It's Called a Pit for a Reason

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Published on: Oct. 2, 1998

Last revision: Nov. 2, 2010

several hundred pounds of gear into a small, dented aluminum boat outfitted with two oars. We figure that previous hunters, having failed to bag geese, vented their spleen on the frail craft.

"I hope this is okay," he mumbles, inspecting our huge pile of stuff. Scarcely 2 inches of draft remain visible above the waterline.

"It's not that far," I say, trying to convince him good times-and two limits of fat geese-lie just ahead. Reluctantly, he crawls in as I shove off. But our troubles have just begun.


Aluminum johnboats were not built to break ice. Propelling the mini-barge with one oar split down the middle like a spear and another broken-off like a sculling paddle, Bert pushes us ever closer to the pit. The ice creaks and shatters as the boat half-slides, half-floats towards our objective. Finally, we pull up outside the chamber of horrors that is to be our pit.

Someone had taken a huge metal tank, cut a wedge from its top and then stuck it deep into the pool's mucky bottom. Cornstalks and cattails decorate its exterior and, inside, the odor of rotting vegetation wafts above the flooded floor.

"Yecchhh!" Bert shrieks. Then, getting down to business, he asks, "Where should we tie the boat?" As usual, we're both clueless. Finally, he speaks, "What's that little mound of cattails over there?"

"I don't know. Let's go see."

Paddle, pole, push. We struggle over to the smaller pile of cattails only to be stunned into a rare moment of silence when we discover a boat blind.

"Oh, no," Bert wails. "I left our waders in the truck."

Two heads swivel, staring back across the half-mile of water so recently covered. We're both dripping with sweat. Our arms are tired from paddling and poling through ice and mud. In spots, the water and ice had been so shallow, we'd had to bulldoze the boat through yards of slimy gunk. And now we have to go back?

Thirty minutes later, literally stuffed into my waders like a sausage, I tether the boat in its hut and slosh back to our pit. The pool's other hunters, who'd been watching the sorry spectacle from shore, let out a rousing cheer before drifting back to their own pits.

I'm hot and sweaty. And then 15 minutes later I'm frozen, my feet dangling in 6 inches of stinking, frigid water. "Should have brought the heater," Bert muses, in an ill-fated attempt at meaningful conversation.

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