It was just a small pond. You wouldn’t even notice it as you drove by if you didn’t know it was there. In fact you couldn’t see the water from the road. You could only see the south side of it’s bank which wasn’t very tall in the first place. The pond was hidden from the road and was tucked in behind a trailer house on a small piece of property about 6 miles outside of town. I certainly didn’t know it was there and I had driven by it 100 times over the years. I didn’t know it was there until a friend of mine, Rick James told me it was a pond that we were going to ‘pond hop’ on Saturday morning.
I grew up in small town U.S.A. – Wagoner, Oklahoma. For a youngster who liked to hunt and fish this was a great place to spend the first 17 or 18 years of your life. I was lucky enough to have a dad that not only took me hunting when I was a kid but who let me go off hunting on my own just as soon as I was old enough to drive. I’ve often said the happiest day of my dad’s life wasn’t when I was born but it was when I got my driver’s license. He finally got some relief from me badgering him to take me to the woods to hunt or to the lake to fish.
‘Here’s the key’s son. Be safe and stay out of trouble,’ were his famous words to me every Saturday morning. Every Saturday morning I was off somewhere, hunting something.
One of my favorite things to do was ‘pond hop’. For those who don’t know what that is here’s the long and short of it. You’d drive around checking the local ponds in your area for a duck of any kind from anywhere. If a pond had ducks on it and the land wasn‘t posted, you’d park your vehicle, slip around to the pond’s highest bank side, pop up and start shooting. It was a far cry from your traditional duck hunt of putting out decoys and calling them in, but I can tell you it was still a lot of fun and as long as you let the ducks fly and not pot shoot them on the water (which I believe was illegal) it was sporting as well.
It was harder than it sounds too. A lot of times you just couldn’t get into shooting position before the ducks blew out of there. Many times on larger ponds the ducks were just too far to shoot. You’d have to just set there and watch them do their thing. Sometimes if there were ducks on the pond, we would call and other ducks would come and land. That did happen too often but it did take place from time to time. Generally speaking the day was spent running to a dozen or 2 dozen different ponds and checking them out hoping for some action.
On many days a lot of gasoline was burned up and not a shot was fired. Yes we got skunked many, many times. There just never was a pond that you could really rely on until that Saturday morning when my buddy, Rick introduced me to what we later named ‘Old Faithful’ – the small pond out west of town.
I really didn’t think much about it at first. That Saturday morning Rick and I pulled up and parked my dad’s truck along the side of the gravel road just down from that lone trailer house. The sun was barely peaking over the eastern horizon as we crawled under the fence and slowly slipped along in the grass hugging the adjoining fence the entire way.
After about 100 yard walk, Rick said, “Let’s cross under this fence right here. The pond bank is right over there about 15 yards.”
Of course the light was still low and I still couldn’t see what he was talking about. As soon as we got under the second fence I could see it. The pond bank probably was really short. I’ll bet it wasn’t 5 feet high. We had to hunker down a bit to get up to its edge. We waited just a few minutes for the sun to break real good and then at the same time we peeked over the top. My heart jumped up in my throat. There were about 10 Mallard green heads swimming around on the other side. On this pond that was fine. The other side was at the most 50 yards.
We just looked at each other and gave a little head nod and stood up. The ducks took off like a jet – straight up in the air. We emptied our shotguns and 4 big green heads fell back into the water. We got our limit. I couldn’t believe it. What a morning!
I could probably write a book about all the encounters and ducks I shot off that small pond over the next two years. It was incredible. Sometimes Rick was with me. Sometimes he wasn’t. We talked about it and Rick didn’t care if I hunted the pond. That was never an issue between us. It just seemed that when there wasn’t a duck to be had in the entire county, that small pond would always have something on it. I’ll never understand why. I didn’t care at the time. I just know it was sensational. It was a true honey hole in every sense of the word.
I can still remember the Sunday morning in church when another friend of mine and I struck up a conversation about duck hunting. I told him about a pond that I hunted that was totally amazing. He encouraged me to take him with me the next Saturday morning. Wanting to show off a bit, I agreed to do that. Sure enough ’Old Faithful’ didn’t let me down. As we peered over that south bank of the small pond there was a good group of mallards once again. When the shooting was over we had knocked down several. That was one of the last times I ever got to hunt that pond. I had screwed up in a big way.
The next Saturday morning I had my dad with me and as we pulled up to park the truck, there my friend from church set. Or least his truck set. He was already setting out there on the pond. I remember my dad say, “Well that’s (old so and so’s truck). What’s he doing out here?”
I went onto tell my dad that I had shown him the pond the week before.
I can still see my dad lower his head and slightly shaking it from side to side as he said, “Son. You don’t ever want to take anybody to your secret spot. Just don’t do it. Now it’s no longer a secret is it?”
Lesson learned. I told myself I would never do that again. I’ve lived up to that rule I made for myself. That’s especially true when it comes to whitetail hunting. I have a pat answer when someone ask me about a buck I killed. ‘Where’d you get him?’ people might ask.
‘Out in the woods,’ is always my answer.
If you don’t want something repeated then don’t tell anybody – that means anybody. If you don’t want someone snooping around your hunting spot then don’t take anybody near it. Don’t tell anybody anything about it. Nothing. Keep your mouth shut. Let other people blow and go. Let other people run their mouths. In fact they may tell you someplace that you’ll want to check out for yourself. But when the crap starts to pile up in blow and go conversations among other hunters, do what I do. Just quietly slip out of there and go do something else.
I used to have a great lease in northern Missouri. I shot some giant bucks there. One buck scored 216 and had 24 points. The little town where I stayed while I hunted only had a couple of motels in it. I stayed at the same one every time. It was the cheapest one. I had that lease for 6 years. I can guarantee you no one in that town ever knew I ever shot a single buck off that property including the motel owners where I stayed. I just hunted and did my business. I kept to myself and didn’t want any company out there either.
I would see friends of mine in the hunting business who had decals and big logo signs all over their vehicles. They all wondered why I didn’t do that. I know sponsors would appreciate it. I know it’s good advertisement. I also know I didn’t want anybody, anywhere knowing anything about my business. I like to slip in and slip out. I still do.
I’m not trying to hide anything. I’m not breaking any laws or poaching any deer. But where I deer hunt is my business. I hunt pretty good places. That’s how I shoot pretty good bucks. I’m not looking for any company along the way. I don’t mean to sound stand offish. I don’t mean to sound selfish. During the course of my hunting career I’ve given everything I could back to other hunters trying to help them be more successful.
I’ve never thought of myself as higher or better than any other person. I’ve never acted or pretended to act like a big shot in any way. I’ve always been sincere in trying to be helpful to other sportsmen. That’s what I’m doing here. Right now. That’s why I’m telling you this: Don’t ever take anyone to your hunting spot. Just don’t do it. But if you have to, I know a guy back in my home town I used to go to church with. I’ll bet he’d be glad to tag along and help you hunt your deer. He was sure good at hunting a great pond I showed him once. But then once was all it took.
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