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Thursday, April 17, 2014

A fine opening day


RENO COUNTY — Like a moth around a flame, the teal hovered for long seconds over the decoys.

"Charlie, shoot that duck," Russ Snyder said as the bird floated 15 yards from the blind.

"I cant, I'm out of shells," Charlie Kimbell said with a chuckle as more birds passed within range.

Laughter roared from the blind.

So it went for five us on Saturday's late zone duck season opener — lots of birds and lots of shooting.

And lot of misses.

For days, Bob Snyder had predicted we'd see high numbers of teal on the fine wetland he manages for Kimbell near the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

The crew was a cast of regulars who have shared Kimbell's pond many times. It was a homecoming for Russ Snyder, Bob's son now living near Kansas City.

Like Bob Snyder and Kimbell, Ed Markel and I are pretty much locals who hunt the area regularly.

About the time the full moon sank in the west, we were placing decoys on the ponds southeast corner.

Done 10 minutes before legal shooting time, we stood in the blind and watched small groups of teal in all directions.

When the time was right, we rose and fired into a small flock passing from right to left. Only two birds fell.

Next, five or six mallards seemed to float over the spread. Many shots were fired but only two ducks fell and one required serious dog-work.

By the third or fourth batch of birds and sorry shooting, we were laughing at ourselves and each other because it's not always so.

I've seen the others often need fewer than 10 shells to get a limit of five or six ducks. Hitting doubles from a flock is common, and triples happen several times per year.

Saturday we were lucky to team up for three birds shooting 10 or more shots between us.

But we had plenty of chances.

A record amount of rain had Kimbell's marsh brim-full and surrounded by tiny potholes and sloughs with water a few inches deep.

It was duck city, and a procession of storms to the north had sent good numbers of birds southward.

Despite light winds and plenty of places to feed and rest, we had birds in sight nearly all the time.

A couple of flocks were mallards, and Markel shot a canvasback.

Green-winged teal, the sport's smallest and most challenging target, made up 20 of the 25 ducks we eventually got.

But we didn't even do well on birds hovering like hummingbirds or those flying rare straight-away patterns.

Thankfully, there were lots of opportunities.

Within 30 minutes everybody was carefully counting their kills to make sure limits of five each weren't passed.

About an hour into the new season, Russ Snyder was the lone active gun needing his final bird.

Naturally, that's when the largest flock of the day, possibly the season, appeared.

More than 100 yards from first bird to last, 200 or more green-winged teal wheeled and whirled as they flew fast and low over the marsh.

Finally he got a clean shot at a bird and it fell.

As the rest of us left the blind to gather decoys, Kimbell said he'd pick up empty shells.

He was very busy. We were all very happy.

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