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Wildfowling magazine - wildfowling waterfowling duck hunting goose shooting
A Pair of Rookies
Bruce Thibodau is smitten with the waterfowling bug

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As all waterfowlers know, mixing waterfowl hunting with a dog, is well, let's just say it is one of the most entertaining and educational aspects that one can ever live through.

After a year of training my first lab, I had her so she would bust cattails and lay her own paths for a retrieve. She was so dedicated and driven that nothing would stop her. Unfortunatly that meant even my yelling for her to STOP!!!!

Picture the sight a guy and a dog awake in the morning to begin a whole new sport together both rookies awaiting to see what the morning will bring. They awake and leave the house one on a leash the other carrying way to much gear for what he would need - and trying to sip a cup of coffee. That alone tells you how unprepared I was. Yes, I wore the cup instead of drinking it.

I was dressed in jeans and a flannel, with only 2 decoys in my pack. No waders - nothing - and an old single shot 12 guage shotgun, a well trained dog, and heading to a blind built the day before in an area we had spooked a flock of ducks from. Stumbling through the woods, we arrived after 20 minutes of being slapped in the face by branches, and tripping over logs, being tugged along by the lab to ensure I would properly cover the front of my clothing in coffee.

I reach into the backpack and take out my decoys, prepared with a about 30 yards of a lightweight but strong cord, so that I could throw them out and still retrieve them by puling them in with the cord. I unwind them in the predawn, and throw.

A perfect throw - it arks up and sets right where I threw it. With a slight splash it hits, and rights itself. I turn to grab the next one, only to hear the sound of the dog hitting the water. I turn and watch as she swims off toward the decoy. Whisper yelling in the early morning, " NO, OFF, STOP, Blackie Come, oh to hell with it bring it here."

She makes it her first perfect retrieve of season. My decoy is now at my feet the cord is in a 30 yard ball of string, and I hold the second one in my hand. I shake my head. This time commanding her to stay. I prepare to throw the second one to hear whistling pass over my shoulder. I crouch down scanning the sky to see what I just avoided, only to hear it again. It's about this time I see ducks. I dive for the blind with the dog in tow. 

Checking the watch I find I am only 10 minutes from shooting light. I load the gun and sit, listening and watching as ducks materialize from the darkness to splash into the water. Once the hit the water I lose them, unable to see them in the dark waters.

Finally shooting light arrives. I see two ducks approach and raise the gun, only to learn a very quick lesson, Ducks are not easy to see when they have a black forest as backing. Finaly as it gets light enough to see, I have another pair incoming. I raise and follow, swinging over them as I have read should be done, and practiced for two months on clays. I squeeze the trigger and drop one.

The dog hits the water, and swims through the lilies, to recover the bird. I watch her as she passes where I thought the bird was, she swims farther off, and then turns and sticks her head under water. she comes back up with a duck. I am amazed, as she returns with a wood duck and places it at my feet. 

Hooked! There was no other way. We both lost all our abilities to reason that day, as I fired a half a box of shells, and took only two ducks. The dog and I have never been the same.

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