Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Federal youth waterfowl day yields ringneck bling

Drake ringneck duck with federal leg band
A nice limit of ringnecks
Grant Lusk and Wilson Fennell with their trophy duck
A pair of father and son waterfowlers deployed into duck blinds at Pawley Plantation in Berkley County for the February 2 federal youth day, and they bagged a lot more than ducks! A cold 27-degree morning greeted them at 6 a.m. when they used a Gator Trax boat with a Black Death Mudbuddy motor to navigate the 30-acre impoundment along the Cooper River that was filled with native vegetation. In the late stages of setting out 5 dozen ringneck decoys, the ducks began to arrive, and they  hurried with excitement to their duck blind. Kevin Lusk assited his 12-year old son Grant with his gun, while Scott Fennell helped 12-year old Wilson load up. (Adults are not able to carry a gun or to fire during the federal youth waterfowl days) With black lab Ted in position to view any downed birds, when shooting time came the boys opened fire. Despite lots of gunpowder burned, no ducks hit the water, and the father's began to coach the youth's about how to swing their guns on fast-flying ducks and to aim in front of their target. The ringnecks continued to dive bomb the decoys and the sound of whistling wings rivaled that of a jet airplane screeching by. Each boy kept firing, and that allowed for lessons to be learned such as don't fire until the ducks are very nearly inside the decoys. Once the combination for success was figured out, the boys began to collect ducks with regularity, and each gun fired more than three boxes of shells! Then the improbable happened when a drake ringneck duck flew right down the middle of the decoy spread and each boy rose to shoot it at the same time, emptying their guns and crumpling the duck. Ted jumped into the 5-foot deep water and retrieved the bird to Scott, who then noticed this bird had a federal leg band on it. There was no way to identify which youth had shot this duck, and neither of them had ever harvested a bird with a band on it. Known as 'bling' to waterfowlers, the boys became excited about this rare sighting, but they finished taking their limit of ducks first. Next it was time for the fathers to demonstrate what sportsmanship in the field (or duck blind) is all about. A coin flip would have to determine which youth would take home the bling! One youth left elated, while the other left deflated (especially knowing this was the last hunt of duck season) - but that's hunting, and lessons like this learned in the field will no doubt play a role later in life when it can be applied to other situations. And by the way, the duck was banded in April of 2011 in Ontario, Canada!

To view past blog entires about federal leg bands on migratory birds click here.

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