The water was obsidian as we motored across the bay with Captain RJ Waldron at the helm on Wednesday morning. There were four of us hunters – Erin, Jimmy, me and my hunting partner, Tracey. Twenty minutes later we pulled up to a distant shore and offloaded ourselves and our gear. RJ and his first mate set about deploying the strings of diver decoys while we brushed up the portable blind.
A short time later, shoot time was announced by distant gun fire. We didn’t have to wait long before our turn came; a black silhouette darted by low and from the left, and Erin and Jimmy ensured that our tally that day would not be zero. Then a pair zoomed in and were dropped by a four-gun volley the second they arrived at the sweet spot between the two strings of decoys.
As the morning brightened and a light breeze kicked up, we watched flocks crisscrossing our spot, a little too far or high for shot. But every fifteen minutes or so, a single or pair or more came within range and very few escaped. Though we each had a miss or two that left us shaking our heads, most of the ducks were dropped with just one or two shots. One flight of five lost four of its members. Of course, with sea ducks, down is usually not out, and follow up shots were the norm before RJ’s first mate JJ was able to motor over and net them.
Movement on the water between the shore and decoys caught our eye about mid-morning. I thought it was a muskrat. Someone else said otter. And then RJ jumped up and was suddenly stalking whatever it was as it swam along the shoreline. Moments later – BAM – and he came back to the blind with a beaver! The bay we were hunting had a name before we arrived, but for me it’ll now always be known as Beaver Bay.
Our communal strap grew throughout the morning, a mix of blue bills and goldeneyes. With the tally at 27 ducks, a final pair was spotted heading toward us. As they passed in front edging along the decoy strings, Tracey raised up and fired, bringing the hunt to a close with a 28th duck. It had been a glorious hunt – beautiful weather, good blind mates and hosts, plenty of ducks to watch and lots of close up shots, many with feet down. And one unexpected wood chipper in the bag.
I felt very fortunate. Not having had much luck in the Fish & Wildlife draw, getting picked for this California Waterfowl Association hunt was a very good thing by itself. That the hunt turned out so well, probably the best I’ll have this season, was a bonus. It was very generous of RJ and Jason Adversalo to donate this and other hunts to help CWA raise money.
From now on whenever I make the trek on the highways from my home to the bay area, it will bring back a great hunting memory as I look out on Beaver Bay.