Battle of Wits

It was just after lunch on a crisp midwinter day with the sun shining brightly overhead, and I found myself on a ridge high above a shimmering lake. As I looked out upon the panorama of pines, speckled with leafless aspen and tamarack, on a snow covered beach I observed a black spot about a mile south of me.  A curiosity came over me like a house cat’s drive to catch a laser beam.  I rifled through my backpack to find my little pair of folding binoculars.

On this beautiful January afternoon, there on the beach, I spied with my aided eye two men in a duck blind.  I sat for a while to observe them.

The huntsmen would sit for a while, chattering on about something.  I unwillingly began to make up words for the unheard conversation.  The one might say, “Where are all the ducks?”, and the other might reply, “Cancún”.  They would periodically use their duck calls at such a ferocious volume that I could clearly hear them from a mile off.  Then one would stand and wade into the frigid waters to adjust the array of decoys, and return to the duck blind.

I was amused watching them from my perch on the ridge.

The ducks were not.  These ducks were apparently more aware of the hunting regulations in that area than many humans.  You see, it is prohibited to hunt within five-hundred feet of an established campground in this area.  The ducks, a congregation numbering nearly one hundred wily flappers, knew where they need be – namely in the no hunting zone.  The amoebic body of the group of black and white bufflehead ducks would occasionally stretch from an oval into something more akin to a butternut squash.  While doing this, a fair number of them would get just far enough out of their small cove to spy the huntsmen on the beach nearby.  The ranks would re-form and be hidden from the huntsmen again.

It was not long before a group of three wayward aviators arrived from the south.  At first, there was a fair bit of difficulty in even confirming that I had really seen them through the glare of the sun on the lake.  Soon enough, though, the unmistakable sight of a threesome of the speedy buffleheads was making their way north to join their brethren in the small cove between me and the huntsmen.

Two shotgun blasts pierced the cold breeze.

The stragglers, all three, presently landed in the cove amongst their peers with their trademark splash.  Again, the dance of duck and huntsman began.  The ducks, wily as the day is long, showed much more perseverance than the hunters.

The two men, apparently in some state of the combination of cold, bored, hungry, and unsuccessful, soon packed up their shotguns and duck calls.  Packed up their chairs and camoflauge, and collected their imitation ducks.

The ducks won the chess match for the day.  Shortly thereafter, the huntsmen were speeding south toward town and the ducks had returned to their favorite spot.

Right in front of the place the huntsmen were sat up in their blind just moments before.

– C. R.


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