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A mini-Maryland adventure on the shore
Like a couple of kids we played with the white perch, saving a few for dinner. (Andrew Aughenbaugh photo)

October is the month for outdoor sports in Maryland.

The fish are biting. Deer season is upon us and the first split season for ducks is in October. Perfect timing for a mini sportsmen's adventure.

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On Thursday evening, we came from different parts of the state meeting at a waterfront campground in Rock Hall, Maryland. Our hunting party consisted of six deer hunters all joining together for the first archery hunt of the season at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge.

The evening was spent in the same manner in which man has been doing since the beginning of time. Hunters gathered around the fire telling stories and making plans for the next day's hunt. Late in the night, I opened the cot and slept under the stars. The full moon passed overhead. The breeze off the water cooled the night and kept the bugs tolerable.

At 4:00 am our day began. This was my first time hunting the property or setting foot on the 2,200 acres of farm fields, salt marsh and woods. In preparing for the hunt I had reviewed maps of the area and circled a location I deducted would be a good area to hunt. Over the camp fire the night before, those familiar with the area agreed the spot was worth a morning hunt.

By the light of the bright full moon, I made my way down the mature tree row between a soybean field and an old field left to grow wild. My destination was an intersection of the tree row and a thin patch of woods about 100 yards wide that bordered the marsh and open water. In the dark I found a tree fit for my climber style tree stand. The cool morning breeze carried my scent toward the marsh. If my assumptions were correct, I would hopefully catch the deer wandering from the fields toward the bedding area in the morning. I sat in the darkness waiting for day light.

At 7:30 a.m. a doe walked under my stand and by 10:30 she had been skinned, quartered and put on ice. The rest of the day was spent deep in a thicket on a point of woods between two marshes looking and waiting for a mature buck. The buck never came.

We ended the night fishing off a bridge catching Rockfish on light tackle. Each of the fish caught fell just short of the minimum size limit.

It had been a full day of hunting capped off with a little evening fishing; one of those fall days a sportsman lives for and retells for years to come over the camp fire. For Larry and I, the adventure was just getting started. As we separated from the rest of the group to prepare for a duck hunt the next day.

Close to midnight on Friday, we met up with Larry's friend Ray at the Federalsburg boat ramp. Larry and I caught a few hours of sleep in our trucks before launching the boat and racing in the dark to our duck hunting spot, attempting to beat the rest of the duck hunters.

October duck season is the season of the wood duck. My favorite duck. Like the day before, we were ready for the hunt before daylight. The difference was this time we held shot guns, wore waders and sipped coffee while sitting in a jon boat instead of perched high in a tree with bow in hand.

The morning flight came and went. We had one drake mallard for our efforts. The wood ducks flew but never committed into our decoys. The other hunters we met at the boat ramp also bagged one or two ducks, but no one reported shooting a limit of ducks on the opener of the October season.

Ray had Saturday daddy duties and soon left Larry and me at the boat ramp. We took this time to finish butchering my deer from yesterday. I did this on the Tacoma's tailgate while Larry brewed coffee, cooked the backstraps on his Coleman camp stove, and stored the duck gear. We welcomed the unseasonably warm weather while we ate our venison lunch and discussed what was next.

Originally Larry was thinking of heading to Indian River inlet in Delaware for a little surf fishing as he had read reports of a good bite following Hurricane Matthew. However we learned the fishing had slowed. I knew of a place in Dorchester County where we could camp, hunt for Sika deer, duck hunt, or fish for rockfish, depending on our mood. I made a phone call and informed the property owner of our intentions and he said go for it, the rockfish should be there at the creek mouth.

We stowed our gear, changed from our camo hunting clothes into our fishing clothes and hit the road.

After a 40-mile run including refueling the vehicles, we turned down the dirt lane and into our next adventure. The sand and clay road was wet and slick from the recent high tide. Without incident we made our destination and the end of the road.

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The boat ramp is not a ramp as much as a cut in the creek bank allowing someone to back a boat trailer into the water. The flood tide was due to turn any minute according to the tide charts. We loaded the jon boat with high hopes of catching rockfish for a late dinner.

We never hooked our intended species, mainly because once we found the white perch hungry and eating along a current break on the creek mouth point, we changed lures and played with the panfish like a couple of young kids, smiling and laughing the evening away.

The sky was clear blue until the sun closed in on the horizon. The yellow, orange and pink sky in the east was one to remember. The wind laid down and the water was glass smooth. In the west a full moon brightly lit the night on its arrival. A perfect evening ending a perfect couple of days.

To avoid the bug problem, we pitched camp along the water taking advantage of the slight breeze. Dinner was cold Beef-a-Roni straight out of the can washed down with a little whiskey.

Sunday morning dawned warm and clear. Enough of a breeze came off the water keeping the bugs out of camp. Brunch consisted of fresh white perch and sausage. Over coffee we discussed politics, old and current girlfriends, told fishing and hunting stories, and life lessons learned. We enjoyed our day relaxing at the end of the road taking in the warm October sun.

Under the late afternoon sun we broke camp and returned to the world ready for the next work week to begin. Our three-day Eastern Shore of Maryland adventure had ended but the memories and experiences remain in our sportsmen's soul and fuel the fire for the want to return to the woods and waters where we feel most alive.

410-857-7896

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