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AN ARTICLE in Sun-
The morning hunts, prior to the big dedication festivities, were long on fun but short on ducks in the bag. But, hey, that's duck hunting. The camaraderie of a duck blind is a wonderful thing and, hopefully, some wounded service members who are new to the sport have discovered another way to enjoy the outdoors.
The day didn't end with the ceremony, though.
After the formal program, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Dave Elwing, president of the Pentagon Chapter of Ducks Unlimited, asked Chief Warrant Officer Bradley A. Garfield, an explosive ordnance disposal officer who was wounded by an explosive device, if he wanted to hang around for an afternoon hunt.
Garfield, like many wounded warriors, is a consummate trooper, ready to push the boundaries of the perceived limitations caused by their injuries. He and Elwing headed toward a semi-frozen marshy area of Quantico, where they racked up a limit of mallards, black ducks and a pintail.
Elwing described the afternoon as one of those moments of duck-hunting nirvana. His joy at sharing it with Garfield was palpable.
The expanded hunting opportunities at Quantico come about through a cooperative effort. Ducks Unlimited staff members designed the boardwalks and blinds to allow access for wheelchair-bound hunters and other disabled vets. The organization's volunteers also raised funds to purchase materials. Marine Corps and DU volunteers built the blinds and boardwalks.
In a Semper Fi effort, Mike Budd, DU's regional biologist, along with Elwing and Quantico's Col. Wade Hall and Tim Stamps, shepherded the duck blind project.
LOCAL MEN ROLL BIG ROCKS
Our fishing report compiler, Michael O'Malley, sent word of a group of local area men having a day for the record books while fishing out of Rudee Inlet in Virginia Beach for rockfish this week with Danny Crabbe on the Kit II.
They'd nearly picked up a limit of big winter rocks by trolling before trying some light tackle jigging. Every angler notched citation-sized fish quickly enough
O'Malley said Crabbe is having a good year putting clients on fish. He has reportedly limited out for his charters each time out, but the seven citation fish caught by Mark Butterworth, Rich McDaniel, Charlie McDaniel, Lee Cherwek, Mike Walker, Bruce Harlan and Mark Grissom nearly doubled the total number of citations recorded to date this year.
Last week, I discussed the increase in Virginia's hunting or boating-related fatalities since the start of the state's fiscal year 2008. The numbers stated were lower than the actual number experienced--unfortunately.
I reported that there had been nine hunting or boating-related fatalities but, in fact, the nine fatalities did not include the two duck hunters who died from what is classified as "boating-related," which makes sense because they were on their way to hunt but not yet hunting. These men are among 11 boating-related
Thanks to Julia Dixon of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for elaborating on these statistics. She notes that, "Of the nine hunting-related fatalities, two were due to falls from tree stands; two were 'two-party,' meaning there was a shooter and victim; and five were self-inflicted gunshot wounds."
Whether in the woods or on the water, boating or hunting, please take the time to be safe.
My comments last week about Eastern Shore duck hunting and a missed opportunity to dine on muskrat spurred a "You blew it" e-mail from Ben Rudasill of Stafford. He shared a story about dining with pals years ago in Benedict, Md., at the home of somebody's cousin.
The family was sitting around the table with huge platter of what looked and smelled like fried chicken.
"He said it was 'rabbit,'" Rudasill wrote. "It was absolutely delicious. Just like rabbit and cooked and seasoned to perfection. Needless to say, we all made pigs of ourselves.
"After we were finished eating, he turned to me and asked how I liked the marsh rabbit? It's not one of those meats you'd go out and buy and cook at home, but it was great!"
Reader Greg Headley of Westmoreland wrote to tell how his grandfather, great-uncle and father were all avid trappers and how he learned a lot about trapping "back in the day when fur was worth anything."
"It was interesting to read that muskrat was actually on the menu," Headley noted, adding his mother "loved 'em" and that they never had any problem getting rid of the muskrat.
Rudasill's parting admonition: "If you ever get another chance--don't turn it down."
I'm sold, guys. Next time muskrat is on the specials menu, I'm getting it. Could you re-comment a wine pairing? Muskrat and merlot? Or just a full-bodied lager beer? Preferably a couple before the entree arrives.
Ken Perrotte can be reached at The Free Lance-Star, 616 Amelia Street, Fredericksburg, Va. 22401, by fax at 373-8455 or e-mail