FROM READERS: A Saturday spent with hunters but few ducks

Monday, September 10, 2012 | 3:47 p.m. CDT
Missourian reader John Hall discovers a blue heron on his walk through a wildlife refuge Saturday morning.

John Hall frequently photographs his mid-Missouri surroundings, and he has been sharing his images with the Missourian for several years.

Life affords one with many options. On Saturday, I could have gone to football tailgate festivities and hung around until sundown to watch the local college football team get their Tiger tails handed to them by a bulldog from the Peach State(Interpretation: Georgia Bulldogs 41-Missouri Tigers 20).

In hindsight, being nearly perfect, I'm glad that I chose to take one of the English cockers and make the 20-mile trip to the wildlife refuge and back. The refuge was devoid of almost everything except some teal hunters and their toys. More about that later.

The road to looking for migrating waterfowl crosses Perche Creek. I peered into that small stream and saw this (above) from a distance of 500-600 feet.

I pulled over to the side of the road and took out the "bazooka lens" and shot the above photo of a Blue Heron staking out his place on a log. That was about the last live thing I saw at the wildlife site with the exception of some swallows skimming the top of the water that was being pumped into the pools from the nearby Missouri River.

For the most part, the other live things spotted were teal hunters who were doing their best to hide. The first ducks spotted are shown above. They were of the "toy" variety and the hunters had even connected some to 6-volt batteries in order to make them appear to be alive.

After watching this sequence for a while, I figured out these hunters were there for the sole purpose of protecting their toys from marauding, migrating teal. As I watched the whole scene unfold I wondered if the teal they were after could see the hunters as easily as I could.

Once in a while, I'd spot man and his best friend cross the pools of water. I asked one hunter why he was doing that, and he responded with, "For fowl purposes." Actually, he didn't say that. I just wanted to use one of my old puns. I noticed there wasn't much frivolity among the hunters. One was carrying a huge bag of duck decoys, and I commented to him that he had shot his daily limit. But he wasn't alone. The conservation agent for the area told me that, though there were dozens of hunters hiding out in the marshes, he had only verified two teal that had been shot since the early morning hours, and it was nearly noon when we spoke. Whether it was a good day for teal hunting depends totally upon the perspective taken. For the hunters it was a horrible day, but for the teal it was a good one.

You can't blame the few birds killed (oops! harvested) on the lack of ingenuity among the hunters. The above photo shows the duck boats used in order to ensure the hunters have meat on the table for the next meal.

And the others continue to be on guard for any other duck or bird of prey taking their prize decoys.

After watching those teal hunters for a while, I was amazed at how similar they are to politicians. Like politicians they will spare no expense in going after their bag limit and will work as hard and as long as it takes to succeed. Politicians and duck hunters have their own devices to lure unsuspecting game into their traps. Call me a curmudgeon if you like, but that is the way it impressed me yesterday.

A much larger issue became painfully obvious as I toured the wetlands that should be the site of thousands of bushels of corn being harvested this fall. Photos such as the one above are typical of the result of four months without significant rainfall.

I finally located a stalk of corn with one ear on it, and it wasn't filled out enough to matter. In speaking with the conservation agent, he said those fields would soon be flooded due to opening the pool gates. I asked if they would wait until after the harvest, and he commented that there probably wasn't enough of a crop for the farmers, who contract each year for the corn and soybean rights, to even bother bringing in the combines. That doesn't mean much to most people but just wait until Thanksgiving when when it's "turkey time" and the costs will sky rocket since poultry producers are going to be paying astronomical costs for feed grains. Beef prices will also be affected.

Driving home I passed grain bins that won't be housing much grain this year.

The rest of the photos were taken during the depressing ride home. The terrapins have finally started to move around after some recent rain.

This photo, taken in the back yard, indicates that the recent rains worked miracles on dormant grass. However, that is a selected photo. Many patches in the yard resemble a desert.

For more photos, see the slideshow embedded below, or view it on Flickr here.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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