A duck-hunting dawn

Posted Nov. 03, 2011, at 10:10 p.m.
Tall reeds on the shore of the Kennebec River help to conceal duck hunter Andy Guerette.
Tall reeds on the shore of the Kennebec River help to conceal duck hunter Andy Guerette.
A.J. Guerette and his father, Andy, retrieve the last of their decoys after a hunt on the Kennebec River in Bath.
A.J. Guerette and his father, Andy, retrieve the last of their decoys after a hunt on the Kennebec River in Bath. Buy Photo
Andy Guerette ejects a shotgun shell after calling it a day on the final day of the first of two open season on ducks in southern Maine.
Andy Guerette ejects a shotgun shell after calling it a day on the final day of the first of two open season on ducks in southern Maine. Buy Photo
A duck takes flight at sunrise.
A duck takes flight at sunrise. Buy Photo
Gauge, a Labrador retriever, wears a camouflage vest while watching for ducks with his master, Jeremy Lee, of South China, while duck hunting in Bath.
Gauge, a Labrador retriever, wears a camouflage vest while watching for ducks with his master, Jeremy Lee, of South China, while duck hunting in Bath. Buy Photo
A pair of decoys float on a feeder stream near the Kennebec River in Bath. The first of two regular duck seasons in southern Maine recently ended. The next open season on black ducks, scaup, mergansers, pintails and american coots runs Nov. 8-Dec. 24.
A pair of decoys float on a feeder stream near the Kennebec River in Bath. The first of two regular duck seasons in southern Maine recently ended. The next open season on black ducks, scaup, mergansers, pintails and american coots runs Nov. 8-Dec. 24. Buy Photo
Andy Guerette tries to call in ducks while hidden in the reeds along the Kennebec River in Bath.
Andy Guerette tries to call in ducks while hidden in the reeds along the Kennebec River in Bath. Buy Photo
A.J. Guerette (left) watches as high-flying black ducks fail to respond to his father Andy's calls while hunting in the reeds on the shore of the Kennebec River in Bath. A.J. shot his first deer at age 10 while hunting with his dad.. Today, at age 25, he's a registered Maine guide.
A.J. Guerette (left) watches as high-flying black ducks fail to respond to his father Andy's calls while hunting in the reeds on the shore of the Kennebec River in Bath. A.J. shot his first deer at age 10 while hunting with his dad.. Today, at age 25, he's a registered Maine guide.

BATH, Maine — Most people wait until daybreak before setting off in a canoe. But Andy Guerette and his son, A.J., are not most people. They’re duck hunters. And they know waterfowl prefer to fly at dawn. Any hope for success means getting into position before it gets light out.

So on a recent Saturday, they launched their canoe into the Kennebec River at 5:30 a.m. and started paddling toward a marsh. There, they planned to set out their decoys, knowing their chances of bagging any birds were slim.

“This is the last day of regular season of duck hunting and it’s not been cold enough to bring any ‘flight birds’ down,” whispered Andy. “So we’re hunting the native ducks that are here most of the time. They’ve been hunted already for three or four weeks — so they’re getting a clue of what’s going on.”

In southern Maine there are two duck hunting seasons. The first season ended on Oct. 22.

A reporter, who was invited along on the hunt, asked Andy to explain the appeal of duck hunting.

“Are you kidding me?” he whispered. “It’s so beautiful out here. There’s nobody out here.”

Just then a light came on in the dark marsh. It was the flashlight from another hunter signaling to the Guerettes that he already had claimed the spot.

The next two spots they approached also were occupied.

Finally, after more than a mile of paddling, they found a vacant marsh. They quickly set out 10 decoys before stashing their canoe and hiding in the tall grass to await first light.

About a half hour before sunrise, several shotgun blasts could be heard coming from the direction of the other hunters. A few minutes later a small flock of Canada geese flew by but were out of range. Later, some high-flying black ducks ignored Andy’s duck calls. By 7:15 the sun was up and it was time to call it a day.

In a recent email to the reporter, A.J said he’s already looking forward to the next season, which opens Nov. 8.

“I’m going out again second season opening day,” he wrote. “With this cold front coming down from Canada, the ducks are finally moving. Let me know if you can make it!”

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