June 24, 2018
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Feathers ‘n Fins

By Tom Hennessey

All told, many of the most interesting hunting stories make no mention of shooting. While some of the recounts are dramatic — such as the late Dr. Carl Ruhlin’s golden retriever, Penny, being attacked by a bald eagle while fetching a duck — others are amusing. Like the encounter my son, Jeff, and I had with a great blue heron while duck hunting on a fog-shrouded marsh.

It happened that I was sharing my lunch with Jeff’s chocolate Lab, Kody, when the words, “Look at this!” spilled my coffee. Instead of ducks, though, a great blue heron was emerging ghost-like from the fog. Gliding toward us, the ungainly bird lowered its long, spindly legs and, with backward strokes of its enormous wings serving as air brakes, attempted to light on a black duck decoy. Owing to the gauzy visibility, did the heron mistake the decoys for mounds of mud? Now and then, eagles and great horned owls have made predatory passes at my decoys; but it was an unaggressive greater yellowlegs that actually lit and perched on one. Though unforgettable, that image can’t compare with the spectacle of the great blue heron trying to balance on the bobbing and tilting decoy. With wings flapping and legs flailing, it reminded me of an old-time river driver hopping and shifting to stay upright on a pitching and rolling log.

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