A Miraculous Recovery

The Katy Prairie was the winter home of a concentration of over 100,000 Geese and nearly as many Ducks and drew me and my friends like a magnet. We “snuck” large and small gaggles of Geese, “jumped” the Ducks from the potholes and stock tanks and made ourselves a general nuisance to the local rice farmers.

Hunting leases were just catching on and on most of the land we “used”, we had some type of permission. Maybe one time we ask the farmer if we could sneak that big bunch of Geese in his rice field. He says OK and we take this as permission ad infinitum.

One of my hunting companions, Mel Peavey’s, Dad, had leased a small rice field of about 300 acres, near Brookshire, for Mel and his friends to hunt. Brookshire is on the western side of the Katy Prairie. Better this little, lease than us sneaking into some rice farmer’s property, getting caught and being in big trouble.

One afternoon, Mel and I got “sick” and had to leave school after lunch. Once off the school grounds, we enjoyed a miraculous recovery and decided we would try out his new Duck lease. We stopped by my house, no one was home since my Mom and Dad both worked, picked up my twelve plastic decoys, pump shotgun, waders and camo parka, Mel’s stuff was already in his car, and made speed for the lease.

Putting out the decoys, we climbed into the makeshift blind we had thrown up and waited for the ducks. Soon we saw a group of six Pintail Ducks, or Sprigs, approaching our pond, which was really a flooded portion of the field, and we began a soft whistle, who knows if the ducks heard it, but we knew Pintails responded to them. The graceful birds circled the decoys once, caught the wind and set their wings; they were coming in to our “spread”.

Letting them get about ten feet off of the water, we jumped up and, bam, bam, bam, bam and two birds splashed in. I had drawn down on a drake and went to pick him up and marveled at the beauty. This was the first of the species I had ever shot and the flowing browns and whites of his head and breast were amazing to me and the long pointed tail feathers only enhanced the picture.

Mel had shot a hen, not as pretty, but just as tasty and we hunkered down again awaiting more Ducks. Mallards circled us, but we couldn’t entice them to land and eventually settled for two Spoonbills and a Green Winged Teal.

We stopped hunting at the end of shooting time, sat on a rice levee and began to clean the ducks in the field. There was plenty of water here to wash our hands. Mel didn’t want to stop shooting, but the last thing I wanted was to get nailed by a game warden. Mel reluctantly resumed cleaning his Duck, then, all of a sudden, up he jumps with his shotgun and, bam, bam, his gun spewing sparks in the near darkness, and I hear a splash. It is almost dark and he just shot a duck, well after quitting time. I know it will be “curtains” for us now.

Looking over our shoulders, we load our gear into the trunk, and head back to Houston, awaiting the inevitable game warden roadblock. Some of our friends (their Dad’s) had just paid heavy fines for them shooting too many Geese and evading arrest. They had changed out of their hunting clothes and didn’t look like hunters and had put the Geese and all of their gear in the car trunk and came up to a roadblock, panicked and tried to outrun the law. They were caught quickly and taken to the county jail.

Mel and I fared better, finding no game wardens on the ride home. My luck wasn’t as good when I went into my house and my Mom and Dad were clearly upset that, one, they didn’t know I was going hunting and, two, they didn’t know where I was. The problems were resolved and the next night we enjoyed roasted Duck, rice, sweet potatoes and turnip greens!