Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni
On Tuesday, October 14, 1969, Forda Birds wrote his first outdoor column for the Leader. It was about waterfowl hunting and the season opener…who would have suspected that. Since this is the 50th anniversary of that column and it’s still timely, I thought I’d share what I had to say back then about my favorite hunting sport. I’ve learned a lot over the years, and I think I’ve grown as an outdoor writer. I started recognizing that when I was informed by a pro that only rank amateurs refer to the Canada goose as the Canadian goose. Regardless, here was my first attempt at writing a newspaper column. K.C. Geiger thought it was okay.
By Forda Birds
“To a great number of area sportsmen, the opening of the waterfowl season is a mighty important day. I know of at least one calendar that has an X marked through October 21, and it has been like that since the law was announced last summer.
The excitement and anticipation of opening day is rapidly building. Hunters have put the finishing touches on their blinds and have readied their decoys. They’ve taken an inventory of last year’s ammunition and have blown through their callers at least once. Most of them have their favorite scattergun dug out of the closet. Matter of fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if all of the hunters started to feel that perennial itch to go out to their favorite spot on the lake or a freshly picked corn field and enjoy a good hunt.
It’s a funny thing about this itch that waterfowl hunters have. Once you get it, you never seem to be able to get rid of it. You can’t cure it, you can only relieve it. To those of you who feel it coming on, here’s a few suggestions to help ease the discomfort.
You might relieve that itch by poling your rowboat under the overhanging branches of a willow tree into a quiet backwater pool, watching blackbirds wheel and dip in noisy curiosity, hearing fox squirrels hiding in the hickory and scrub oak scold you for the intrusion, starting as a brace of mallards explode from the water and with a whir of beating wings pick a path through the branches.
It might help your malady if you could be somewhere hearing the whistle of wings behind you and looking into the early morning light waiting for it to develop with no other sound to be heard except the wind clawing through the fence row and the sleet and snow hitting your windbreaker.
Watching flights of blacks and greenheads going out to feed sometimes giving you a pass or two, would help you forget your problem. You would be guaranteed complete relief when that one bunch finally swings you direction and glides slowly into your decoys with wings hooked.
Remember the last time you heard the call of the Canadian Honkers or the higher pitched call of the Blues and Snows? Your itch didn’t bother you then. Their cry was very faint yet clearly audible, and you strained your eyes searching for the source of the sound.
As soon as you saw them, they saw your silhouette decoys. As they grew closer, they began their countless circles craning their necks left and right surveying the situation, chuckling their approval at certain shadows and completely ignoring others. You never moved a muscle. Finally they came in low, wings set and the wild birds became unaware of everything around except the food below.
No, the itch old Mother Nature gave waterfowl hunters is enjoyable and they cherish every moment it bothers them. It makes no difference what particular itch the waterfowl season gives you, it won’t be too long now before you’ll be able to scratch it.”