Pour yourself a second cup of coffee and I’ll tell you about my recent brush with the law. Murphy’s Law, that is. It happened early in duck season, when my son, Jeff, and I were jump-shooting on a stream that wandered serpentine through swampy woodlands. Owing to the uncanny timing of the event, which lasted only a few seconds, all I could do afterward was shake my head and wonder.
With Jeff riding shotgun in the bow, I sculled the canoe quietly, using turns and outcroppings of willows, reeds and pickerelweed for concealment. We weren’t far along when, from behind a leafy curtain of willows, several wood ducks rose with a watery rush of wings. At the report of Jeff’s shotgun, the nearest of the “woodies” fell to the water and floated head-down. Shortly thereafter Jeff dropped another wood duck that flushed from an oak-shadowed cut to our left. With that we went ashore and changed positions.
Directly, however, the stream widened and straightened, enabling ducks to see us and flush out of range. Not that it mattered. I was content with taking mental pictures of the autumnal “streamscape” and studying the selective cutting of beavers. So it went until the bridge where our hunt would end came into view about 150 yards ahead. In this case, however, the end was the beginning. Moments later, a hen wood duck swam nervously from behind a sprawl of pickerelweed only a few canoe lengths away. Raising my shotgun, I waited for the duck to fly — and in the interim heard a car approaching the bridge. It couldn’t have been planned more per-fectly. When the duck eventually flushed it flew straightaway toward the bridge where the car — probably the only one to pass that way that morning — was crossing at precisely the same time. Consequently, I didn’t shoot for fear of peppering the car with No. 4 shot. Though the average effective range of a shotgun firing birdshot is 50 yards, give or take, the overall range is much farther, 200 yards at least. Ask duck hunters who have been showered with shot fired from across marshes.
I can’t imagine the embarrassment I’d suffer if I had recklessly shot and hit the car. Let alone the outrage of the driver. But I can imagine my embarrassment being exacerbated by newspapers and newscasts announcing “Outdoors writer shoots car while duck hunting.” Murphy’s Law wouldn’t have it any other way.
Tom Hennessey’s columns and artwork can be found at www.bangornews.com. Tom’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.