single coming in from your right," my friend hissed.
By the time I
shot, the duck had spread its wings to settle with the decoys. Rain burst from
her platform and retrieved the bird. I gave a few whoops to honor our change in
redhead," my friend yelled. "A female."
I slumped in my
inner tube low enough to fill my waders. Redheads are protected in Florida.
Each redhead shot represents 70 points of an allowable 100 points for a day's
shooting. I now had a cripple and a 70-point duck to my spurious credit.
passed. Rain sneezed and I whirled and screamed, thinking the sneeze was the
attack cry of the bull alligator. There was nothing behind me but darkening
We loaded our
gear and picked up the decoys. The long-suffering Rain huddled in the boat
demanding a tummy rub. The motor wouldn't start; the battery was dead. I held
the light in the gathering dark while my friend dismantled the cowl and tried
to start the motor by hand with a piece of rope. It was some 15 miles back to
the lodge. Short of lassoing and riding the alligator, how could we make it?
Then part of the cowl fell into the black water. My friend, who works out daily
in a karate dojo, stamped and yelled. I feared he might kick the boat to
pieces. Finally the motor started, and we made our way haltingly back in the
At the lodge our
hunting friends, a young couple from Palm Beach who shared our two-room cabin,
listened sympathetically. They shyly admitted that they had shot their limit.
After several drinks we cooked a meal of venison chops and went over to the
main lodge to play Bingo. I hadn't played Bingo in 20 years and looked forward
to it, but when we entered the hall, a local wise guy asked, "How many
redheads," I yelled to the assembled Bingo players. It was a
butter-thick, damp dark full of bugs. During our sleepy wait at the lock, the
keeper called down to say that the week before a crew of vacationing Miami
homicide detectives had shot their limit every day. Then he said that it was
too warm and still for duck hunting and that we should have stayed in bed. Or
gone bass fishing. As a trout fisherman, I look at bass as a variety of
After the usual
long run, we chose a spot with no real confidence. As the sky lightened, some
high-flying ducks passed over but did not pause at our decoys. Then we heard
shooting from well behind us, perhaps a mile into the swamp. More shooting came
from down the lake shore a few hundred yards, but also well into the swamp. Our
irritation grew as we watched high flights pass over, followed by more
shooting. As the shots became intermittent my friend left me to do a little
spying down the lake. After 15 minutes he returned looking happy. He had hidden
in the rushes and had seen a small skiff emerge from a channel so narrow that
it was invisible from the lake proper. We loaded up and went for a look with a