What's a Duck Worth

All decisions have consequences.  "Don't do anything stupid!"  Strike two!

Photo was taken by my good friend professional wildlife photographer Tom Jesiolowski.  You can see more of his magnificent images by going to our Home Page and clicking on (Recommendations) for Northland Arts Taxidermy.

Photo was taken by my good friend professional wildlife photographer Tom Jesiolowski.  You can see more of his magnificent images by going to our Home Page and clicking on (Recommendations) for Northland Arts Taxidermy.

What’s a Duck Worth?

 It was the fall of 1985, three months after my airplane accident, that my partner Brent Jones and I were guiding brown bear hunters in our Cold Bay area.  The clients were George Snyder and a group of his friends, Fred Franz, Fred Morris, Dick Erickson and Cliff Breedy.  They came on a twenty-day group hunt with Brent and me as their only guides.  What a fun group of hunters.  We ended up taking four brown bears, three 9 footers and an 8 footer.  During the hunt we had time to fish and they had a great time fishing for Arctic Char.  

 AAA Alaskan Outfitters Cold Bay base camp on a nice day.

 AAA Alaskan Outfitters Cold Bay base camp on a nice day.

After three of the hunters left, we decided to do a little duck hunting.  Brent and I took George Snyder, Fred Franz and George Lockwood, our packer, in one of our Zodiac’s up to Kinzarof Lagoon.  It was three miles north of our base camp. The lagoon was a marshy area with three or four streams flowing into it. We pulled in to shore and got set up.  Since there were four of them and Fred was 77, I told Brent they should hunt close to the boat and I would work my way up one of the streams.

I was about a half mile or so inland close to the stream and a mallard flew up and I shot him.  He fell in a back eddy across the stream.  The tide was coming in so the water had started to back up but you could still see the current of the stream by the bank.  We didn’t have any dogs so it was up to me to retrieve the duck.  I had hip waders on so I proceeded to cross the stream.  The water came to within a couple inches of the tops of my waders but I made it across and continued in the back water and picked up the duck.  At this point the water was just a little over my knees.  As I was standing there checking things out it seemed the river bank on the opposite side was a little closer.  I knew the tide was coming in and I wasn’t sure if I could get back to the side that I shot from without getting wet.  I decided to go to the other bank.

I had been sinking in the mud on the bottom about an inch or so from the start.  As I progressed the mud started to get deeper but it still wasn’t a problem.  I only had about 40 yards to go to reach the bank.   The water level had raised about three inches because of the incoming tide and the mud seemed to be six inches or so deep.  I continued on and with each step the mud got deeper and a different texture.  I’m now only 25 yards from the bank and I can barely raise my leg.  At this point the weather has changed and a snow squall is coming my way.  It is now snowing so hard I can’t see either bank.  I am sweating profusely.  It’s like my maximum workout.  It is taking all of my strength to pull my foot up.  The mud along with decaying eelgrass is up to my knees and the water level is only two inches from the top of my waders.  I’m stuck!!  I have my shot gun in one hand and a duck in the other hand and I can’t move.  Because of the snow I can hardly see.  What is going on??  Is this really happening to me??  I knew the water level would not get above my head but I didn’t think I could stand there that long without falling in the water and not able to get back up.  I was just in an accident and almost died in a fire and now I could die stuck in the mud and stinking decaying eelgrass.

Aghileen Pinnacles viewed from Kinzarof Lagoon.  Always impressive when you can see them.

Aghileen Pinnacles viewed from Kinzarof Lagoon.  Always impressive when you can see them.

Only 20 yards to go.   I have to do it because I’m not going to die.  I take one step at a time and it takes all of my strength.  I rest or try to.  The water in now getting into my boots.   It is even harder to move my feet but I must.  The muscles in my back are screaming.  It seems like it was taking me hours, but it was probably only a half hour or so.

I reached the bank and had to make several attempts before I could pull myself clear of the water.  I’m ready to pass out, total exhaustion.  The snow had quit.  I’m wet from sweat, snow and swamp water.  I lay for at least 10 minutes.  I can barely move my legs. Then I hear the motor.  Brent is able to bring the Zodiac to the bank now that the tide is in.  As he pulled up, he said, “That was quite a snow squall.”  Then he asked, “What happened to you?”  I told him my story and he just shook his head and grinned.  Then he said, let’s get out of here.  God is Good!!

Is a duck really worth that much?

Another great image by Tom Jesiolowski of Northland Arts Nature Images.  Click photo or here to link to his website.

Another great image by Tom Jesiolowski of Northland Arts Nature Images.  Click photo or here to link to his website.