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Sitting Duck

A few hours in the life of a hunter in the marsh

Duck hunting Photo Story-24


It is 4 o’clock on a Sunday morning, the opening weekend of duck hunting season, and Jacques Ramirez is already up and preparing his equipment. He checks his boat, adjusting the camouflage netting. He checks the multiple duck decoys stored in a mesh bag, and makes sure his shotgun is in good order.

He sits patiently in the long line of cars at the J.D. Murphree Salt Unit off of Highway 73 in Port Arthur, all waiting for the game warden to check them in. It takes about 30 minutes for him to get through. Ramirez doesn’t waste his time while he sits.

“I am on my phone mapping out some spots,” he said.

He was 40th in line of approximately 80 vehicles. I am kind of far back in the line right now— I don’t know where I am sitting, probably somewhere in the 60 area.

“Yeah, there are a lot of people here, there really is,” he said. “The game wardens and the officials have to check you in. They have to check to make sure everyone’s licenses are valid, and everyone is picking out their spots.”

It is 71 degrees and Ramirez was hoping for a cooler day.

“There is rain in the forecast for later today, so we will see if it will come through or not,” he said. “One thing we got to watch out for are mosquitos. They’re going to be out there.”

Ramirez, who hunts every chance he gets, said duck hunting is an expensive hobby.

­­­­“You got to have a shotgun, of course, shells are expensive, all your decoys, duck calls, most of the time you got to have a boat — the only thing I don’t have is a dog,” he said.

Without a dog hunters have to be more physical, Ramirez said.

“What we are hunting in today is going to be really muddy,” he said. “It’s going to be really hard to walk through. Once the birds lay down in the water and we shoot them, we typically have to get out of the blind ,or wherever you are at, and have to go retrieve them so they don’t float off.”

Ramirez said the temperature means he has to watch out for alligators.

“We are going into their territory and it is still warm, so they are going to be very active,” he said. “Winter time is not quite here yet.”

It is opening weekend of duck hunting season and Ramirez is unsure of what he will find.

“We will set our decoys up to where we can attract some ducks coming in,” he said. “We can use good techniques and try to talk to them. Act like we are ducks and try to bring them to the pond. You have to be camouflaged and well hidden. You don’t want to have too much movement, they can see very well.”

Hunting season in the northern states begins earlier, Ramirez said, so these ducks have been hunted before.

“Some of them might be new, but they typically travel from the north and come down south,” he said. “The northerners already been shooting at them, which makes these ducks pretty witty. Technique and stealth are everything. We have to be quiet, but as long as we hunker down and call our birds in our decoys, should be able to get some ducks. It’s a pretty tough sport, but it’s fun.”

Ramirez got into hunting when he was a child.

“My grandfather hunted ducks and it was something that we kept in the family,” he said. “I started hunting at the age of six. I got my first shotgun at the age of 10. I am 28 now and I have been duckhunting for a long time.”

Environmentally, Ramirez said it is important not to kill too many ducks.

“We have limits,” he said. “Today I am going to try and shoot a five-bird limit.

It is also important to clean up after a hunt, Ramirez said.

“There might be some duck hunters now leaving trash behind, and that’s something we have to look out for,” he said. “We pick up our spent shells or any water bottles, so we don’t harm the environment and the different species of life that live out there.”

After two or three hours, Ramirez had fired his gun only six times, without success. But he said it’s not all about the kill. Hunting is a chance to hang out with friends, or just enjoy the peace and quiet of nature.

However, bagging a few ducks does have benefits.

“The holidays are coming around and duck gumbo is pretty good to cook for the family,” he said.

Photo Story By Noah Dawlearn

Category: UPbeat