BOW & ARROW Magazine’s
BOWHUNTER’S ANNUAL
1979

The Majestic Honker ~ Midge Dandridge

THE GREYHOUND bus was nearing my final destination at Red Bluff, California, where l was to meet Dan Patten and Jim Dorsey. The last time that l had been there was some time ago, when l hunted wild boar. At that time Dan and Jim had invited me to come back and do some
duck hunting during their season, which always had a good reputation for producing some fantastic shooting. Numerous times I had planned to return for the duck hunting but it
seemed that something always came up and it was repeatedly postponed.
But nothing was going to interfere this time, and I was almost there.

As I gathered my gear at the bus station my attention was drawn to the
sky. The weather conditions were typical of duck hunting- cold and wet. It
was ideal weather for ducks and, as if to prove my theory, flocks of birds
came soaring by, flying in their usual V patterns.

Dan and Jim soon arrived and we loaded up for the short drive to Dye Creek Preserve, well known for its excellent hunting of deer, boar, dove, quail and ducks. This hunting paradise
is located in Northern California, and consists of one hundred square miles of rough, rocky terrain. Being one of the largest working cattle ranches, I had watched the ranch hands as they
perform their rituals on roping and branding.

The deer migrate to the ranch each Winter, and hunting can fluctuate according to the weather high in the surrounding mountains. The sooner it starts to storm, the sooner the herds of
deer start their migration. It was at this ranch that I had been able to take a very respectable wild
boar a few seasons ago. During that hunt we saw many deer and an abundance of other wildlife.

There were even a few ducks seen. It seems as though many of them stick around,
for the feed is plentiful and the weather does not always force the birds to continue on farther south. The first morning of the hunt we went to a pond that had recently been giving the
hunters an abundance of good shooting at mallards and pintails. I had decided on this first morning to take my trusty Remington Model 31 with me, and after a few hours in the field I had
my limit of birds and was looking forward to the next day when I was going to try my hand at taking waterfowl with my bow.

It had always been a desire of mine to attempt t0 take some kind of bird
with my bow. Just prior to this hunt, I had gone to the Wasco area, which is
near the Kern Wildlife Refuge, to try my hand at taking some mud hens, My
son Jeff went along and when we arrived at our spot we could see a good
size flock on the pond.

These awkward flying coots are a good way for someone to learn just
how to judge flying birds, how to lead a bird in flight and, very early in the
season, can become a tasty dish on the dinner table. This, however, is not true
as the season moves along and they begin to feed in the muddy waters.

Jeff’s plan was to spook the mud hens toward me, and with the 200mm
telephoto lens on my Pentax he would snap photos of my attempt to meet
one in the air with the Easton Game-Getter. The first flight was on its way
and, as I observed them coming closer to me, it looked as if it would be fairly
simple to release the arrow to meet the oncoming bird.

I quickly found that this was definitely not the case! I flung arrow after .
arrow as they flew over, trying to make adjustments each time, figuring
each arrow that was lofted would be the one that would connect. Foiled!
After nearly an hour and a half of this it was time for a conference.

A quick mid—morning snack and a cup of warm coffee and we trudged
out to the field to try once more. This time, on the very first bunch that flew
over, my Easton arrow connected. One prize in the bag. It was quite a sight
and a thrill to watch as the arrow moved skyward and met its quarry in a
successful hit.

Later that afternoon we tried again, and thank goodness there were plenty
of coots in this area or I would have been as skunked as in the early morning hours.
This time a long flying flock came over, and I know that the only reason the arrow met its mark was that
the mud hen committed suicide. It must have been a curious bird, for he
flew out of his way to meet my arrow. Thus ended my first bowhunting
experience with a flying object high in the sky. I estimated that I had probably shot hundreds of arrows as gauged by the soreness in my shoulder. In any case, I shot a lot of arrows and was
thankful that we had brought a good supply of them, and also that we were in a large field where we could find them fairly easily.

When Dan, Jim and I arose that second morning to hunt the ducks, I took
my trusty Jennings Model W compound bow. The bow’s weight was set
at forty-six pounds, and my arrows consisted of Easton 1820 GameGetters. I also had along numerous odd-ball colors and sizes of other arrows that I had accumulated over the years.
I brought plenty of them along for I knew that many would be lost in the tall weeds that grew along the banks of the ponds we were to hunt.

As we climbed aboard the Toyota four-wheel—drive the rain was coming
down pretty good. We had rain gear on and I knew it would be pretty difficult
for me to shoot my bow with the heavy rubberized camo rain jacket. I planned to take it off when we came to an area that we were going to stalk so it wouldn’t foul me up. We had to cross a small river to get to the particular spot we were going to hunt this morning. It had rained more
than we thought it had because the river was much higher than the previous day. Dan questioned whether or not we should even try to cross it.

We decided to give it the old college try and slowly ventured forth. I would estimate that the river was about seventy-five yards across but as we edged out toward the center, the other side
looked more like a mile away. The Toyota was doing real well until the current caught us in midstream. The vehicle started to slide off to the right and my heart jumped to my throat. I was in the back seat and I knew by the looks on Dan’s and Jim’s faces that we were in some kind of trouble. Dan fought to keep the car from tipping over, but by this time we were almost afloat. My hands gripped the roll bar and even though it was extremely cold that morning, I began to perspire.

All Dan could do was try to keep the Toyota from rolling over until the
tires could grip the rocks. We slowly crept onward drifting downstream for
what seemed a lifetime, until we caught more shallow ground and the
car made it to the other side. None of us had said a word during all this, and
we didn’t say much even now. Words at a time like that aren’t necessary. I
think every muscle in my body had tensed up as I’d been mentally and
physically trying to drive the car myself. When we reached the other side I
breathed a huge sigh of relief. Dan and Jim did the same.
Settling down with a cup of hot coffee, we talked about the game plan
for our hunt. Dan and Jim both had their shotguns; I had my bow. We were
going to do some jump shooting on a few of the ponds that were on this side of the river. No one else was hunting this morning so we had the ponds to ourselves.

As we crouched along a canal bar; to the first pond we could hear and see a good size flock of birds circling overhead. We hid behind some tall weeds
to let the birds overhead work and settle down onto the water. The ducks
were calling back and forth, and I eased up so that I could watch their
usual ritual, casing the area before deciding all was well. Finally they set
their wings and slowly came to rest on the water.

As one who enjoys just watching the birds work a pond, I have more
than once nearly forgotten what I was there for in my enjoyment and plea-
stare of their beauty and grace. We indeed to each other that now was
the time and quickly moved over the bank. The guys were going to wait for
me to take the first shot with my bow before they did any shooting with
their shotguns. Of course the pond exploded with ducks flying everywhere
as we came into sight, and my first arrow sailed into empty space with a
perfect miss. The pond was loaded with ducks and I quickly nocked another arrow to have this one miss also, although not by too much. Still a miss is a miss whether it’s by a fraction of
an inch or ten feet.

Dan and Jim had held off as long as they could and now they let go with their shotguns. Both are excellent shots, and three nice pintails fell from the sky. Remembering what had happened when Jeff and I were mud hen shooting, I was not discouraged. We gathered the fallen birds, and set off for the next pond to try our luck there.

Again we crouched low in the tall surrounding weeds around the pond.
We could hear what seemed to be a good sized bunch of ducks in the
water and decided this time to try to stay hidden in some small patches of
weeds along the bank. In this way maybe I could hit one while it was
still in the water, or at least have a little more aiming time before they all
burst in the air. At the release of my bowstring the one nice, huge mallard I was aiming at
decided to duck under the water for some juicy tidbit. Thanks a lot you **%T**/ bird. My arrow went right where he had been an instant before!
Again the birds took flight and I was able to get in one more bowshot before the guns cut loose. More birds fell, but not with an arrow. Well, at least the guys were doing some successful shooting.

We spent most of the morning hitting each pond with these tactics, but each time my arrow failed to connect. The guys were getting close to their limits so we decided to start back to-
ward the ranch house. The rain had stopped some hours ago and the river had receded enough
that we could cross quite safely. But the clouds were building up again and
soon we would have some heavy rain. We did not want to be on the other side of the river when that happened so the guys suggested we cross now and hit one more pond that they knew
of before we headed in for the day. This particular pond was quite a walking distance from the dirt road we were on. We pulled the Toyota over and I grabbed a handful of arrows;
the guys, a box of 12—gauge number 4s. It took us about fifteen minutes to
make our way to the pond. Once we were within close range, we could hear a familiar sound — geese!

It was fairly early in the season for them to be on their migratory way. Once in a while one or two would be seen, but we could hear what sounded like many more than just a couple. Great, I said to myself, I had never been successful in taking a Canadian honker. I had come close a couple of
times, but never achieved success. At this particular moment I was wishing for my trusty Remington Model 31 in my hands, and not my Jennings bow. We decided to split up. Jim would go to the left of the pond, Dan would go to the right, and I would come up over the middle. As I waited for the guys to get in position I could hear the geese.

An instant later I could hear other geese calling. There were more in flight somewhere else. Most of the time geese can be heard before you see them. I flattened against the bank, not moving, and could hear them coming closer and closer. I knew that Dan and Jim would do the same, for they were experienced waterfowl hunters and would let the birds on the ground act as decoys for the others. Sure enough the birds already down called, letting the ones in the air know just where to come. Within seconds I could hear their wings as they passed over me and
landed in the water on the other side of the bank.

My heart was pounding with excitement as I tried to picture these magnificent creatures setting their wings to a perfect landing. Boy, I wished I’d had some good cover to watch as they
soared in. What a sight to see!

I raised slowly from my position,
noticing that Dan and Jim were positioned and ready to go also. It was
now or never, and over the bank we went. What a sight! There must have
been at least twenty-five or more of these huge birds in the water, and at the sight of us they began to out. I drew a bead on the one nearest to me. He was almost airborne and when my arrow hit him he had just cleared the water. I had never really expected to hit one of these birds. and when this one’s wings folded and he hit the water not moving, I was dumb founded. I was accomplishing something that I had never even dreamed of -a Canadian honker with a bow and
arrow,WOW!

There was no chance for me to get in another shot. The great flock of birds were in the air going out each end of the pond. The sound of Dan and Jim’s shotguns went off and I could see that Dan had dropped a double while Jim concentrated his over/under on one bird. “Wanted to make sure I got one, you know one bird in the hand, quote, unquote,” he said.

As I walked out into the pond, I retrieve my prize, I knew that this would be one hunt that I would always cherish.

As I look at this most majestic of waterfowl, it is still hard for me to believe that he fell to my arrow. It was.
truly, a moment to remember.<—-<

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