My spirits improved, however, when we got to the pit blind. It was the finest I’d ever seen: 30 feet long and well camouflaged, with electric heat and wall outlets, two coffee pots and two skillets. There were small ponds in front and behind the blind with water bubblers to keep them open. The North Platte River flowed to the west. The landowner walked alongside the blind and opened a hidden trapdoor, revealing a veritable underground garage full of wonderful flocked mallard and goose decoys made by Aero Outdoors. Myself and three others put out a small-but-realistic spread.
As I’d feared, we didn’t see a single duck that morning, but did get to enjoy breakfast in the blind (eggs, homefries, sausage and toast). It’s going to be hard to go back to cold sandwiches.
About 1:30 p.m. the guy who was supposed to be keeping watch for passing flocks, said, "There’s a mergie in our spread. I didn’t see him fly in—he must have walked!" I peered out to see a common merganser swimming toward the decoys.
"You want to shoot it, Kyle?"
Now, I’m no duck snob, but I had little desire to kill a bird that was not only on the water but unsuited to the dinner table. (I’ve considered putting mergies on pizza and telling people they’re anchovies, but I fear this might be insulting to anchovies).
No sooner had I declined to shoot than he raised up, muttered something about me acting like I’m from Stuttgart and shot the duck. It was the only one we’d get all day. The blizzard had simply pushed the ducks south. To make matters worse, I returned home to find that my buddies had hunted our normal spot and limited one day and shot the better part of a limit on another. Oh well, that’s duck hunting!
I rounded out my trip to Nebraska with a little deer hunting. There was a windchill advisory that, coupled with the snow, helped us see many deer, but only Wendy LaFever of InSights magazine got one—her first! I didn’t so much as take my gun off safety, but at least I’m not without excuses.