Two More
B.Y. High Duck Tales

From 1954-1956


On one of our first B.Y. High Rod and Gun Club hunts to Strawberry Reservoir, we had a delay in getting to the blinds on time. However, we made the 60-mile trip on icy roads and arrived at our secret parking place several hours before dawn. The temperature was well below zero.

We unloaded all of our gear and guns, and loaded ourselves down to make the three-quarter mile trek to our blinds.

We were all wearing at least two pair of pants and a couple of shirts and a heavy coat to keep warm. We also wore hip boots with several pair of socks. Our warm, ear-flapped hunting hats and gloves completed our outfits. Each of us had a large supply of food that included sandwiches, potato chips, cookies, a thermos filled with hot chocolate, and at least two heavy boxes of shotgun shells. Each of us had either a backpack or a duffle bag to hold our personal stuff.

This was the first time Ken Briggs had come hunting with us. Our route required that we hike first to a small stream that emptied into the reservoir. We struck the stream about 50 yards above where it ended flowing over rocks, after which it produced a mud delta.

The water spread out over the mud delta and was only 3 or 4 inches deep. But the mud there was very gooey and very deep. We had explored this delta on prior trips and had learned to walk upstream paralleling the willow-lined stream some hundred yards or so, in order to cross the stream at a narrow spot, then walk back down the stream and reach the other side where our blinds were.

Ken was the last in line as we hiked along quietly so as not to disturb the ducks and geese in the warm spring waters just off shore from the blinds we were to occupy. Unbeknownst to us, Ken decided he was not going to pack all that stuff upstream and cross when he could just walk across that delta in the three or four inches of water.

By the time we made the upstream crossing and returned to the spot on the other side of the delta, Ken had sunk down into the delta mud up to his armpits, just as if he had fallen into quicksand. Holding his gun, shells, and lunch over his head, he gave us a forlorn look and pleaded, “Help!”

Wow, what could we do? The temperature was below zero. We had not heard of hypothermia back then, but common sense told us we needed to get him to shore, dry him out, warm him up, and then get organized so we could hunt. After all, we did not come all the way up here with that hard-earned gas money ($.18 per gallon) to just baby someone and miss our hunting.

First, we told Ken to try to throw us his gun, lunch, shells, and thermos. He was only able to toss us his gun, and it didn’t quite make it. It fell in the mud, and we had to fish it out. A couple of the guys ran around and gathered a whole bunch of sagebrush that they used to get a huge fire going. The fire would probably scare the ducks, but hopefully we could get them back with our decoys and duck calls.

With all the stuff we had, we discovered we did not have any rope. Each of us took off our belt and we hooked them all together. Now we just had to get the long belt out to Ken and figure out how to use it to pull him out. All the belts together turned out to be not long enough to reach him, and he was so stuck he could not even wiggle his legs. By this time, his hip boots had filled with cold water and mud, and things were getting serious.

I think it was Greg Andrus who suggested that Stan Knight, being the smallest and lightest of us, could strip down, belly scoot out on the delta, and take the long belt to Ken. Then Stan could take all the heavy stuff from Ken and even try to get some of his clothing off, such as his coat, and get all of that baggage to shore.

Stan scooted out on the delta and back to the bonfire a number of times before we had all of Ken’s stuff, and were ready to try to pull him in.

Needing a miracle, we stretched and reached as far as we could. Urgency and a healthy dose of fear gave us all the extra strength we needed.

Ken leaned forward and with everyone pulling -- ssslooop -- out came the first leg with the boot on and then -- ssslooop -- out came the other leg along with that mud-filled boot. We skidded him across the delta with the belts and we soon had him at the huge fire, stripped down and toasting. He stayed at the fire until he was completely dried out. The rest of us went hunting. Soon here came Ken, dried mud and all, but ready to hunt!

We had good luck, and enjoyed our hunt despite our near brush with disaster.


On another of our hunting trips to Strawberry Reservoir, we lucked into a whole flock of geese just standing in the snow on the shore right where our blinds were.

But, I'm getting ahead of my story.

It was the coldest time I can ever remember going to the reservoir to hunt. It must have been at least 20 degrees below zero, with about two feet of snow on the ground. We had a partial moon, just enough to see an outline of the flock of geese about a half mile away. The geese were "talking" to each other, either from the cold, or because they were nervous about our presence.

Geese are really smart. They seem to have a special sense about danger. Over the years, I have spent a lot of time lying in wait for them to come into decoys, and trying to understand them. It is a real challenge to be able to put one on the table, and they taste great, if prepared right.

We were excited as we contemplated how to approach the flock and bag some birds. We put together a plan designating where each of us should go so as to surround the flock and perhaps all get a shot or two.

We all knew in advance that the weather that day was going to be extra cold. Back in those days, we did not have much choice in clothing that we could use to keep warm. We had learned that one of the best ways to keep our legs warm on an extra cold day was to wear four pairs of pants. Yes, that is right, four pairs of pants.

Four pair of pants is what caused the problem and kept me from being able to share in the sneaking up on the flock and getting some good shots. You see, I got delayed --

Ken Briggs suddenly found himself in the situation of needing to relieve himself. I suppose it could have because of the excitement. Without thinking the whole situation through, and while trying to move fast, he first removed his gloves. Yes, both of them. That was his mistake number one.

Then he began to work to unzip and unbutton all four sets of pants, with his hands exposed to the extreme cold. Finally, he maneuvered appropriately to obtain relief. By now, lots of things on Ken were getting very cold. Get the picture?

Then with his trademark forlorn look and quivering voice, he said to me, “Help me, Chuck! -- my hands are so stiff so I can’t use them -- I just can’t get myself put back together and close all of my pants up.”

I was not about to do the necessary work for him, so I decided I had to talk him through it.

I told him to put on my gloves and warm up his hands as fast as he could, so he could go to work and not have anything freeze off. I also got him to stomp his feet to keep his circulation going. It was a critical situation -- there are just certain body parts that you do not want to freeze off.

I put my bare hands under my armpits to keep them warm, and kept talking to Ken so he wouldn’t fail to accomplish what needed to be done here.

It seemed like an eternity passed while he slowly warmed his hands, made the necessary adjustments to re-garage, and then got rezipped and rebuttoned.

In the meantime, the rest of the group had charged into the geese -- that was all over -- and now they were moving to set up the blinds so they could get in even more shooting.

Ken finally got all restructured and warmed up enough to move on to the blinds and do some serious hunting.

I am happy to report that we bagged some birds, had a great lunch, and yes, Ken has fathered a wonderful family.

~~Chuck Hackley, Class of 1956

Strawberry: Our old "stomping grounds"