Blue Bills on the Bay

The boat cut through the black pre-dawn water of San Pablo Bay as our guide, Captain R.J., and his deckhand navigated toward a blind somewhere out there in the darkness. Peering out from my hood, I watched the twinkling lights of Vallejo get smaller and smaller, excited to be going on my first and long-awaited sea hunt for ducks.

It wasn’t long before we glided in next to the blind, a rectangle of plywood and woven palm leaves, bobbing at anchor on two pontoons. Guns and gear were handed over after we boarded, while the crew went back out to lay strings of decoys, blue bills and scoters. When the east began to glow we loaded our guns and waited, in my case, for the first site of ducks I’d never seen before except in pictures.

The wait wasn’t long. Small clusters of dots appeared in the distance, low, right along the line where sky and water meet. The dots got bigger, swinging back and forth, until suddenly and for a split second only, ducks zoomed through the decoy string and were gone, no more than a couple of feet above the water! It was like that all morning, every fifteen minutes or so. Blue bills, scoters, even the occasional canvasbacks.

As a pond hunter used to shooting at ducks flapping above the decoys, silhouetted against the sky, I’m not sure I ever got used to shooting down at sea ducks speeding by as black blurs against dark green water. But third shots placed well ahead managed to get a few of them, after the first two ripped up the water just behind.

When R.J.’s partner motored in and fished out the last of our limits, the hunt was over. And I was sorry to see one of the most exciting, different, and challenging duck hunts I’ve ever been on come to end. Now it’s time to get out that crock pot, gather up some onions, potatoes, carrots and broth, and see about some sea duck stew.


~ by SpeakingZenaphorically on December 16, 2012.

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