Smartphones, cell phones, drones and GPS are mysteries of science. The same people who could never tell you why they work will readily accept they do work.
The same kinds of mysteries exist for sportsmen. There is some kind of magic out there. It works for you and against you.
Why does a flock of ducks land in your decoys seconds after you have taken your eyes off the set to pour coffee from a thermos or rummage through your game bag for a candy bar? Some would call it coincidence. Yet it has happened time after time after time and most sportsmen I know have been victimized.
On a hunting trip to Manitoba back in September, this writer was decked out with a loaded Remington 870 with some big canvasback decoys in front of me. Nothing came along and, in my boredom, I finally took a few steps away from my spot and poured myself a cup of coffee. I was taking my first sip when a bull canvasback winged its way through the set. Fifteen seconds earlier it would have been a great opportunity to pull a trigger.
A friend and I once decided to conduct an experiment while duck hunting on an island in Otter Tail County. Three times after long intervals of being on full alert, I left my spot and walked out of range. All three times a flock of diving ducks appeared from out of a clear, blue sky. My pal bagged his limit. I never fired a shot.
It works with other kinds of hunting, as well.
Right after dinner on a beautiful Sunday afternoon many years back, an old farmhand walked down a fence line with miles and miles of flat, open country around him and sat down. It would have been tough to pick a worse spot to post. He was not hunting from a stand or even a blind. He just sat down in the grass in the middle of nowhere. He carried the usual barnyard scent around with him. He knew less about deer hunting than he knew about nuclear physics. Sure enough, a few minutes after he parks himself on that fence line, a 12-point trophy buck trots up to him.
On a recent trip to a popular wildlife area about eight miles from my home, I was not too surprised to bump into another pheasant hunter and his dog. What bummed me out was that he was hunting right where I had intended to hunt. It was time to be a good sport and take second best, so I tried a spot down the road. Ten minutes later, my dog flushed up a rooster for me. The guy hunting “my” spot never fired a shot.
In case anyone is wondering, it also works with fishing.
My great-uncle sat in his spearing house one winter day from the time he finished with morning chores until it was time for the evening milking. He never saw a fish. His nephew came along to visit just as he was ready to call it quits. Even though the place had been the “Dead Sea” all day, they decided he would try spearing in my uncle’s house. A few minutes later, a 25-pound northern slid into the hole.
A friend and I took our young sons out for some summer fishing one evening. We put the boat in the lake, picked out a spot, dropped the anchor, baited up for walleyes and waited. Nothing happened for about an hour, and the boys were getting restless.
That is when random chance took over.
To raise our flagging hopes, my pal jokingly pulled a “fish whistle” out of his tackle box. Actually, it was just a plain old whistle. Since it is not too hard to make little kids believe in magic, my pal gave it a toot. Seconds later, three of our four bobbers disappeared at the same time. Three walleyes for the stringer, just like that. We rebaited and started fishing again. The “fish whistle” was returned to the tackle box during this time. It sat there idle for about 10 minutes until a six-year-old missing his two front teeth demands, “Hey Mauk, bro dat fiss vistle again!”