Friday, February 7, 2020

Back on the Sound---from Knotts Island to Bells Island




It was the first weekend of the first "split" of duck season.  Mid-November.  Unfortunately . . . our first hunt on the sound this year didn't go quite as planned.  

Several buddies and I had two Currituck National Wildlife Refuge Blinds, off Knotts Island.  We've had good hunts there before, and I love going up to that part of the world.  Northeastern North Carolina is a special place, a place full of water and waterways.  A place full of history, thanks to all that water.  One of the first colonized areas of Carolina.  Knotts Island is an especially unique place . . . and getting there from the rest of our state requires boarding the Currituck ferry or driving into Virginia, and coming back south, down NC 615, through Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge, and onto Knotts Island, the island-peninsula jutting out into the Currituck Sound.

This year, we rented a cabin at a campground right on the state line.  Waterfront, with a fire-pit, and even satellite TV . . . the digs weren't too shabby.  

The night before the hunt, our fearless chef, Charles, whipped up some breakfast sandwiches, ready to be quickly warmed in the morning.  We may've enjoyed some hot cider, too.  



After the 4:30 AM check-in at the Knotts Island Market, and after splashing the boat at the ramp, we motored about 50 yards, before the Yamaha outboard "konked" out.  Bad water pump.  

Thankfully, we weren't far into the channel.  Despite being loaded with decoys and four men, we were able to paddle back to the ramp, limping back to dry land, with looks of exhaustion and embarrassment, as other hunters sped past into the morning dark, port and starboard side lights glowing.


Back to the cabin we went, to pack up, and you couldn't help feeling somewhat defeated.  Kindly, Cas, invited us to hunt a Tyrell County impoundment that afternoon . . . though we were only rewarded with a single wood duck.


. . . 


Several weeks later, for the start of the second split, I found myself up on the sound again, though further to the south, on Bells Island, staying at Stuart's Lodge.

It was the Woodberry reunion hunt, and it was great see some of my high school Rod and Gun Club buddies, and also Mr. Firman and Mr. Clements, whose interest, time, supervision, and passion for the outdoors made hunting on that school's Virginia campus a possibility.  A rare thing to be able to do these days, to be able to bring your own shotgun to school, to hunt doves and geese and squirrels on campus.  Something I'm truly thankful for, and hopefully, something that doesn't fade away.  I've got many a great memory hunting at Woodberry, all starting with a slightly-filled mud pit of a lake, and a simple blind made of "t" post and burlap . . .

It was with that Woodberry crew, led by Clyde Firman, when I first hunted on the Currituck sound (the first two pictures below).  That year, a few of us hunted with guide Paul Garrett.  We hunted with Paul again this year.  As you can see, Paul's gotten us on the birds, year after year.  




Hunting out of a "scissor" rig, cut pine set into the floating frame and also into the gunwale, we didn't do too bad... scratching out a limit with greenheads, a black duck, a few redheads and assorted divers and buffleheads.   A good ol' time on the sound.  










After shooting a limit of birds, a day topped off with fried soft crabs and flounder and trout isn't too bad . . .



Several days passed.  After I'm sure I upset a few of my neighbors by leaving some birds to hang on my apartment porch, I cooked a mallard, keeping the breast attached to the leg, and following a basic recipe from Steven Rinella.  Score the fat (duck fat is hard to beat), sear in a cast-iron fat side down first, then transfer to a 400 degree oven for a few minutes.  I swear it's the best duck I've ever eaten and it's my new "go-to" duck cooking method.

I could get used to this "sound to table" thing.



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