The Slough

This unnamed backup off of the Trinity River was a natural spot for wood ducks, really thick with assorted varieties of trees, mostly cypress, knees and all.  Phil, still in college, had accepted an offer to go and “shoot some woodies” from Howie, a friend of a friend. Most of this was because Howie had a nice looking daughter and she had shown a little interest in him this past week when they’d discussed the hunt.

They met at the entrance to the road leading down to the slough, the 15, minute drive in was bumpy and sloppy, but the Jeep’s 4-wheel drive, along with big tires, insured they hadn’t gotten stuck.  They donned their waders and walked in around 5:00 PM (before daylight saving), the weather was sloppy, a foggy mist and both hunters hoped that woodies and some big ducks would choose this particular slough to roost up in.  Howie was using a 12, gauge auto with an improved cylinder barrel and Phil had his old 12 pump with its modified barrel.  Howie told Phil that the modified would be OK, but that he’d better use 7-1/2 shot, like he was, because the shooting would be fast with the ducks in close, the longest shots being at tree top height.

Both hunters waded out in the knee-deep water, Howie going about a hundred yards farther in, they had no decoys, just leaned against a tree and waited.  Within 10 minutes here came two big ducks zipping in, yellow feet meant mallards, at tree top height.  Phil’s 12 boomed twice and one tumbled into the water.  Earlier, Howie mentioned, don’t worry about retrieving because the action would be too fast, so backing up against the tree Phil waited for the next ones.  Howie’s auto boomed 3 times, a short time later boomed 3 more, as a woodie came slamming down through the tree branches, Phil’s 12 boomed, splashing the duck, all the time wondering why the high speed crash into the limbs hadn’t broken the ducks neck!

Having only a little over an hours shooting time, both hunters settled in, their guns booming.  The duck limit then was one wood duck or 5 drake mallards, not over 5 in possession, Phil stopped shooting having his 4 big ones and the woodie and sloshed out towards Howie’s spot, he was still grinding away, and that late in the afternoon, flame was coming out of his barrel!

Howie said that he had shot a lot of ducks and not seeming to be concerned about a game wardens presence, kept pounding away, the area around him covered with floating, paper hull shells.  While Phil was standing beside him, he calmly knocked down 2 more, then saying, they’d better pick up the ducks, left his spot and began gathering them up.

Phil had his 5, but was afraid Howie had way over the limit, which he did, as the count up on the shore showed 41 ducks, mostly woodies!  Howie said don’t worry about cleaning them now, that his wife and daughter would help, so they began the drive out, then Phil followed him for the 1, hour drive to the cleaning session.

Phil had never cleaned so many ducks, he and the daughter did the picking, Howie doing the gutting and his wife the singeing, he was particular with the cleaning, saying his customers wouldn’t buy them if sloppily done.  So that was it, a market hunter and later Phil learned that Howie also had 2 other spots on Galveston Island, one just outside the city limits that he’d driven past many times on fishing trips, plus the slough on the Trinity.

Phil never went duck hunting with him again, besides he found out the daughter, over pickin’ of the ducks, was engaged to a paratrooper.