Report By: Tommy B
Team Members: Tommy B
Last week I got invited to go duck hunting with an old friend and former co-worker of mine, Thomas. I was especially excited because this would be my first duck hunt in 2 years, and first duck hunt on public land. We got all of the details situated: meet at his house at 4 a.m. and drive out to Lake Somerville to set up on a specific point that he had been watching.
The night before the hunt was exhausting. My wife had family come into town and the women decided to have a “girl’s-night”, which meant that I would be on Baby Reagan duty. I got Baby Reagan tucked into bed and went to do the same for myself, knowing that it would be an early morning. I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned for hours, slowly watching the hours tick-by. Eventually, I fell asleep around midnight sometime, but when the alarm clock rang it felt like I had just closed my eyes.
I awoke, groggy and yearning for some coffee, but when I realized that the ladies had not come back from their night on the town I snapped into action immediately. None of the ladies could be reached. I tried calling them, over and over, growing more concerned for their safety with each phone call… and I couldn’t leave for the hunt without someone to be here for Baby Reagan.
Finally my wife’s sister called to let me know that they were at Denny’s. At three thirty in the morning, the ladies were nursing one of their own back to health after she had “too much fun”. They hurried home so that I could get on my way, thankfully.
After all of the morning excitement, I just knew that this was going to be a good hunt. I met Thomas and his roommate, Larry, at their house, and we drove out to Lake Somerville. When we arrived at the parking area, there were already three trucks there, and it was only 5 a.m. We changed into our waders and grabbed our decoys and gear.
As we set-out to get on location, we started at the legal marker and hiked for about thirty minutes along the shore-line, westward, exchanging pleasantries with all three groups of hunters that we passed along the way. The location seemed to be ideal. It had plenty of cover on the bank of a shallow, reed-laden, wetland. Thomas and Larry distributed about a dozen decoys while I rearranged the grass to create a blind. By 6:20 we were all set-up with twenty minutes to spare; the guns were loaded and we were waiting on sunrise.
The fog that morning was incredible. When the sun began to peek-up over the tree line, we realized what kind of challenge we were in for. I could barely see beyond the reeds. Faintly, in the distance, we heard the third group of hunters that we passed calling and shooting. Their gun shots echoed across the lake, and we decided to try and call for the ducks to come in closer. Thomas and I watched a set of three birds fly just beyond our range just before we hear Larry say, “Hey guys, what about this one?” We all turned, looked, and trained our shotguns on a single teal right about the time that Larry blasted it out of the sky.
When the morning started heating up we started to get restless and decided to stretch our legs some. We saw something boiling the water off to the west of us, in the distance, and went to go check it out. Slowly, we crept along the bank towards an inlet where we saw four whitetail deer playing in the water. There were two does, a spike-buck, and a thin six point buck. The deer were about 25 yards away at this point, so we decided to crouch down and watch. It was apparent that the buck was after one doe in particular and was oblivious to our existence. They chased each other around the wetlands until they found themselves about 12 yards from us.
We could see that the doe in pursuit had a broken leg. It looked as though she had been hit by a vehicle because it was a clean break at the hip. It was apparent that she was in agony when she ran; her leg would flop around, sometimes tripping her. Thomas, Larry and I watched the buck continue to chase this doe and discussed our dilemma of harvesting a suffering animal in an area where hunting whitetail was illegal. As an advocate for conservation and avid outdoors-man, my gut instinct told me to take the suffering doe out of her misery. Logic and reason told me that I would most definitely be engaging in illegal activity that could result in more than a fine. The Game Warden had already been by that morning to check us and probably wouldn’t be back again, but I couldn’t risk losing my privilege to hunt and fish. Logic ruled over emotion and, at that point, the deer froze and looked directly at us. After a brief staring contest, they ran right past us into the wooded area behind us.
Thomas, Larry and I hiked back to the blind. We couldn’t stop talking about the deer that we saw. It would have been hard for anything to get better than that experience, so we decided to pack it in and call it a day. We got the truck loaded-up to head back to the house, and along the way stopped in Chapel Hill to clean up and have some kolaches.
This certainly wasn’t an ideal hunt, or perfect by any means. It was, however, an adventure. Between Larry’s incessant nagging about his hang over and hunger, or Thomas’ frustration with how few birds were flying, one thing is for certain: we got to see some unusual and fascinating wildlife and got to share our love for the outdoors. I always say, “It’s not about the harvest, it’s about the hunt”. Spending time with good friends, experiencing new things, and creating memories that I can share are what make life rich. We might have only one bird to show for the hunt, but we have an unforgettable experience with wildlife that will last a lifetime.