Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

August 5, 1893. Forest and Stream 41(5): 98.

Game Bag and Gun.

Duck Shooting in Nebraska.

The spring of 1892 was an exceptionally rainy one for Nebraska, causing numerous wet weather lakes in portions of the State, thereby making splendid days for ducks and geese, more especially ducks. Purchasing a team of ponies, wagon, etc., the writer, in company with his brother Nate, loaded camping outfit and were off for a trial at ducks.

Having had very rainy weather for three weeks past we naturally figured on a let up soon. The roads were very heavy, nevertheless we pushed on en route to Boone Lake. Needless to recount in detail our flounder in a mire hole. Suffice it to state that we landed on the opposite side, mud and water being the principal part of our make-up. However, we were repaid shortly by running right into some fine jacksnipe shooting, and mud and water were soon forgotten. I scored some good shots which had a tendency to rattle Nate, but he redeemed his record on the outcome by returning to the wagon with a goodly number of jacksnipe.

Resuming our journey, a few miles further brought us to Boone Lake. A good-sized patch of timber standing about 100 yds. from the lake afforded an excellent location to pitch camp, which we did in short order. Nate had caught sight of 200 or 300 ducks collected in good-sized flocks, quietly feeding here and there on the lake, but the agreement was that camp should be made before any hunting was allowed, as it was still early in the day, and we hoped to obtain even better shooting by waiting till toward evening and catch the ducks coming in for the night. Nevertheless the sight of those ducks gave Nate an impulse that I had never seen exhibited in him before (barring a movement he once readily assumed on a bear hunt with me), and the way things moved for a while would have done credit to a much more pretentious person than Nate. Tent up, a hasty meal, ponies hobbled and turned loose, a good supply of loaded shells, and our "waders" on and away we went.

Did the reader ever experience trying to hold an excited sportsman within bounds as you were making a sneak upon a bunch of ducks? If so, you can appreciate the part I played in covering that 100 yds. between timber and lake. Withal we made a very good sneak, and succeeded in emptying four shells of No. 4s at long range among a flock of mallards, six being secured. On the rise several good shots were scored by both.

The ducks began rising all around the lake, but kept circling, and seemed decided in staying for the night. The truly fine sport then opened. Wading out into the water, where I was partly concealed by the tall weeds and rushes, I had excellent shooting, which lasted about an hour; and for the gather I was obliged to make several trips into the lake, coming out loaded, while Nate put in a goodly portion of his time inventing excuses as to his position, action of his gun, etc.

Gathering our shoot, we returned to camp, had supper, enjoyed a smoke, built up a good fire in the tent stove, and lay around commenting on each other's shots of the evening's sport. Confidentially between the reader and myself, Nate is a better wing-shot than I myself; but it takes a dandy to beat me around the camp-fire. After making a programme for the morning's hunt, a game or two at cards to decide who would be elected to build fires and prepare breakfast, which as usual resulted in Nate's election, we turned in.

Five o'clock A.M. Rain, rain; will it never stop? Nevertheless as soon as breakfast is over, dishes washed (an unusual action in the average camp), we put off for the lake. Shooting similar to that of evening previous, except that Nate put the writer to shame by more than doubling his record. The score now stood two to one in Nate's favor. Something must be done on the morrow. How I worked and did close shooting, taking but few chance shots. But the result of the previous day repeated itself. Before starting to gather what ducks I had shot I was careful to get the exact location of Nate, so as to allow him time to gather and start for camp and not come into contact with him, as I did not wish him to see what I had killed. Upon reaching camp with our game, we usually tied the ducks on a heavy cord and hung them on a tree near by. In relating this special part of the hunt, I am obliged to divulge a secret thus far kept to myself, which, should this come before the notice of Nate, will explain something which heretofore has been a mystery and a source of joking at his expense. As before stated, I had allowed time for Nate to gather his ducks and return to camp, then gathering what few belonged to my credit, I started for camp also. As expected, Nate was in the tent starting a fire in the tent stove. Upon coming up to the tree where hung the trophies of previous shooting, I quickly severed a string containing twenty or more ducks, and as it was raining and blowing, and Nate was busy at the fire, my movement was not noticed by him, and I had no difficulty in adding my morning's shoot to this string; and walking into the tent I indifferently remarked that we had had pretty good shooting. Nate said, "You must have had it then, because I did poor enough." About that time he caught sight of the string I had carelessly tossed on the floor. It was a stand off between his mouth and eyes as to which opened widest. A hasty count, a long breath, and then "You are the luckiest man that ever pulled trigger. Every duck that raised off of that lake kept circling until some stray shot from your gun accidentally hit him."

I took in the cot, and attempted to answer. That string of dead ducks filled the purpose. "Never mind, my boy," continued he, "I'll rub you on this evening's shooting." And I could readily see a determination, which would call for closer shooting on my part than I had done that morning. Often since have I listened (with secret delight) to Nate recounting this same duck hunt, with the result of the score (about ten in my favor), and have felt that he ought to be rightly informed. But fearing to spoil a good story have remained quiet until now. Should this come before him, as I expect it will, as he is a close reader of Forest and Stream, I have a brother's trust that he will pardon me, even though he did come from Chicago to outshoot a Nebraskan. The following day we broke camp, being obliged to secure a large team of horses to pull us out of the mud; for the continuous rain had made extremely bad roads, which necessitated our giving up further hunting, although our intention was to travel northwest to be absent three weeks or more, as ducks and geese were very plentiful. I shall some time give an account of one or two of Nate's and my experiences in the Rockies of Colorado on a recent deer and bear hunt. If there is any one place where Nate does loom up it is on a bear hunt.

J. S. O.