Mosquitoes during duck season? This one is different from most


LOWER MARLBORO -- Earlier, the morning had been quiet enough to hear a single marsh wren rustle in the cattails 20 yards away, the creek surface smooth enough to watch the tide reverse from flood to ebb.

But as we stood in Mike McConnell's blind, the wind was rising, bending back the edges of the marsh as easily as it might ripple an open field of wheat.

"Is this what opening day for ducks is supposed to be?" McConnell said. "No.

"The weather has been screwed up all year and nothing is like it is supposed to be. I can't remember when it was warm enough on opening day to be bothered by mosquitoes."

Last Tuesday, the weather had been thick when McConnell had come to the creekside to check the blind.

"Now, that was a good duck day," McConnell said, "fog and mist that would have kept the birds low to the water and had them moving back and forth right over the creek."

And right past the blind.

But by Friday, opening day, the weather had warmed and a half moon near perigee had brightly lit the last hours of the night -- and the ducks were not flying as we had wished they might.

"Just like geese," guide Philip Krista said, "when there is a bright moon, ducks don't have to be so anxious to feed at first light because they have been eating most of the night."

Earlier in the day, minutes before shooting began a half-hour before sunrise, Krista, Larry Dobrovolny and I had settled over a string of decoys on the edge of the marsh some 600 yards up the creek from McConnell's blind.

Even as we settled in, early gunfire could be heard from along the Patuxent a mile or so to the west, and a female wood duck had checked in and out of our decoy string.

"Lucky duck," Dobrovolny said, tongue in cheek.

Over the next 90 minutes, good numbers of ducks came off the river, flying high over the wooded banks and marsh instead of slipping in below the tree line to beat through the shadows and then dive toward the decoys.

One pair came down the creek, wheeled around a point to our east and came across the marsh between Dobrovolny and myself. Larry's gun jammed and I missed two shots.

Two more lucky ducks.

"Beaver pond," Krista said, motioning to a half dozen ducks that came in high from the west and settled over the tree line to the east. "All those ducks that we have seen ducking in over there are headed for a beaver pond up around the point.

"Come in off the river -- from Jug Bay, probably -- and settle in there until the evening, when they'll get back up and fly to the river."

On another day, we might have come back for the evening flight, but Dobrovolny was needed at Fish Maryland, the sporting goods store he owns in Eldersburg, and Krista and I had other plans.

After a visit with McConnell, Krista and I grabbed a box of lures and two rods and headed down the creek in his canoe to fish the channel edges and sloughs.

Neither of us took home a duck, but there was fresh perch for dinner.

And, as McConnell said, sometimes opening days are just not what they are supposed to be.


Krista, who operated a waterfowl guide service several years ago, has resumed operations in the Patuxent River area and offers goose and duck hunting. If the weather allows, he'll throw in midday fishing free of charge. His rates are $65 per person per day. For more information, call (410) 461-3007.

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