Dick Pinney's Guide Lines: Two gifts of youth - good friends, and a love of waterfowl hunting
ANYONE who frequently reads this column knows that the Dickster is borderline fanatic when it comes to hunting waterfowl. And it all started when I was a youth of about 10 years old, fascinated by the incredible gunfire sounds that rumbled south from Great Bay to my home on Greenland Road in Portsmouth.
We had already wet our hunting skills with the usual and probably not that smart gift of a Daisy BB Gun used to exterminate any chipmunk, red squirrel and, we are sorry to admit, sparrow that stayed still long enough to be a live target. So the pull of all that gunfire was like a magnet.
Without knowledge of our parents, my lifelong buddy Tom Connors Jr. (aka the Tomcat) and I would sneak out to Great Bay and investigate just what was going on. Eventually we graduated to owning .22 rifles and then single barreled 20-gauge shotguns in our very young teenage years.
Still without our parents' knowledge, we would walk the several miles out to the Bay and foolishly try to shoot ducks at too-long a range, but we didn't know any better. We watched an experienced hunter we knew was responsible for dozens of black ducks being shot and their remains hung on a barbed wire fence, and waited until he was not present and used his sunken bathtub blinds and his decoys.
We never got a chance to shoot anything but we did have to leave his decoys out because of the incoming tide and we were both scared that he'd find out it was us. And later on in life we were told that he had joked about us doing what we did.
Shortly after, an unusual partnership was formed with Tomcat and me with an avid waterfowler. Albert was three times our age and soon we had a blind built right across the tidal Winnicut River from where we'd invaded the blind and decoys the prior year.
Soon we had another young partner in our group, as Brad Conner from Portsmouth, an acquaintance of both Tom and me, was picked up trudging toward the bay one early morning by Albert, and he joined us in our blind for that day's hunt, which was pretty meager as far as our duck take was but productive in forming a lifetime friendship.
Fast forward to our being frustrated by lack of duck shooting and watching a new thing happen on the bay, the arrival of floating blinds that were very effective on both ducks and geese. So we had to have one of those and built it mostly from lumber that was unknowingly donated by a couple of local construction projects.
With a rag-tag flock of decoys, some given to us and some ordered from Herters, we had some of the best hunting we could have imagined. But when we tried to pull the blind back to shore after the season, we couldn't budge our heavy concrete anchors and the saltwater rust of the nuts and bolts made it impossible to disconnect the blind from the cable that held the anchors. So we did the most quickly available move and burned the old gal at the stake!
We then quickly as the years passed built more and better blinds and eventually ended up building three Barnegat Bay-style layout boats, which were tendered by Brad's great 13-foot Boston Whaler power boat. We were “styling” and sort of dominated the waterfowl hunting scene on our end of the bay.
Today, waterfowling on Great Bay is a far different scene than when we last hunted on her. The number of hunters has diminished to hardly noticeable. The amount of waterfowl in the fall has also dropped way off.
But the bonds of our hunting group of Tom, Dick and Brad have stayed strong and we get in a couple of weeks of hunting together in various places and often in other states with the friendships and reminiscing often being more important than our bag of waterfowl.
Drop us an email at DoDuckInn@aol.com and get out there and get you some.
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.