Kelly Bostian: Family duck hunt a great learning experience
BY KELLY BOSTIAN Outdoors
Sunday, January 06, 2013
1/06/13 at 6:56 AM
Go to Kelly Bostian's blog Original Print Headline: A family affair
Ultra-Crisp is a good description for the morning of Dec. 29, a Saturday that dawned with ice cakes in the river and an air temperature nearly matching Joseph Tasker's age. It was his 14th birthday.
With his restless right knee bobbing beneath the butt of his shotgun, it was not entirely clear if he was cold and his foot just needed some circulation to keep warm inside his rubber boots or if the distinct but distant rustle of several thousand mallards just upstream had him as excited as the rest of the hunting party.
"Single right. Hold still now," guide and World Pro Tips contributor Jack Morris said between making a series of soft hen mallard calls. A fat, green-headed drake cruised downstream, away from the horde above, alone, answering Morris with its own low, nasal quacks.
With the sun just peeking through the trees on the horizon, the drake cupped its wings, rolled in over the decoy spread and Morris made the call to shoot. "It's all you, birthday boy!"
Tasker's drake was the first of many the group collected on a morning hunt that has been all too rare for many hunters during this season of drought and relatively warm temperatures. Storms to the north and sub-freezing weather over the holidays - and relentless scouting by Morris - set up the hunt for Treak Tasker and his three boys, Joseph; J.T., 17; and Willie, a college sophomore home on holiday break.
"The biggest challenge is you really do have to scout," Treak Tasker said. "When you work a desk job, it's hard to get out and scout and find good places to hunt. We try and we get out when we can, but it's been tough."
Treak Tasker is president of the non-profit NatureWorks, an all-volunteer Tulsa group known for its annual wildlife art show, local wildlife statues and donations to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and other hunting and fishing programs. Morris is a board member and, for full disclosure, I'll note that I have recently been invited to join the board as well.
Still, given the waterfowl situation this year, Tasker said he was only "cautiously optimistic, but excited" when Morris called to let him know he could put him and the boys on, "How did he put it? Oh, yeah, a National Geographic moment."
Tasker said he only knew Morris from NatureWorks meetings the past few years and figured "at least part of it was he had his sales hat on."
With easily 5,000 mallards gathered on the river, Morris made good on his promise of a natural spectacle, but he set the hunting party in position to allow the mallards to maintain their happy roost so the flock could be hunted again another day.
With a spread about three-quarters of a mile downstream, the group got a relatively steady diet of pairs, singles, triples and small groups out "stretching their wings," as Morris put it.
"They wanted to learn about hunting, and they got some good lessons there," Morris said. "It was good to have three young hunters, three boys in a family like that to have that opportunity."
The group grabbed comfortable seats, took advantage of natural cover and managed the rest by holding mostly motionless and downing ducks as they swooped within range. "I had no idea we would have that kind of experience," Tasker said.
Tasker was back at his desk this week, but the boys were in California with their grandfather - hunting at the same duck club their father hunted years ago.
"You think about what you like to do with your kids, for your kids, and I had the benefit of hunting that when I was younger in California," Tasker said. "It's one of those things I want them to be able to experience - a good, good hunt."
Joseph (left), J.T., Willie, and Treak Tasker share a smile at the end of a successful holiday duck hunt. KELLY BOSTIAN / Tulsa World