Here is one of the more interesting birds taken over the weekend at Black Lake. This is a hen ruddy duck that took nearly twenty dollars' worth of heavy shot to reduce to possession. On Day Two of the hunt I hit it on the wing, and then Captain Eric, Co-Captain Cabin Boy, and I chased it all over Black Lake as it skillfully attempted to elude capture.
The moment of panic in the boat occurred when we had the bird twenty yards off the bow, at which point Keith says to me, "Hmmm. That could be a grebe." At which point I, stationed in the bow, quickly returned my firearm to the port arms position to await further, more positive, identification.
A South Dakota bird identification web site tells us:
A unique small duck, readily identifiable by the male's bluish bill, white face, and long, stiff, upright black tail (See photo at the right). A female is depicted on the photo at the bottom of the page. Ruddy Ducks are often reluctant to fly, and when disturbed, seems to prefer sinking below the surface and swimming away underwater like a grebe. They are nearly incapable of walking on land, with legs and feet set very far back on the body. Ruddy Ducks are generally very tame, making it susceptible to hunting pressures.Little did Captain Cagey know how intuitively astute he was to the diminutive little duck's gestalt ( . . . I believe Ernie will like that sentence, don't you think?). As per South Dakota's description, the wounded and as yet unidentified little duck proceeded to play underwater hide and seek with us, while Captain Eric patiently following Cagey's "hurry up, slow down, cut the engine" instructions the whole time.
It was during this heroic naval battle that I emptied a box of Heavy Shot at the little sucker, until its susceptibility to hunting pressure caused it finally to succumb to the effects of "one pellet too many syndrome," whereupon it expired dead on the water.
We surfed over to the now lifeless form at which time I scooped it up out of the water and, handing it back to Mssrs. Cagey and Eric, I said somewhat hopefully, yet tentatively, "teal." Yeah right. It was back to shore and a consultation with the duck identification guides (we had two on board), and after a short interim period of deliberative reflection we arrived at the consensus judgement of "hen ruddy duck."
Pretty much a highlight of the weekend for me, and I think a relatively good time was had by all. My thanks to Captains Eric and Cagey for keeping us safe, legal, and within shooting distance of the bird that "when disturbed, seems to prefer sinking below the surface and swimming away underwater like a grebe."