The story of David and goliath crossed my mind as I maneuvered through corn and tall grass toward the tree where my quarry awaits. Three doves perched unsuspectingly in the weathered black locust on the northwest end of the one acre drainage creek. As I inch closer, I am thankful that I have such an oasis not ten minutes from my small inner city apartment. A 6’0” 217 pound man preparing to ambush a trio of birds whose combined mass is but a fraction of a pound makes me wonder how David felt as he headed towards what all others said to be suicide. As I make my way within thirty yards of the birds, I notice one of them turn its head with an urgency that can only mean it detects danger. I figure that closing to twenty yards will allow my gun to knock at least two of the doves into my game bag. I inch my way out of the corn to where I can see the birds, hit the record button on my Tactacam affixed to the barrel of my gun, level the bead, and with a sharp report my twelve-gauge sends a cloud of 8 shot into their safe haven of tangled branches. Feathers fly, branches give way to the pellets, and to my amazement; three doves take flight and whiz over my head towards the mulberry tree on the other end of the field. I eject the spent shell and lower my head as I make the walk of shame to their new perch on the opposite end of the creek.
As my hunt continues, I can’t help but be thankful and reflect on how I came to hunt this little slice of Heaven on Earth. It all started one afternoon after class on my way to hunt a few thousand acre reservoir for waterfowl with some buddies. Just past the city limit sign, on the west side of the highway, we passed a drainage creek that parted a cornfield down the center. The meandering creek, about six feet wide and four feet deep, is bordered with CRP for about fifty feet on either side acting as a buffer for runoff from the fifty acre agricultural field. There are two large mulberry trees where the creek meets the culvert under the highway to mark the field’s eastern boundary. About 200 yards to the west, along the barbed wire trimmed property line, are three more large mulberries and an ancient black locust tree. A small thicket of twenty plum trees, five cotton woods, and six silver maples marked the middle of the creek, while small spruce trees scattered randomly throughout the remaining open space. The creek and its variety of habitat was not what caught my eye; instead it was the flooded portion of the field on the south side of the creek that happened to have thirty mallards bobbing around picking corn from beneath the water’s surface. I gazed in amazement at the number of birds on the murky puddle about twice the size of a toddlers plastic wading pool as the driver said, “Man, I wish we could hunt there.” We continued on to the reservoir and hunted between three other groups of hunters overlooking a cove that fit the wind conditions, only to leave empty handed and dissatisfied with the experience.
Over the next week, I traveled that highway daily to gawk over the flooded corn that would routinely be covered in ducks. Finally, I stopped at the nearest house that edged the corn field. After praying for the courage to ask about the property and possibly permission to hunt it, I headed to the front door and rang the doorbell. A frail old woman answered and I introduced myself and expressed my interest in the ducks and the creek to the north of her house. She laughed as she informed me that it was indeed her field and said that the ducks were there almost every afternoon. I asked her if she would allow me to hunt the creek, and to my amazement she said yes! I could barely contain my excitement as I climbed back into my car after thanking her graciously.
The next day after class I hurried home to grab the shotgun, shells, and camo and wasted no time heading to the creek. As I drove past, sure enough the pond was filled with sleeping mallards. I returned to the field entrance on the opposite side of the creek from the ducks only to notice that there was no real cover to make a good stalk on the birds other than wind-blown CRP and one of the mulberry trees. I elected to walk in the ditch along the highway as it was low enough to provide me cover as I approached shotgun range of the ducks position. I came to the culvert and stood up to find that the ducks were still sleeping. I found that the culvert had been dammed by beavers, the reason for the flooded field, and the dam provided me a way to cross the creek. Once across, I belly crawled through the mowed grass that edged the highway (surely to the amusement of the drivers) toward the edge of the CRP that hid me from the ducks view. I crawled as far as I could to the point where the grass turned into a soggy mat and pushed myself up to my knees not even twenty yards from the still sleeping ducks. I aligned the barrel with two drakes whose heads were single filed, and fired. The clatter of feet and pounding of wings was deafening as the remaining birds took flight. Once the flock had disappeared, I walked through the mucky water to pick up my double greenhead prize. My first ducks.
I continued to hunt this little creek for the remainder of my time in community college. Through the two years of hunting, that little piece of heaven provided enough table fare to feed me and my roommates when they felt like eating what I had killed. The city I lived in had plenty of public hunting areas, most were thousands of acres in size. I had hunted almost all of them for waterfowl, upland birds, doves, rabbit, and squirrel; yet their thousands of acres of opportunity failed to produce the game that my little creek oasis did.
Again I am reminded of David and Goliath as I reminisce on my hunts on the little creek. That small piece of land is like David, it was hardly a fraction of what most people would look for in a hunting location, yet God had crafted the perfect few acres of habitat to provide big opportunities for the game and myself as the hunter. The trees provided shelter for the doves as they dove in and out of the corn. The thicket provided rabbits a place of refuge until my presence was too much for them to handle. The spruce trees mingled with the CRP offered the perfect mix of cover for upland birds, providing my table with pheasant on multiple occasions. Where the agricultural field met the tall grass, provided proof of deer, fox, coyote, raccoon and even turkey through the tracks they left. The creek, even after a trapper’s successful beaver season, provided perfect habitat for wood ducks and mallards as they migrated between there summer homes and the larger reservoir. All of the species had more than enough food with fifty acres of picked corn to forage on. The mulberries even convinced many species of songbirds to hang around long enough for me to photograph them before taking flight off to better things.
Just like David and Goliath, bigger does not always mean better. Often times, hunters are attracted to large tracts of land with the idea that the creatures we hunt are also attracted to large areas of habitat. The reality is that the game we hunt are attracted to the habitat that meets their needs. Often times, small pieces of land have all of the essentials for attracting and holding a wide variety of species. That particular creek provided me with more doves than I can count, six geese, four wood ducks, eight mallards, three rabbits, four pheasants, and ten squirrels in the two years that I hunted it. Not bad for a broke college guy.
Goliath had the size to his advantage, yet lacked the essential faith that gives true victory to those who seek it. David was small but had all he needed in God who led his path. I now look at hunting with the same ideology. So often we overlook the small tracts, when they have everything they need to make big things happen. I am thankful for the big lessons I had the opportunity to learn from God on that small creek, most importantly, don’t overlook the small tracts.