standing on an immense, transit-level barley field in the Klamath/Tule Lake hunting grounds. I spotted a flock of directly approaching birds low against the brown backdrop mountain, dead-on black specks with twittering wings. Pigeons, was my first thought. Feral pigeons often fly like that to and from
distant feeding grounds, low to the ground, strung out, ragged flock, direct, fast. But these birds showed no skip tempo to their hard and constant wingbeats. And they were coming too fast for pigeons, way too fast. In fact, they were coming too fast for ducks, which is all they could be.
Divers, I thought, whose wings, a poor compromise in air to accommodate aquatic "flying" demand high and constant speed. But out of place for divers, this low over land. Wrong flock formation.
Pushed by a moderate tail wind and seemingly blown by the solar wind of a setting sun this flock of silhouetted somethings bore down on us at a height of thirty feet like no ducks I had ever seen. Forty birds strung out in a wingtip to wingtip line like a sea swell approaching a flat beach, this was an
under-the-radar, low altitude, afterburners on, all out screaming charge from somewhere far back to somewhere far ahead, screw the inbetween.
My gun, loaded with with goosey BB's, lay five feet away. I didn't even reach. There was no time.
"Look at this", I yelled, and my partner, looking up, cringed his neck and crouched defensively as the wave swept over us with a wind tearing scream. I spun, my eyes tracking like aircraft guns, trying to get a fix. Three seconds and they were out of sight. WHAT IN THE HELL WERE THOSE?!
I felt as though I had emptied my gun at a flock settling into the decoys at thirty yards and missed oh for three. After 40 years of hunting and semi-professional study of waterfowl and I had just been passed at close range by forty birds in reasonable light and the best I can come up with is simply "ducks"? Puddle ducks, I thought, wasn't that a white underwing? That would really narrow it down. Smaller than Mallards, bigger than Widgeon, not Pintail, faster than anything ducky I had ever seen. Maybe......Gadwall? Naw!!!
Such things tend to stick in your craw if you spend at least a few moments each day thinking about birds, waterfowl, identifying the specks above the freeway and the shadows crossing the soccer fields. For a whole year those few seconds haunted me.
One year later, standing on a turned, dry field roughly between the Klamath River and the Klamath/Tule Lake refuges to the south, again picking up goose decoys. I look up and see a line of low, fast, oncoming birds, wingtip to wingtip. This time the Beretta is stuffed with 2's. I drop the goose shell and pick up the gun, raising the barrel as the jet sound and pressure wave sweeps over the top. Almost a middle station skeet shot, and I never shoot skeet. I blow a close-choked hole elsewhere from the
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