Years ago I spent the majority of my fall on the water. Chasing…. Errr waiting for ducks to come to me. There were plenty of days I came home with spent shells and nothing to show for it. There were also days when I wouldn’t even fire my gun, nevertheless they were all wonderful days in the outdoors. Duck hunting for me is a social sport. You want to get all your friends to join you in the blind but every duck hunter has their go-to partner. Mine was my friend Nate. Nate and I went to high school together and always got along really well. Nate didn’t grow up hunting nor did he have a desire to so we mostly fished together.
Eventually he started to come around to hunting. It started with pheasant and ended up in duck blinds all over Minnesota. He used his dad’s gun (not always with his permission). It was a fine gun. A Wingmaster that his dad rarely ever touched. In all honesty I think the few years that Nate was hunting he used that gun more than his dad did the entire time he owned it. Nate and I worked together, hunted together, and enjoyed drinks together on many occasions.
Nate knew me better than most folks do. We were always playing pranks on each other. It’s amazing we got anything done at work. There were days when it would be “too warm” to work outside so we would head to my house, grab the boat and hit the river to fish. There were days when it was “too cold”, “too rainy”, “too snowy”, or sometimes there would be “too big of a front coming to not go hunting before work”. So I would call the crew and let them know we needed to have a late start because I needed materials. These were the best days. We would set up a plan to hunt in the morning and set ourselves a time limit so the bosses wouldn’t notice that we weren’t on the job site.
One day Nate and I decided there was “too high of a chance for rain” in the forecast and decided we better hunt in the morning. This particular day the wind was right to hunt the close side of the lake rather than paddling my little ten-foot jon boat across. We never hunted that side of the lake but it was worth a shot. We eventually got our blocks set and boat concealed. A few mallards set in at shooting light, they must have been in the matrix because they dodged shot from 6 3” 12 gauge #4’s. A few more singles came in and we were able to get a couple.
Eventually we got to the slow point of the day and decided we needed to pack up. Before we could, Nate announced that he needed to relieve himself. So he stood at the front of my little boat and turned to me to say “Joe, don’t F#@$ around” which of course translated to “please make this pee the most dangerous pee I will ever take”. I started acting like I was going to start paddling which was followed with a “Joe stop” which only ramped up my efforts. I started skimming the water and swinging harder. Nate said some choice words and then it happened. I hit a floating bog with the tip of my paddle on accident sending the boat spinning. Instead of scaring Nate like I intended, I fell onto the boat rail landing on my butt. The little jon boat fought to hold me up but it just couldn’t do it. The rail went under and the boat filled with water in seconds. Luckily for us it was only a few feet deep. We threw all of our gear on shore and dumped the boat. Laughing the whole way to the truck. Once there we took all of our stuff out went to work.
A week later we were out again. Remember that Wingmaster I told you about? Well Nate never took it out of the case after that hunt. It sat in his trunk for a week in a wet gun case. Nate ended up researching and reading and eventually he learned how to strip the gun and he did a beautiful job bluing it. I can’t remember if his dad ever found out. Nate and I both learned a lesson that day. Mine was think twice about messing around over water. Nate learned that he needed to go out and buy his own gun.