Pennsylvania Game News - March 2015 - 64

W

On Winter's Current

HEN WINTER is wet but mild, as it's been thus far at this writing, late
duck season offers a novel outdoor option. Then, if creeks are ice-free but
their flow is up, we launch camo-kayaks and drift down through somber woods,
borne by current and the justifying hope of flushing a duck. You never know
when a knot of tarrying mallards might erupt from a backwater, wings flashing
white and metallic-blue, heads beaming green iridescence. It doesn't happen
often but when it does, this off-beat adventure pays off.
Such a float is always rewarding, whether ducks ride home in the hull or
not. Forest slips by, continuously presenting a new and appealing perspective;
effortless, you feel the pull of the earth itself as the water bearing you up
glides toward union with its sea-bound river. Even in developed regions
a stream corridor retains much of its wilder feel, just over the horizon
from urbanization.
On suburban streams or mountain creeks you
will encounter other wildlife. Deer will glare back
from hemlock shadow, if, that is, they know you're there.
A mink will saunter along the shore. Turkeys might flush
across your course, alighting on the opposite slope and yelping
for assembly. Chickadees, kinglets and cardinals always peer down from
perches as you slip beneath. Or, as happened recently, a half-dozen ravens
might escort you downstream, cavorting in the open canopy-channel above
the flow, wheeling, diving, rocketing up, and exercising their endless range of
croaks, chuckles, squawks and whines.
I like the essence of this kind of hunt. It's all about silence and stealth,
adapting yourself to gravity and hydraulics in the approach of potential
encounters. There's an art to it. Strip that paddle with camo-tape to deaden
its glare. Skirt the insides of bends to surprise whatever's beyond. Keep a low
profile and dress to blend in. Gesture rather than speak. Watch ahead always.
There also are precautions. Open the shotgun action when entering rapids.
Kayak tandems keep some distance, shots assigned to the downstream boat.
Recently on a four-hour float we flushed two mallards. They were loafing on
a straightaway within sight of our take-out, so there was no way to drift close
unseen. I hunkered low in the bow, finger on the safety, but they flushed straight
up when still beyond range, powered downstream and banked hard right to
follow the flow. We congratulated one another on our extreme good fortune,
beached the kayaks and headed for home.
64

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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Pennsylvania Game News - March 2015

Contents
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2015 - Intro
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2015 - Cover1
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2015 - Cover2
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2015 - Contents
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2015 - 2
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2015 - 3
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2015 - 4
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Pennsylvania Game News - March 2015 - BB1
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Pennsylvania Game News - March 2015 - Cover3
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