July 15, 2022
By Bob Humphrey
‘Twas the day before Christmas and all through the marsh, not a creature was stirring... The hunting had really slowed down due to unseasonably warm weather, and it had been more than a week since Bradley Close visited his Kansas hunting lease. Nonetheless, he ventured out for what he figured would be a very short duck hunt, stopping along the way to buy minnows for an afternoon of crappie fishing.
Only one small group of mallards visited his spread that morning and from that he managed to drop a single bird as it flared to his right. Approaching the downed duck, he noticed something peculiar as he reached for it along the bank. However, the bird was down but not out. “He looked dead, but all of a sudden his head came up and he dove,” said Close. “I tossed my shotgun into the weeds and jumped into the knee -deep water and reached under to grab him.”
He pulled up quite a surprise. In addition to a leg band—only Close’s fifth in 55 years of hunting—the duck also wore a Delta Waterfowl solar GPS transmitter. Curious to learn more, Close called the number on the tracker and left a message, then spent the rest of the day catching a mess of crappies.
Later that evening, he received an early Christmas present in the form of a call from the bander, legendary biologist Dr. Chris Nicolai, and a text message with info on the bird’s travels. “He was a great guy to talk ducks with, and to send info on that duck,” said Close. The maps and info showed not only how the bird got there, but that it had been there for four days. There’s no telling how much longer it might have stuck around, but with the holiday season and warm weather, it’s quite possible the hunter might never had his “close” encounter.
HUNTER: Bradley Close
BAND #: 2107-01830
SPECIES: Mallard (D)
LOCATION: Houghton, SD
LOCATION: 4 mi ENE Jingo, KS
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