"From a conservationist's point of view it is not so bad," said Frank. "This is becoming a very successful trip from a conservationist's point of view."
Rudy grumbled about the deecons for a while, but he was the only one who could see the ducks in the water anyway, so it did not seem to matter. He kept poling. Then, slowly, little black dots began to materialize on the water ahead—a great black cluster of teal bobbing along on the water. When they finally became aware of us and took flight we got one shot apiece, and a single duck fell. Barefoot, Rudy clambered among the mangroves to fetch it. There were two larger birds in the trees that looked like brown cranes, and Rudy yelled for us to shoot them, too, and when he saw a white heron standing motionless in the mangroves he wanted us to shoot that, too. Frank, rebelling, said no compassionate man could do such a thing. What on earth was in Rudy's mind?
"To eat it," Rudy said. "They very good eating." He laughed. "But that's all right. If you don't shoot it I come back later and shoot it myself."
"You eat everything that flies, eh, Rudy?" Frank asked.
"The best is the fillymingos. They up further."
"Fillymingos? You eat flamingos? In the States you shoot one of them and you'd get fined a hundred bucks."
Rudy laughed again. "Oh, yes, yes, you get fined here, too. But they the best to eat. The sweetest meat."
Soon the sky was alive with swarms of teal and, despite having no decoys, we were able to get close enough to kill five more. Before they were down Rudy was out of the boat, splashing in mud and through mangroves, like a great, joyful Labrador retriever. I suspect that the soles of his feet are water-repellent and heat-resistant. He invariably went straight to the stricken birds, and with a violent whirling twist wrung their necks.
"It would be easier if we had the deecons," he said.
During the hours we spent in this duck hunter's paradise we heard no other shots and saw no signs of other hunters. The only other people we saw were farmers in small native sailboats heading up to where Rudy said his father used to farm.