Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Last Hunt

Yesterday was the last day for the 2013 waterfowl season. It was also the day for my outfitter exam so I booked down to Helena, took the test, had my boat and gear inspected and cruised back up to the W.C. to meet up with Kuhnert to get set up for the final hours.

We set up our decs in Bernie the Billionaire's channel and got tucked into the willows on the island. We were locked in and ready to go by about 3 o'clock so we had plenty of time to settle before the hundreds of ducks and geese sitting on the ponds up Stickney Creek started moving back to the river like they do every evening.

A raft pushed by us and turned the corner moving down towards the Stickney Creek boat ramp. We knew there were ducks sitting on the river down there so we hunkered down to wait for them to get kicked up and hopefully shoot our gap. A few minutes later, the golden eyes came whistling by and with them, came a few mallards. Every one of them, golden eyes included, came to the channel and would bank hard to the outside of the island and cruise by way out of range.

"Something's up," I said. "They're seeing something they don't like."

So Mike and I stood up and walked out to check our decoys.

Apparently, not long after we got the decoys set up, a huge chunk of ice broke free and dragged the decs down the channel and they were now drifting in circles in the huge eddy below the island. All 13 decoys, just bobbing around; drifting aimlessly out in the middle of the fricken river--way too far out to reach with waders and Cutter won't retrieve decoys.

I spent the next hour and a half throwing sticks out for Cutter to fetch, hoping he would either hook a decoy or the wake of him swimming would push them out just far enough to catch a favorable current that would send them down stream into shallow enough water to where I could reach them. I wound up getting 12 of the 13 back and with only about a half hour left of shooting hours, we didn't even get re-set. Boo...

Oh yeah, the outfitter exam:

It was actually a little more stressful than I thought it would be. I thought I had all the materials I needed to take the test but I was missing a couple REALLY important pamphlets. I was told by everyone who has recently taken the exam to just take my time and go through every question and find the exact verbiage in the by-laws. As tedious as the first part of the test was, going through all the legal jargon and sifting through miles of statutes, it wasn't all that bad. Not having had the pleasure of taking an exam for about 13 years made it tough to sit there for hours paging through some pretty specific language, however. As with probably all of us that have taken the test, we're not real good at sitting in one place for too long.

The second part of the test was all about fishing and boating laws and stream access. Because I was missing a couple materials, it made me a little nervous but in the end, I passed both sections with a solid "B" which is fine by me. It's a formality that is now over and I can look forward to the next step.

After the test I got my boat and truck inspected and now I'm just waiting on the licensing specialist to give me my outfitter number and license. It's still not official but we're only a few days away. Look for more information soon.

A lot of guys have gone through the same process and are now outfitters so I don't want to make it sound like what I did was some grandiose feat. But I am proud of taking the next step and I am excited about getting on with this next leg of a career I dreamt about when I was a kid. Like other kids, I had illusions of being a rock star but if I'm going to be totally  honest; drifting on the lake waiting for the tap-tap of a walleye bite or daydreaming up in a tree stand hunting whitetails, I always thought that this is what I wanted to do. It's not going to make me rich and it definitely won't make me famous or put me on the cover of Rolling Stone but what better way to spend a life than drifting down one of the greatest trout fisheries in the world, teaching people to fish and sharing a love for the outdoors? I feel blessed.

Keep 'em where they live...

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