When Charlie and I both wore the clothes of younger men, I owned a successful organization that provided hunting and fishing opportunities for folks in several states in addition to packaging trips to exotic locations worldwide in the same pursuit.
In the search to provide our clients with additional benefits, I decided we should offer severely discounted outdoor gear from firearms to fly rods.
I needed a manager and ran an employment ad in the Post. Charlie Forster, fresh out of college, was first in line. I was impressed, and hired him on the spot.
If Charlie had a weakness, it was the same as mine. We both loved duck hunting more than any pressing need to be in the office, and since being in charge I could dictate whether both of us needed to be in house on a given day as opposed to being hard at work in the field testing products, during duck season field work often took precedence.
And so it was that on one of those marvelous Colorado October mornings when the air is crisp and clean and the sunrise so glorious as to grow poetic about, we found ourselves huddled deep in my favorite blind on the east side of Jumbo Reservoir, as luck would have it smack in the middle of a mass movement of migrating waterfowl from the north country that reportedly had been inundating Colorado’s Eastern Plains waterways for a number of days.
Except apparently on this day. From way before the chill of first daylight began to tinge the eastern skies, till mid afternoon, there had not been a single sighting of a single errant bird, nor did even the softest whisper of distant wings break the soft silence.
Charlie and I were sharing our venture and blind with a nationally known trap shooter, the name of which shall remain in deep cover.
Clay birds which would rise before him were relegated to dust, but if it wore feathers, as we would mention to him quite frequently, he couldn’t hit his butt with both hands. But not a problem for most of the hours on this day, as the sky, no matter how we strained our eyes, remained perfectly sterile except for the occasional blue heron mincing by.
The absence of any legal birds at all was doubly grinding on our plans for the day since the powers that be had upped the limit on widgeon, normally the most predominant bird in our bag, to ten a day, meaning a freezer full of a total of thirty birds for an intrepid party of three at least reasonable shots.
The Feds could have just as easily had a limit of ten dozen or a hundred, as the sky above Jumbo Reservoir remained as barren as an Arctic winter scape.
But Charlie and I being like companions in eternal optimism, a disease striking avid nimrods even on the darkest of days, we clung to that tiny thread of hope, maybe in just a few more minutes, maybe, maybe.
Our companion – not so much. But Charlie and I kept him entertained by occasionally shrinking ourselves deep into cover while exclaiming, in a hush of course, that way, way over there on the horizon, we detected what surely must be a flight of incoming birds.
Even after hours in which not a single one of the reported mythical birds evolved out of the blue, It still worked, proving entertaining to Charlie and I when not much else was available beyond the noon repast of PPJ sandwiches and Kosher Dills.
But as sometimes happens when hope springs eternal in a hunter’s otherwise empty breast, just when we had decided to pack it in and gather the decoys, there was, coming from behind us, not the whisper of wings, but an absolute deluge of sound.
So many widgeon passed directly overhead that for a second they darkened the sky.
Two hundred? Three hundred? A mega flock for certain.
As avid duck hunters know from experience, successfully turning a flock with that many birds into a decoy spread with an artificial call is about the same as betting on the Bucs in the Super Bowl.
Now in the day, I was considered a pretty fair caller, so I launched into a series of plaintive comeback calls, then laid out my most heart-wrenching rendition of a lonesome hen needing companionship, ending with my best, most enticing feeder talk.
I was really into it – but almost went into shock when I realized the entire flock, as one, wheeled in the distant sky and came roaring back directly to our decoy spread. They never circled, they never towered, they never did a thing except race in mass head on at us, tiered in several levels.
As one, the three of us picked out the closest birds directly overhead and let fly. OMG. With the birds stacked like that, one atop the other, the result was predestined.
It rained ducks – into the blind, into the decoys and into the weeds around us. I started screaming, “Stop shooting. Stop shooting!” totally unneeded because all the tubes were empty anyway after rapid firing the limit of three loads apiece.
My two companions, at first in awe, then stunned at the floating mass of kicking legs or flightless feathered bodies all around us, were speechless, while all I could think of was, we are all going to jail, forever, or at least for a millennium, but I was determined to find every downed duck.
Tossing them into the blind, I started counting, finally coming to to 25, 26, 27, 28, 29. Then, miracle of miracles – exactly 30.
Now I can imagine the headshaking of some of the readers out there, but that is the exact truth.
I felt like a great weight had been lifted when I tossed the last bird into the blind. No matter how diligently I searched, there was non other. I had located them all, an exact limit.
Now we started giggling, laughing, guffawing, and reliving the whole sequence as we headed back to the truck, dragging bags of recovered decoys and two burlap sacks of warm bodies.
Now to get to the path to the vehicle along the edge of the lake we had to pass by another blind about a hundred yards farther down the shore. As we passed, I shouted an apology for having to disrupt their hunting, but as I did so, four heads popped up, the leader shouting, “That was the most incredible sight we have ever seen. What calling! You turned that huge flock right back to you, and wow, such shooting. The sky rained ducks!”
I grinned and replied, “Yes, and we stopped shooting at exactly a limit of thirty,” lying of course.
Then he reached down to his feet and lofted another widgeon. “Well, this one made it all the way over here before dropping straight into our blind!”
I offered it to him, but he said it was the only bird that had come near their blind all day. So, we needed to take it.
I looked at Charlie, Charlie looked a me – and we bagged the bird. I have been expecting a knock at the door ever since.