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OUTDOORS COLUMN: Skill -- for a price

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

Back when I only dreamed of being a waterfowler, the road to fulfillment seemed blessedly simple. My idols, those storied waterfowling stalwarts I sought to emulate, were straightforward men's men; admirable, earthy sorts with beat-up shooting coats, beat-up shotguns, a few beat-up decoys, and scruffy retrievers of nondescript origin.

Proudly, I soon mastered that image, becoming as straightforward and earthy as any turn-of-the-century duck hunter. The same could be said for my equipment and dogs. I had it all, except for one thing. I never had any ducks or geese in my game bag. My mastery of the old-timers' image, it seemed, included everything but their skill.

Not to worry, though. This is the hi-tech age, when skill can be produced on an assembly line and purchased with a check-writer's pen or the click of a mouse. Who needs skill attained through patience, hard work and practice when he carries a major credit card in his wallet? Makes perfect sense when you think about it. Would the catalogs or websites lie? Perish the thought!

Thus convinced, I sat down, flipped a few pages in the latest edition of Bargain Bubba's Duck Supplies, placed my order and in a few days received a truckload of instant "ability."

My first out-of-the-box skill was a plastic slip-on shotgun sight, one of those little rectangular frames that attaches to the end of the barrel. According to the instructions, I could "frame" my target and accurately determine proper lead and swing. Not at all like that ridiculous little bead most folks use. Now, if I can only manage to get the duck into the frame somewhere within a range of less than 500 yards I've got it made.

Then there are my shorebird confidence decoys. These are designed to add fauna variety to my regular decoy set and make the overall setup more natural and attractive. They are also supposed to aid my regular decoys in luring wary waterfowl by giving incoming ducks and geese an added sense of security. Hence the "confidence" moniker. I have a dozen magnum sandpipers, an equal number of plovers and avocets, six plastic blue herons, and a fish crow. I have determined that "confidence decoy" is the perfect name as I have become quite confident no ducks will come anywhere near them. They will, however, attract numerous sandpipers, plovers, avocets, blue herons, and fish crows. When these become legal game, I'll be the envy of all my companions.

You really ought to see this one big Canada goose decoy I now own. It flaps its wings when I pull a long string leading from the set to my blind. True, sometimes the wings fall off and I have to crawl out to make minor repairs, but it certainly looks real otherwise. And one day I'm certain those wings are actually going to remain attached when there are real geese present. I can't wait.

Equally authentic looking are my remote-control mallard blocks. Just set them out, flip the switch, and watch 'em go. They are so good they even fool the most experienced Labrador retrievers. Did you ever see a wet dog bite an electric duck? It's right interesting.

Speaking of electronics, you should hear my new duck call training CDs. The highball calls and feeding chuckles are the best reproductions I've ever heard. I just wish someone had told me how difficult it is to produce those wonderful sounds with my own call. Now, owing to depression and frustration, I don't blow highballs, I drink them. Incoming mallards and pintails respond to my feeding chuckles with their own feeding "snickers."

And what of the ghosts of those old waterfowlers I've long idolized? Is that their eerie laughter I hear ringing through the swamp and carrying across the misty marsh? Are they amused that I have tried to wheedle my way into their ranks with thousands of dollars' worth of hi-tech gadgetry? Well, no more. That's it. I shall not be suckered again.

Wait a second. Not so fast. What's this on page 27? Hmmm. Duck-In-Heat Lure? Hey, that's not a bad idea. Let's see now. Four bottles oughta do for starters.

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Questions? Comments? E-mail Bob Kornegay at cletus@windstream.net.