By Jeff Fryhover

FOWL THOUGHTS. . .

A narcoleptic, an idiot cousin and one devilish duck dog. . .

A FEW MONTHS ago, my hunting buddy Joe called to ask if he could bring his cousin and grandpa hunting. Now Grandpa is 91, doesn’t talk much and can barely walk, but is as nice as they come. Cousin Emmett. on the other hand, is as useless as a screen door on a submarine. I have always believed when the great John Wayne said “Life is hard…it’s even harder if you’re stupid,” he was talking about Cousin Emmett.

At 4:15 a.m., I pulled into the Quick Stop to find Joe and Cousin Emmett leaning against the grill of Joe’s truck with Grandpa fast asleep in the front seat. Joe excitedly rushed to drop the tailgate and open the kennel door for Dusty…the devil dog! Dusty was a 92-pound Chesapeake Bay Retriever and the only dog in the entire world I have truly wanted to kill. I used to tell people I loved all dogs, but thanks to Dusty, that is now a complete false- hood, and I am forced to say “I love MOST dogs.”

Just two weeks prior, after a memorable mallard shoot in flooded green timber, I opened the door to Joe’s truck and started loading gear. Joe panicked and screamed “Close it! Close it!” It was too late. Dusty jumped in the cab of his truck. Now, I understood why someone would not want a wet,stinky dog in the front seat of a fancynew pickup, but Joe drove an absolute junker. One bag of decoys was worth more than that whole truck. Obviously upset, Joe said “Well, you will have to ride in the back because Dusty will bite you if you push him out.”

I have nothing against riding in a truck bed from time to time. But when it is 14 degrees, I refuse to let a devil dog ride in the comforts of a heated cab while I curl up in the kennel. I opened the truck door while Dusty growled and snapped at me, as we played a game of “Who wants to be alpha male.” I won, but Dusty has never forgiven me.

We quickly transferred their gear to my truck and headed for the river. After a few minor hassles, I had everyone loaded in the boat and we were cruising slowly through the flooded timber. Despite having a solid 15 minutes to pee on everything in sight at the boat ramp, Dusty chose to wait and leave a stinking brown pile right in the middle of my jon boat. No respectable duck dog should ever crap in a man’s flat bottom. Dusty’s filthy aroma hit me center mass-1 could taste it. The smell could not be avoided no matter which way I turned that boat. I also learned that I’m a pretty good boat driver; I didn’t hit a single tree while gagging and dry heaving. Joe claims Dusty is a “sensitive” dog and was just letting out some “nervous energy.” Well, 1 said, “Does he need to do it all over the deck of my boat?”

Thirty minutes later, I scooped up Dusty’s load with Joe’s mesh decoy bag, had the boat stowed, dropped six floaters in a pothole amongst the trees and was ready to hunt. I leaned Grandpa against the tree next to me and giggled while Cousin Emmett loaded his gun after dropping the first box of shells in the drink.

Finally, as dawn approached. I heard the wings of ducks circling overhead. A nice group of 20 mallards dropped in and spiraled down to us. Once they reached the point of no return, I called the shot and we opened up. Out of the comer of my eye, I saw Grandpa, stiff as a board, tip over and smack face first into the knee-deep water…he wasn’t moving.

Oh no! Emmett shot Grandpa!

I rushed toward him, remembering how Joe was always saying the family dreamed Grandpa would die doing what he enjoyed most—duck hunting. I doubted that dream included their idiot cousin shooting him.

After what seemed like an eternity, I grabbed the suspenders of Grandpa’s waders and lifted him out of the water.  Thankfully, he was coughing and flopping around like a crappie in the bottom of a bucket, alive and unharmed. Joe casually approached the old-timer with little concern.

“Oh, Grandpa must have fallen asleep. You know, he does have narcolepsy.”

Source: April 2013 Issue/Wildfowl Magazine