I glanced over at Linda Powell and fidgeted in my waders. It was cold — not Artic Circle cold, but 20 degrees with a stiff wind is chilly. I was dressed for it and not in bad shape, other than a nagging feeling I might have a small leak in my right wader. Along with outdoor writer Brad Fitzpatrick and our guide Robert Manning, Linda and I were sitting in a partially submerged duck blind near Engelhard, N.C. Ducks were flying, our shotgun barrels were sometimes warm to the touch and I was happy to just be there on a day duck hunters dream about.
When 20 Green-wing teal come screaming in low over your blind to hit your decoys, they make a sound that is hard to describe. Their wings cutting the air makes more than a swish but less than the blare of a jet. This sound makes duck hunters hunker lower in the blind and Labrador duck dogs roll their eyes as they shiver and wait. Our guide Robert keeps up welcoming chatter on his duck call and finally says “OK! Take ‘em!” Linda, Brad and I rise as one and start banging away. I keep up my streak for the morning by missing three times. Teal may be the fastest ducks around and these guys have big tail wind, it’s like shooting at bees in a hurricane.
Fast, cold ducks, and chilly weather aside I am thrilled to be here. Along with Brad and Linda, we are here to put the new Mossberg 940 shotgun through its paces. The 940 has descended from the Mossberg 930 line of semi-auto shotguns which I have had some experience with. A few years ago you may recall from these pages I took a 930 to Gunsite Academy in Arizona and went through a fairly grueling shotgun course. The 930 did nothing but eat ammo and shoot for three days in the desert sand. In truth, I didn’t see much room for improvement with the 940 model, but Mossberg did it.
Working with world champion shooter Jerry Miculek, Mossberg (www.mossberg.com) gave the 940 a redesigned gas system, oversized bolt release and charging handle (great for hunters with bulky gloves), a slimmer fore end and a completely adjustable stock system. All of these features are great, which you will see when you grab a 940. What may have impressed me the most is this new gas system can reportedly go over 1,500 rounds without a cleaning, in the semiauto shotgun world, that is impressive.
Linda Powell is the director of media relations at Mossberg and she has us booked with Dare to Hyde Adventures at Swan Quarter, N.C., and we are staying at their Lake Mattamuskeet Outpost. Dare to Hyde Adventures offers a wide variety of hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities in this area. They may be best known for their world class duck hunting and guiding their clients to the largest black bears in the world. This area has vast crop fields of corn, soybeans, and wheat with many almost impenetrable swamps all around. This makes for a bear smorgasbord with plenty of nearby cover. As I understand it, these bears do not hibernate so they basically can stay up all winter and eat, unlike the mountain bears in my state. All of this adds up to bears reaching a monstrous size and Dare to Hyde reported their average bear taken this past season was over 500 pounds!
We are here for the ducks however and on our first day in the blind we are not disappointed. Robert the guide keeps the duck calls going and we keep the Mossberg 940 barrels warm. I am shooting a lot of Kent Cartridge shotshells, but not reducing the local duck population as much as I would like. Fellow outdoor writer Brad did a very unselfish thing first thing in the morning by missing the first duck so we would not feel too bad when missing later. I really appreciated it!
As often happens on hunting trips when you are out in the cold all day, thoughts and conversation turn to food. Brad began to regale us with stories of what he says is a wonderful local dish from his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. Skyline chili is evidently a big deal in that area and has been for a long time. Now I am a big fan of chili in general, but as Brad explained to us how Skyline chili is prepared (ingredients include chocolate and cinnamon) and some of the things it is eaten with, like noodles, let’s just say I was somewhat skeptical. This became a topic of discussion in the blind and at the Dare to Hyde Outpost for the next few days. Maybe Brad will let me visit his fair city sometime and sample the chili and we can continue the discussion.
As always, our stay in this beautiful part of North Carolina was much too short. We had great food in the evenings with the guides and staff at the Outpost where we were made to feel like family. The hunter’s banter around the table with this bunch of young guides made you want to stay and visit much too late, but duck hunting mornings start really early. It all went by way to fast.
My family and I visit the Outer Banks almost every summer and I often look across Pamlico Sound and think, “Wonder what is over there?” Well, I found out, and I like it. I will be going back, for the ducks, maybe the bears and the beauty and wildlife of this wonderful place.
But Brad, no offense — I still don’t know about that chili.