Public Water Often Breeds Conflict Between Kindred Spirits
When folks with similar interests play on public land or water, conflict or confrontation sometimes arise.
This is nothing new to most hunters. We're accustomed to getting up earlier, walking or motoring farther, and trying to be smarter than the other guy, solely so we can avoid pressure and find a tiny chunk of heaven for a few hours.
Sometimes, however, common sense seems to fly out the window when outdoorsmen aren't competing directly against each other. Often, this involves fishermen who inadvertently or perhaps obliviously cause headaches for duck and goose hunters set up on water.
Before the gist, here's a caveat. I'm not bashing anglers. I am one, as are most duck hunters, I'd guess. And of course, many avid fishermen also hunt. Further, I'm not suggesting that fishermen who unintentionally hinder duck or goose hunters are bad folks. They're just trying to enjoy the outdoors and maybe don't realize that their proximity to a decoy spread is limiting another guy's chances of doing the same.
Still, these interests seem to collide every fall and winter, and waterfowlers typically lose the most from such encounters. After all, a guy jigging for perch can still catch a basket full while sitting on a rock hump 50 yards downwind from a duck hunter. However, the angler has essentially cut off the waterfowl hunter, as his presence will surely flare ducks. And even if ducks approach the waterfowler's spread, the hunter probably cannot shoot because of safety considerations.
I saw it again this past week. A friend and I set up our layout boat and decoy spread on a rock reef on a large metropolitan lake. My buddy shot a few ducks the first hour of daylight, one of which I had to dispatch after a brief chase. As I motored away with the bird, I was startled to see a walleye boat on full plane roaring past me. I was even more surprised to see it stop 70 yards downwind from the decoy spread and stop.
At first, I thought they might be duck hunters who were upset because we'd set up in front of their shoreline blind. But when the boat dropped anchor, I recognized the situation and had to say something.
I motored slowly past my buddy, who shook his head and rolled his eyes. Then, I slowly approached the fishermen and said, Hey, no offense, but don't you think you're a little close? One sheepishly acknowledged the gaffe and said he'd merely started fishing there because the area was marked on his GPS. The other, however, informed me that the reef was a popular spot and then claimed that we'd shot at the boat (which, of course, we had not).
Finally, the sheepish fisherman fired up the motor and went elsewhere, and I was satisfied that the situation had been diffused without any damage. Yet, I wondered, why had there been a situation at all? You cannot tell me that the anglers didn't know they were almost within shotgun range of a layout boat and several dozen decoys — especially after we'd just shot a duck. Further, no matter their enthusiasm for fishing and perhaps their level of selfishness, the guys had to realize that their actions were negatively affecting someone else. And that someone else was really a kindred spirit in the outdoors.
Maybe the grumpy angler just doesn't like duck hunters. Or maybe he doesn't care who he offends provided he gets some fish. Then again, the incident could have resulted from an innocent mistake. Unfortunately, such awkward and potentially dangerous encounters seem to be increasingly common on popular multi-use waters.
Bottom line? We should use our heads. A duck hunter shouldn't purposely set up close to an angler who was there first. Fishermen should extend the same courtesy. And both parties must remember that they have more common interests than differences — not to mention plenty of water to enjoy the outdoors without messing up an ally.
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