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Working the hunter check station

Sunday, 3 November 2013

As soon as the sun was up this morning, I was getting ready to make my way to the hunter check station on the refuge.  This is the first weekend of the waterfowl hunt season.  Stephanie was there at four in the morning to let the hunters in, but she knows I prefer not to drive in the dark.  My night vision has deteriorated over the years.  80 some hunters came this morning.  They must check in, and tell where they will be hunting.  The number of hunters allowed in each area is very regulated, as is the total number of hunters per day. 

How these hunters make their way to some of the remote areas by foot in the dark is beyond me.  They wear chest waders, and mostly walk or use a boat or kayak to get to their chosen spot.  A number of them also have Labrador retrievers with them.  They are allowed to hunt until noon, and must check out, and show their birds by 12:30 or face a fine.  The first five days of the hunt, they are not allowed to take any mottled ducks.  Most hunters are experienced enough to be able to identify the mottled ducks on the wing, and not shoot at them.  However, there were four mottled ducks brought down yesterday by not so experienced hunters, and they received a $500 ticket for each bird.  All of the birds taken this morning were legal.

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You can’t really tell by the look on this 13 year old lad’s face, but he was very proud of the large mallard drake.  It was his first hunt, and he scored a beauty.  His adult companions draped all of the birds they had taken today around his neck for this picture.  I suppose he was trying to look very grown up, and not grin from ear to ear. 

I imagine that some people may not understand how I can be a bird lover, and yet enjoy working the check station.  While hunting is not something I would ever do, I can understand the need to regulate our waterfowl populations.  Waterfowl hunter’s fees have also been instrumental in securing and supporting many of our National Wildlife Refuges.  They all seem to have a respect for our natural resources, and most follow the rules to a ‘T’.  Besides that, I just like these folks.  They love the outdoors, and are passing it on to the next generation.  One man and his wife have been hunting each fall on the refuge for the last 40 years.

I asked one hunter about his take today.  He had harvested several different species.  I asked if he could tell the difference between the birds when he eats them.  He said he certainly could.  He put them in two categories mostly.  Diving ducks, such as Scaup and Ring-necked Ducks, he used and cooked in a gumbo.  Small dabbling ducks, such as Teals, were done on the grill, and larger dabblers, such as Northern Pintail, Gadwall, and Northern Shoveler (called spoon bills locally) are baked whole.  I’ve never eaten any of these birds, but I found it very interesting.

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In between checking out the hunters, I had another visitor.  Cindy is a brown shirt that I worked with at Okefenokee NWR last winter.  She was in the area visiting relatives and stopped by on her birding tour of the area.  We had a nice visit before she made her way down to the Smith Point Hawk Watch area.

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While I don’t have the bird life moving about at my site here in Winnie like I would at the volunteer village on the refuge, I am finding a few things to enjoy on a Sunday afternoon.  Since the whole compound is fenced, I also took Emma on a walk about this afternoon.  I let her off leash so she could burn off some of her energy.  She could sneak under the fence of the entrance gate, so I put her shock collar on just in case.  Didn’t need to use it, but I’ll only let her off leash on weekends or after hours while I am outside with her. 

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

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