The Mancation

by Steve on January 20, 2008

It’s a term that my wife uses to describe my various weekends that involve Jeeps, guns, dogs, fishing rods, and camping gear or any combination thereof. She doesn’t hold these trips against me, she just chooses not to participate knowing that boys will be boys and it will get dirty or messy in any number of ways.

It might be that only fellow duck hunters will appreciate this:

The call comes late Thursday afternoon. Someone’s brother-in-law backed out at the last minute and there’s a slot open for this weekend. “We’re headed to the delta over near Greenville, the ducks are there – can you go?” Stupid question. Didn’t even need a kitchen pass since the call came from my wife’s office. She overheard the cancellation call and immediately volunteered me. What a woman.

And so the mad dash begins. Do we need my dog? Which was really a polite way of asking “can I bring him?” The reply was a little puzzling since I knew we were only three in a Toyota Land Cruiser, “I don’t think we’ll have room.” Okay, well at least I didn’t have to round up all the gear that goes with a working duck dog. An hour or so later when I met my hunting partner at his office I understood. The back of the Toyota was already loaded level with the top of the back seat and we still had two more of us to load. Women going on vacation don’t hold a candle to men headed to the duck blind for a weekend when it comes to sheer volume of “stuff.”

The hunting that I’m used to in Alabama mostly consists of hitting wood-duck holes at first light with a flurry (if we’re lucky) of activity for about 15 or 20 minutes in small numbers with occasional visits by pairs of larger ducks. This trip varied from flooded corn fields, to swamp, to open back-waters off the big river and numbers of birds that we just don’t see off the flyway. The flooded field that we hunted backed up to a game preserve that had more water and food than our field so we had to be content with spillover from the main attraction but sloppy seconds was still more action than we’re used to seeing. Geese of various species were working the preserve fields like locusts and every so often something would spook a flight to take off and thousands would get up, their combined calls and wing beats making a racket that beat through the ground and air. With so many birds moving we had several that seemed to appear out of nowhere right in front of the blind and there were more missed opportunites than any of us really cared to admit. On the second morning the ducks were coming into our decoys only to flare or pass just outside gun range. We lost a couple that we managed to knock down, the trade-off of non-toxic steel shot being reduced energy at extended ranges that used to be in the kill zone for heavier lead shot. It would have been nice to have my older dog along. Our host’s two-year old lab did an outstanding job on the marked falls but he wasn’t quite ready for longer blind retrieves using his nose to locate the bird. He gave it a good try but got distracted checking out all the stumps along the way. I truly felt bad leaving the old boy at home. He gave the wife a scare while I was gone. She let the wild bunch out of the back yard with the intent of putting them in the garage for the night but my duck dog had a better idea. He bolted down the driveway and out of sight intent on catching me I suppose since he watched me load all my gear the day before. He knew he was missing out. Thankfully he didn’t get any further than the next street over before my wife found him. Maybe next year he’ll still have the energy.

Entertainment you ask? Well we were pretty tame – Saturday evening we went to the Mall. No really… well okay, so it was a joint called The Bourbon Mall. Literally out in the middle of nowhere which implies that we were actually somewhere to start with but if we were I must have missed it. It’s an old converted general store at a crossroads surrounded by miles of fields. Great music, great steaks, and great fun. Check it out.

It was a highly rewarding man’s vacation, or mancation. We all brought home some ducks for the table, witnessed some beautiful sights, kicked back and recharged for the week ahead. We didn’t limit out – could have if we’d been a bit more focused – but it’s about more than quotas, it’s the time spent in the field that really counts. Good friends watching the day unfold or come to a close and then recapping the day in front of the fire, the stories growing with each time they are told.


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{ 1 comment }

Papa Ray January 21, 2008 at 1:29

Great story, I envy you. I’m too stove up to do any hunting anymore and even if I wasn’t, my eyesight makes shooting anything over twenty yards with anything less than a shotgun a waste of my time and ammo.

I laughed at your re-telling of your dog running to see if you could be found.. and hope you get to go many times more and have just as much fun and relaxation.

Something every guy needs now and then.

Your trip to Bourbon Mall reminded me of an eating place I ran across by accident back in the seventies. It was set off all by it’s lonesome miles from everywhere. It looked like what it once was, a gas station and country store. Out in East Texas, it was, well off the highways and main roads.

But once inside, it resembled an older lady that had just been made young again and was really happy about it. Anyone that ate there was happy about the experience also. I sometimes wonder how many of these out of the way, out of the public view and mind there are all over this wonderful, beautiful Republic of ours.

Thousands I’m sure, something for us to be proud of, each and every one.

Papa Ray
West Texas

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