The other five looked in the same direction, and then they, too, lifted up their voices. Cautiously I turned my head. Low against the growing splendour of the sunrise, wings rigidly set, came a flock of mallards. My ducks fairly stood up on their tails the better to hurl invitations and inducements at their wild brethren. The chorus praising this particular spot was vociferous and unanimous, I wonder what the mallards thought of the other fifty or sixty in my flock, the wooden ones, that sat placidly aloof. Did they consider these remarkably exclusive; or did they perhaps look upon the live ones as the “boosters” committee for this particular piece of duck real estate? At any rate, they dropped in without the slightest hesitation, which shows the value of live decoys. The mallard is ordinarily a wily bird and circles your pond a number of times before deciding to come in to wooden decoys. At the proper moment I got to my feet, and, by good fortune, knocked down two fat green-heads.
They fell with a splash right among my ducks. Did the latter exhibit alarm over either the double concussion of the gun or this fall of defunct game from above? Not at all! they were tickled to death. Each swam vigorously around and around at the limit of his tether, ruffling his plumage and waggling his tail with the utmost vigour.
“Well, I rather think we fooled that bunch!” said they, one to another. “Did you ever see an easier lot? Came right down without a look! If the Captain had been here he’d have killed a half dozen of the chumps before they got out of range!” and so on. For your experienced decoy always seems to enjoy the game hugely, and to enter into it with much enthusiasm and intelligence. And all the while the flock of wooden decoys headed unanimously up wind, and bobbed in the wavelets; and the sun went on gilding the mountains to the west.
Next a flock of teal whirled down wind, stooped, and were gone like a flash. I got in both barrels; and missed both. The dissatisfaction of this was almost immediately mitigated by a fine smash at a flock of sprig that went by overhead at extreme long range, but from which I managed to bring down a fine drake. When the shot hit him he faltered, then, still flying, left the ranks at an acute angle, sloping ever the quicker downward, until he fell on a long slant, his wings set, his neck still outstretched. I marked the direction as well as I could, and immediately went in search of him. Fortunately he lay in the open, quite dead. Looking back, I could see another good flock fairly hovering over the decoys.
The sun came up, and grew warm. The wind died. I took off my sweater. Between flights I basked deliciously. The affair was outside of all precedent and reason. A duck shooter ought to be out in a storm, a good cold storm. He ought to break the scum ice when he puts out his decoys. He ought to sit half frozen in a wintry blast, his fingers numb, his nose blue, his body shivering. That sort of discomfort goes with duck shooting. Yet here I was sitting out in a warm, summerlike day in my shirt sleeves, waiting comfortably—and the ducks were coming in, too!