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Mudtoes

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PARTNER STORIES
Everybody has a few hunting partner stories and truth be told some stories could probably be told about this writer.

Billy Bob is the name I will use for this partner, as he is still alive but even though I doubt he reads these stories he always says to me “You never forget S***, do you?”. I don’t wish to embarrass him at this stage in his life.

Years ago back in the late 60’s and up to the early 70’s you could pass shoot ducks and geese along the edge of the closed zone along the Sacramento NWR, parallel to old Highway 99. We would hunt that prior to hunting the refuge on the shoot days, Tuesdays or Fridays the day before we had the day off. Shooting could be excellent when weather conditions were right, heavy fog or a big wind.
You had to time your shooting correctly as you “weren’t“ suppose to enter the closed zone to retrieve any birds. Lead was still in use and you could stone birds and have them crash between the road and the fence line. Old railroad tracks run parallel to the fence line and there was a fifty yard or so area where a building or something had been at one time that pushed the fence East about 50 yards.
Billy Bob was a genuine Oklahoma Okie, having migrated during the end of the dust bowl in the 1930’s with his folks. He was several years older than me and we started hunting together when we met when I was fishing SF Bay near where he worked. Billy Bob had an Oklahoma twang to his speech pattern, and kept the Oklahoma tradition that he would give you the shirt off his back.
Well on this morning there was just enough weather to make for a little pass shooting. We set up along the fence about 50 yards apart, waiting for a shot at birds headed back from the rice to west of the refuge to the closed zone.
A pair of mallards where headed right at Billy Bob and he raised to shoot. First shot he folded the drake 10 yards out in front of himself and and then neatly folded the hen which fell right at the fence line. I watched the mallard crash down through a tree where I could reach it through the fence line.
Only thing was as it fell through the tree it snagged it‘s head in a small fork of the tree and that’s where the head stayed as the body continued its free fall. The fall had clearly snapped the head off the neck and was lodged in the fork. Billy Bob walked over and retrieved the drake while I reached through the fence and handed him the hen.
Billy Bob took one look at it and said in his best Oklahoma accent “That ain’t my duck, my duck had a head on it.” When I stopped laughing I pointed out the hen’s head stuck in the fork of the tree.

BILLY BOB #2

Billy Bob and I rented a two man duck blind close to Gridley California one season. The guy we rented it from informed us the property had flooded out the past season and the blind needed to be pumped out and cleaned. No problem for us as the season was just getting under way, this rice blind had yet to be flooded. We drove up in two different trucks and met near the parking area. We had hauled a pump, lumber for a floor and some netting and stakes to grass up the blind.
Billy Bob had a 3 wheeler on a trailer. Well Billy Bob started to pull a decoy cart out of his truck, and I questioned him about this move, telling him to unload his 3 wheeler and tow the trailer out with our supplies and I could ride in it.
Well he could see the wisdom of my suggestion.
It was very dense tule fog that morning, like less than 75 yards visibility, with no indication that it would burn off. We were parked less than 50 yards from a main East-West Road.
We proceeded to the blind and pumped out and cleaned the blind, set in a floor and grassed up the blind. We picked up the tools and Billy Bob fired up the 3 wheeler and I jumped in the trailer. We had a 1/2 mile run back to our trucks and it was still dense tule fog. When we got about 175 yards from the trucks Billy Bob stood up on his foot pegs, stared intently into the fog and exclaimed “Some Sum of a B*+## done stole my trailer!” To which I replied “What exactly an I riding in?”
 

Mudtoes

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FOG DAZE
The day looked to a be a great day, as I had drawn a coveted reservation for the Sutter National Wildlife refuge. Entry is Regulated in order by the number on your reservation and my partner and I had number 2, we were in early to find a good spot to set up.
Jim and I had our equipment ready to go as soon as we checked in, we were going to run light today with just backpacks and with 9 decoys apiece and our shells and lunch.
Fog had settled in, and I mean thick tule fog, the type that your headlamp can hinder your vision. Look into the fog with the light and the reflection off the fog blinds you.
At Sutter you hike from the check station over a levee and cross a floating foot bridge across a large drainage canal that is part of the Sutter Bypass. We crossed the bridge and hit the first road and turned south. I knew where I wanted to go but I made a mistake, you need to go to the second road which parallels the pond area, but this mistake I didn’t realize until 1/2 mile into the hike. So I figured we could take a shortcut through the trees and come out next to the ponds. Now I know how General Grant felt in the Wilderness campaign. We ducked under branches and shimmied over downed branches all while not trying to rip waders. Guns caught on branches and packs snagged on everything. Finally we emerged on the right road laughing about that adventure. Didn’t seem to bother our dogs, there lots of things to smell and explore.
We hit the correct road and head west across one of the roads that divides the tracts of the hunting area without our headlights on, listening and trying to make out water or ponds off the road. It was eerily quiet and I wasn’t hearing any birds flushing in the dark and fog as we walked west. The refuge is only about 1/2 mile wide and we soon hit the west road and we turned heading south. Jim my buddy wanted to stop and set up where we could but I pressed him on until we could find birds flushing. We continued south to the next road and turned back to the east and after walking about 300 yards I could hear lots of birds flushing and we stopped. I told Jim to wait there with my gear as I took off my pack and checked the spot out. I headed out into the pond and found at first that it was deep but then became shallow and was good for the dogs and setting up a spread. There were lots of tule patches with lots of small channels and pockets of water like a corn maze but with a good open area out front from what I could make out in the fog.
I turned around and was surprised to see a dark figure moving within several yards of me, Jim had decided to follow me out unbeknownst to my splashing and that of my Chesapeake.
I said to him, “I thought you were going to stay on the road with the gear?” I said this looks good and let’s get our decoys and set up. I waded back towards the road and came out probably 25 yards from where I had entered the pond and had to search the road for my pack and shotgun as the fog was so thick. Jim grabbed his pack and we wadded back out, across the deep water to the shallow area. I set my tule seat into the pond off the edge of the tules and put out my decoys, laid a few tules over and placed my pack on it and laid my gun on top of it.
Jim said to me in the dark and fog “I can’t find my shotgun!” I said “What do you mean you can’t find your shotgun?” He replied he had carried in out when I first walked out and had bent over some tules and left it there when we waded back to the road.
I couldn’t believe this, it was so foggy you barely could see 5 yards, turning on a headlamp just wiped out any night vision.
And so the great search for the shotgun began! Jim said, “I think I was over this way“. Then it was “I think it was over here, through these tules!” Well we searched and we looked and around we we went through the tules in enough circles until we both basically were so disoriented in the fog neither of us knew where we were.
After a half hour or so of searching in the fog I had no idea now where my gun was let alone the the decoys I put out were. Panic was setting into Jim as this shotgun had been a retirement gift when he had retired out of the military. I had to get the dogs out of the water, and give them a chance to warm up so I told him I’m sitting down on a high spot I found and he could go look. About fifteen minutes later Jim yelled over that he found my decoys, and following his voice and after wading 75 yards I could now see a faint light from his headlight.
Legal shooting time was just minutes away so I loaded up and settled down in a tule patch telling Jim, “When the fog lifts we will go looking for your gun!“ Jim wasn’t too keen on this and I could tell by the tone in his voice he was really upset, and really starting to panic about losing his shotgun. Wasn’t much I figured we could do at the time but wait for better visibility from light from sunrise.
Shadows we’re moving overhead in the fog and shooting time was here now. Two Widgeon cupped up and dropped towards the decoys oblivious to Jim splashing search. I folded those two and a Drake Pintail cupped up and I folded him up with a shot and sent my dog Rusty back into the tules for the retrieve as the bird crashed 15 yards back. As Rusty exited the tules with the duck I looked over and not five yards behind my tule seat I see the butt stock of a shotgun protruding from the tules. “Hey Jim, I found your shotgun!” Jim who was about 50 yards away came trudging through the water back towards where I sat. Just as he headed back a Gadwall committed suicide over the decoys and so did a Greenwing teal screaming low over the tules.
I don’t think I’d ever seen Jim so happy in my life, he kept repeating how there was no way he was going to be able to explain to his family and friends how he had lost his retirement gift.
What started out as a giant misadventure ended up being a great hunt with a couple limits of birds and an incident we laugh about often. Sometimes I think the big misadventures are what leave you with an indelible memory of a day, as this was almost 20 years ago but it seems like yesterday.
 

riverrat47

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Mudtoes, been there, only in a boat on the Mississippi River.
 

riverrat47

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Many years ago, several of us embarked on the Mississippi, in pea-soup fog. It wasn't too long of a run, we knew the area well, and we wouldn't be near the navigation channel. Off we went, barely above idle speed.
After what seemed like the appropriate distance, we headed toward the channel. We should hit the blind WAY before getting to the channel.
We ran into a decoy spread. As we knew all the blind builders in that portion of the river, we knew we weren't nearly as far upstream as we thought but way closer to the channel than we thought. OOPS.
We found the vacant blind and decided the safest thing to do was to tie up to it and wait for the fog to lift. I damned near ran out of coffee waiting in the fog.
Although we weren't that far downstream of our blind, we were far too close to the navigation channel. Had we not run into the decoy spread, God only knows where we would have roamed that morning.
Since that day, if really foggy, I stay at the ramp until the fog dissipates. Being fairly good friends with a fair number of commercial fishermen on this section of the Miss., I've found that those river rats got to be "old" river rats by using a little more discretion and a little less bravado.
 

hunt'ngreen

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We were hunting Colusa refuge years back, before they moved the parking lot. It was pretty cold for the valley, with ice on the ponds. My buddy had drove his little Datsun b210 as we were running light. I was in the lead wading almost to where I wanted to be, told him to hang tight, and I'd check out the next hole, I found no one there and hollered for him to come and meet me.
After he joined me, we were setting our gear down and I asked him if he had anything thing to put in my pack...he started searching for the car keys, then said he'd lost them. I about lost it..He said he had them in top pouch of his waders, and had rolled them down to take a leak, when I left him. We left our gear there and waded back to where I'd left him. He pointed at some bent over tule's and said that's where he laid his jacket. I looked and you could see a trail thru through the skim ice, and mud stirred up. I said we got one shot at this.
I stripped off my jacket, shirts, down to bare chest, I stuck my hand down into the water to the bottom and started searching moving forward...water was lapping at my ear.
A few minutes later I felt something and grabbed it, up come the keys!! if he had stepped on them, they would of been gone.... we hooped and hollered like no one's business. Anybody close enough to hear must have been wondering what was going on over there. Took me a while to warm up after that, remember my arm about numb.
Got another buddy who is the most directionally challenged guy I know. We had finished a hunt at Sac NVR. We were in parking lot "B", the main road runs north and south. North to check station, south to lot "C" and it stops there. We loaded our carts, and all the gear in our trucks, We each drove our own rigs, and he has hunted this area with me several times through the years. I say see you at the check station, and head north. As I'm driving along I glance in the rearview.... I see the back of his truck, headed the other way. I call him on the cell phone, he answers, I say where you going?... he says check station, I say shouldn't I be in front of you??... crickets... I could visualize him looking in his rearview :dohhe say's I'll be there in a minute. I haven't let him forget about that one.
 

riverrat47

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hunt'ngreen, I used to work with a guy that was directionally challenged like that. I swear, if he pulled into a Walmart parking lot, he'd get out of the vehicle and walk the opposite direction, get to the end of the lot, scratch his head, look in all directions and still have trouble finding the store. Getting back to the truck would be an insurmountable challenge.
 

Aunt Betty

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hunt'ngreen, I used to work with a guy that was directionally challenged like that. I swear, if he pulled into a Walmart parking lot, he'd get out of the vehicle and walk the opposite direction, get to the end of the lot, scratch his head, look in all directions and still have trouble finding the store. Getting back to the truck would be an insurmountable challenge.
I always park in the same general area regardless of what store. First look at the exit...I park by it.
The entrance is over there by all the cars because the science. :l
 

hunt'ngreen

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hunt'ngreen, I used to work with a guy that was directionally challenged like that. I swear, if he pulled into a Walmart parking lot, he'd get out of the vehicle and walk the opposite direction, get to the end of the lot, scratch his head, look in all directions and still have trouble finding the store. Getting back to the truck would be an insurmountable challenge.
Guy has a heart of gold, will give you the shirt of his back, but just don't rely on directions from him. Telling him how to find a spot one time, he said don't use north or south, just left/right. I said every time you turn a little the left/right changes, north/south is a constant. He went to a blind one time solo at a refuge he has hunted for 20 years, set up his big spread, went to take lid off blind, discovered he was at wrong one, had to pick up all his decoys and move to the other blind. He's been known to take the "scenic route" to get to somewhere more than once.
 

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