Mallards



It was the last Saturday of the 2020-21 Colorado waterfowl season. Patchy snow from a recent storm collected in drifts against the road and in the shadows of the brush shielded from the sun. I followed the muddy meandering boot trodden path toward the Arkansas River at the Granada SWA in southeastern Colorado. The howling wind whistled in my ears; 35 mph out the north, gusting to 45. Decoys strapped on my back, Benelli M2 on my right shoulder, Archie, my yellow lab followed just behind. Piles of tumble weeds, some head high, obstructed the path in numerous places. Any idea of a potential detour was impossible due to the thick impenetrable tamarisks with thick gnarly limbs, some dead and fallen covered by layers of tumble weeds 12 feet high. Between wind gusts, I thought I detected the faint sound of mallard hail calls somewhere in the uncertain distance. I dropped my decoys, pulled my face mask below my ears and listened. Archie, sitting beside me, looked up into my eyes and seemed to be asking, “Why did you stop?” I surmised, that sound is traveling on the wind from behind me, back in the direction of my truck. I stood motionless and watched. In the glistening sun I saw an enormous duck tornado descending on the shallow lake north of the property. Having researched the Granada SWA, I knew this portion of the property was closed to waterfowl hunting. I recalled noticing when I parked my truck that the strong winds had opened a portion of the ice-covered lake. That must be where the ducks are landing. Then I noticed a second tornado bigger than first. I whispered to myself, there are thousands of ducks landing on that lake! Next, I saw a group of thirty or forty lift off the lake, join the wind and whiz over my head like turbo jets headed south, too high for any reasonable shot. Additional large groups, one after another, lifted off the lake and buzzed past. Then, as if blessed by the hand of God, I spotted a group flying from the south in my direction trying to make it back to the lake. Fighting hard, the unrelenting wind pushed them lower. I quickly changed my choke tube from improved cylinder to modified. The mallards rocked, dipped and rose in the wind. I picked out a drake, squeezed the trigger and scored. Archie disappeared into the tumbleweed jungle and proudly emerged a few minutes later with the beautiful drake, his iridescent emerald head glistening in the sun. Scanning the southern horizon, a wave of excitement rose from my spine and tingled up my shoulders when I observed in the distance group after group of low flying birds fighting the wind following the exact path of the first group. Archie and I repeated our ritual four more times. Securing the five drakes in my game lanyard I thought, this was fun but too easy; my decoys and waders aren’t even wet! I swung the lanyard over my neck, pulled the decoy bag over my shoulders, jumped up and down a few times to help settle the load and headed north along the muddy path back toward my truck. I heard something in the wind overhead. I looked up and marveled again at the exquisite birds fighting the wind, their every color visible in the bright sunshine. I stopped, pulled the lanyard from around my neck and flung the decoy bag down on the middle of the trail. I sat down on top of the bag gazed into the sky and worshipped. Archie looked up into my eyes and asked again, “Why did you stop?”


Jeremiah 8:7 Even the stork that flies across the sky knows the time of her migration, as do the turtledove, the swallow, and the crane. They all return at the proper time each year.” NLT


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