Chesapeake Outdoors by C.D. Dollar

 Vol. 11, No. 2

January 9-15, 2003

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Acts of Weather

Spawned perhaps a thousand miles away, the storm reached Tangier Sound unabated, its southerly fetch shaking the pilings of the old hunting lodge as a bear would a sapling. Cold wind seeped through the flimsy windows, pilfering heat from the main room but not enough to out-compete the cast-iron woodstove. Wind-whipped, the duck boats bumped against the dock, emitting an erratic tink-tink of aluminum on wood. Sleep was hard to come by.

Amidst predawn preparations for the first-light hunt, wind lashed the seas and sent waves smashing against the stilted dwelling. At daybreak, fog rolled in, eerie wisps of white and gray. Going went slow for the two miles to the small island, though a set-up in the lee lent some respite. Then the fog evaporated, revealing other rigs more prominent than mine. Ducks flying into the wind saw them first, and when a chance at a dozen and a half widgeon offered, a volley from across the sound spoiled the stool. It was that kind of morning.

I packed up and lit out for the mainland, running with seas that now barely crested two feet, making the run north tolerable. Then it got warmer, rain spit intermittently, hissing like a hose with a hole in it. In my mind’s eye, I recognized a similar scene three years previous, when I had to outrun a fierce winter storm that brought thunder from Mount Olympus and skin-tingling lightning. The boomers were so loud that they hurt my eardrums. I’ve outrun enough storms to know that one day your luck runs out.

Just as quickly, the gathering ominous forces dissipated. A window opened, and though the weather remained unsettled, I could resume the trip north, which proved uneventful — pleasant even. Water swooshed past the heavily laden bow — forced down with decoys, coolers, and other sundries — then slithered past the freeboard. It was a calming sound.

But halfway there, a forgotten pack forced me to retreat. I followed the shoreline where marsh met beach, lines of delineation marked by dark needlerush and faded green spartina. Then, quicker than you could imagine, fog engulfed the boat. Up was down; down was up. The shoreline, previously 25 feet away, vanished. Reflective images shimmered across the water, deceiving and mysterious. Is that the state-line marker? A bank trap? A blind? I’d entered a transient space fissure on earth.

So I sat a minute, killed the engine, chuckled to myself at my brief disorientation and regained my bearings. Slowly I backtracked. Then the fog lifted, quicker than the curtain on the opening act. There were no more weather acts on that trip, but there are bound to be repeat performances.

Birds are Flying
Hunting for Canada geese continues to be more reliable than duck hunting, as loads of honkers are foraging the remnants of bean and corn crops, most of which having long since harvested. Heavy rains and snow storms have the geese on the move, but reports from waterfowlers pursuing ducks in the public Wildlife Management Areas repeats the question: where are the ducks?

Copyright 2003
Bay Weekly