Beginners Luck

If you’re an outdoor sportsmen, you dread it worse than a root canal. You do everything right and still you come home empty handed. Deepest sympathy, friend. You’re in a slump!

You’ll have to ride it out, but if that doesn’t sound appealing there may be a slump breaker. It’s called “taking along a beginner”. We should all be willing to introduce a novice to our game because that is the future of hunting and fishing. But as an added bonus, beginner’s luck may just break a slump.

I discovered this nugget of wisdom at the tender age of twelve purely by accident. My cousin and I had been skunked on our last two perch outings. This time we were forced to drag along my cousin’s six year old brother, Farley. Now, the milk of human kindness had curdled within my cousin and he would not put a minnow on his little brother’s hook. Farley’s whine was so grating it could have given an Aspirin a headache. I could only stand it for forty minutes and I believed it was scaring the fish. Not one bite so far. I even wondered if it was even killing the minnows. One shiner was doing the back float in the pail. Wanting to shut Farley up but not waste a good minnow on him, I baited him up with the dead one and tossed in his line.

Farley started to whip his rod around like the sword of Zorro and raise it to the sky then let it fall with a clang on the dock. I vowed if he lifted his rod one more time it would be the last time. He lifted it again but his rod arced down with a savage jerk. A feisty perch had snatched his dead minnow on the fall. Farley froze on the reel then threw the rod down in fright. My cousin leaped for it knocking Farley to the deck. While Farley, in his bulky life jacket, did the upside down turtle on the dock, we landed the chunkiest perch we’d seen all year.

We’d never heard of jigging and we didn’t understand that, to finicky fish, a falling minnow is like a ripe plumb falling to the hand. But we weren’t such traditionalists that we couldn’t try something new. It was quite a sight; two grim young perch fishermen focussed on raising and lowering their rod tips, steadily filling the stringer and a sniffling six year old holding his rod deathly still lest it happen to him again.
Years later, while in a duck hunting slump, I was pestered by a novice who wanted me to take him to my duck blind. I was reluctant because I didn’t want his inexperience to blow any of the few chances I was getting that season. I gave in, but I told him that I would do all of the calling.

The darkness in the marsh yielded to a beautiful, sunny day; the kind of day that makes ducks want to lounge where they are instead of fly around. I called for hours showcasing my calling skill for the beginner but nothing came within range. My partner had a new duck call and harassed me to let him try it out. I finally relented after scanning the sky to be sure there were no ducks in our air space. Unknown to us, three mallards that had spent the night in the bulrushes nearby had silently paddled in to investigate my calling. They were so close to our rush lined shore that we couldn’t see them through the rushes in front of us.

Whatever my friend did, he did with the fury of killing vipers. He cut loose on his call with a screech that blistered the finish on my over and under. The ducks, six feet in front of us, lifted off like piranhas were at their feet. I nearly swallowed my duck call, but I still had time to shoot and got a double. My friend missed three times on the remaining duck.

If he hadn’t wailed on his call when he did, I’m sure those ducks would have slipped away out of range without us knowing they were there. Beginner’s luck had broken my slump again. My friend was pumped up over his calling, but it escaped him that calling was intended to bring ducks in, not drive them away. “I told you I could blow a duck call,” he scolded as he looked around for his call where it fell when he stood up to shoot.
“I hope you didn’t lose it.” I said. “That call is golden!”

It’s truly sad how a duck call can be lost for eternity when tossed a mere ten feet into the bulrushes.

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