The Fish Story

Duck Puts Cat Lives to Shame; Doing Alligator Meat Taste Test

By JAY MANN | Apr 05, 2017
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

THE DUCK THAT DIDN’T DUCK … OR DIE: Bear with me as I tell the simple, quasi-sad story of a now-dead but once dead-then-not-dead duck, specifically a female Canada ring-neck duck, which was killed one good by a hunter but ended up being only moderately dead and went on to resurrect itself, while hanging upside in a frigid storage refrigerator, entwined within a gaggleless gaggle of less resurrectionally inclined ducks.

Hell, even I need an explanation after that.

It all began on Jan. 7, 2007, when fervid Floridian hunter Dale Tadlock blasted the ring-neck duck. It went down like a shot, hit in the leg, neck, beak and wing. Dale’s hunting dog was on the bird in a heartbeat, followed by one of those slobbery retriever bring-backs.

The blasted ring-neck topped off a good hunting day for Dale. He tied this final score to the day’s brace of birds and called it quits. The bagged and tied ducks bounced off the hunter’s back as he hiked back to his vehicle, where the birds were chucked inside for the drive homeward.

Back at his Tallahassee digs, Dale threw his take into a special “game-only” fridge, to await cleaning – which didn’t happen all that soon. In fact, the ducks sat in chilly storage for two days before things took a coolly odd turn.

Dale’s wife, Pamela, was happenstancely walking past her hubby’s man-fridge – a fridge she would later tell reporters she “never opened” – and, well, opened it. Let’s think she had this overwhelming impulse to look inside the forbidden appliance.

Within, she saw a load of two-day-dead ducks. Then, just as she was about to close the door, from among the feathery game ball, one of the duck heads raised up, sorta, “Uh, can I get a little help here?”

After an initial flush of shock, Pamela’s mother duck instincts kicked in. Not a big fan of hunting to begin with, she carefully and compassionately unraveled the not-dead duck from amid the other seriously-dead ducks.

Acting the first-responder, she warmed it up.

The year-old duck responded, looking every bit of “This migration thing is really weird.”

Wounded bird in hand, Pamela recruited her daughter to rush her charge to the nearest vet. This was done on the QT, as to not alert hubby dearest. Ironically, the wife had once specifically warned her hunting hubbie that anything he shoots and brings home had better be dead – or she’d rescue it. “Told ya, dude.”

It was at the emergency facilities at Goose Creek Animal Sanctuary that the drama really took flight. The duck was obviously in critical condition, pretty much shot to hell and back. However, the vets there took one gander at the hanging-on bird and targeted it in a far different manner than the hunter had. They aimed to save it one good. The duck was rushed into surgery.

Sadly, while under the knife, it died. I kid you not. That’s right from the mouth of a doctor, who later recalled how the patient expired under the strain of surgery.

Now, I personally picture the duck lying there with little X’s in its eyes as the doctors look on, stunned and hurt, until one of them growls something fittingly heroic like, “Not on my shift, you don’t!” and pulls a little defibrillator out of the front pocket of his scrubs; holding its tiny paddles between his thumbs and forefingers, shouting “Clear!” and blasting the lifeless patient with a duck-sized jolt of electricity.

Reality was almost as cool. Susan May of the animal sanctuary told news.bbc.co.uk that the surgery was constantly a feather’s breath from failure, with the duck passing in and out of consciousness.

“The first time she stopped breathing, a quick thump on the chest brought her back,” May told the BBC News website. “Once the surgeon started sewing her back up, she stopped breathing again, this time for 15 seconds.”

In that heart-stopping instance, a simple chest thump failed. Vet surgeon David Hale began manipulating the duck’s beak, hoping to open its airway. No luck. He then resorted to poking the duck with a needle, a technique used to essentially jab a patient back to consciousness. Nothing. In a final flurry of resuscitation moves, the duck was given pure oxygen. Flatline.

“At that point the vet turned and said:  ‘I’m sorry, she’s gone,’” said May.

It was a somber scene, something right out of “House.”

Then, a touch Lazarus-like, the oft-dead duck suddenly raised her head – and even began flapping her wings. The mood in the surgery room soared.

The lengthy operation wound up being a lofty success. Intricate lifesaving repairs were made, though the wounded wing couldn’t be saved. Within days, the duck was on the road to a remarkable recovery – and to a life of relative luxury … another quack at life, as it were.

Although permanently grounded, the duck became a beloved mainstay at an animal park, being routinely visited by none other than her rescuer, Pamela.

I must re-mention that the duck that wouldn’t die did recently pass, for real, of old age – after nine years of being pretty much coddled. And if any creature deserved a constant coddling, it was this life-tenacious ring-neck hen.

RATING GATOR MEAT: I received an email from an experimentative epicurean couple who read about the alligator meat being sold at ShopRite and just had to try some. Their culinary conclusion was a split card.

The fellow favored it, offering the tried-and-tested “tastes like chicken,” adding, “It also has a gamey flavor.” He said that he’ll likely try it again.

The gal was less than certain about “gator-kebabs.” She was first surprised at how it didn’t taste.

“Since it was in the fish section of the store, I thought it would taste just like fish. It really didn’t. … It had a more meaty flavor than I expected,” she said.

When asked if she’d munch on gator again, she hesitated, then offered, “I might eat it again, maybe barbecued, maybe this summer after a few beers,” she said, adding, “It really needs spices, lots of spices.”

The man’s taste-like-chicken read jibes with gator-cooking expert Chef Kenny Gilbert of Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen in Fernandina Beach, Fla. At foodandwine.com, Gilbert says, “The age-old saying ‘it tastes like chicken’ actually applies here … kind of. When cooked, alligator has a similar texture to dark meat chicken, but with a faint fishiness to it. … Think of it as if a chicken and a grouper fish had a baby.”

Wow. Forget the flavor thing, let me ponder what a grouper might possibly say to woo a chicken into the water … much less …

SHEER DREDGERY: I need to dispel a minor misunderstanding floating around: There will be NO Army Corps-based beach replenishment until after summer. That’s when Harvey Cedars, Surf City and Brant Beach areas will get pumped upon.

That said, I see no way that Holgate’s beaches won’t get some sand prior to summer IF (!) the Little Egg Inlet channel dredge project passes muster. The jury (ACE) is still out on that, though a decision has to come mighty dang soon. I’m told that the Corps got the DEP’s application only last week. I had thought it was sent in earlier. Nope.

As to where in Holgate sucked-up channel sand might go – or how much of it would be pumped – is a mystery.

I’m open for educated guesses on how much sand must be removed to build a proper and navigable channel in a big-ass inlet, one that has never had a man-made channel built through it before. When making a sand amount estimate, factor in the depth and width. Hey, don’t be asking how deep or how wide one makes a state-official channel. Remember, this won’t be a fed-class channel. It’s a Garden State channel, an eelgrass-roots effort.

Face it, there’s no easy guessing at the specific volume of sand that will be moved. Professional guesses will be made during the bidding process – but that’s just what they’ll be, guesses. Furthermore, translating that unknown amount of sand into beach coverage … distances and depths? Forget about it. It’s all dredge-and-learn.

With that, I’ll now add a new possibility: Feds say “no way“ to beach placement of sand. However, they’ve as much as said they don’t give a rat’s rear about the sucking-out of a Little Egg Inlet channel. Might the channel-building sand get sucked up and then pumped out past the shoals – dumped at sea, as it were? That would sidestep ACE and avoid any interference with summer beachgoing types, while sidestepping any “adjacency clause“ protests from the now be-plovered Forsythe Refuge.

I’m not big on the sand-to-the-sea scenario. We really should begin working on the feasibility/doability of an inlet-to-beach sand pump methodology, utilizing a renewable sand source. I’m always future-gazing for LBI, an LBI future I believe still looks fun and bright, despite doomsdayists.

RUNDOWN: I’m taking a deep breath before action picks up on the fishing and outdoorsing fronts. Not that I haven’t been out and about aplenty. But much of my outdoorsing has been on the QT, as I explore while drawing minimal attention to myself. No, it’s nothing illegal. I just prefer to explore alone. Add a George Thorogood & The Destroyers riff if you must, maybe “You know when I hike alone, I prefer to be by myself.” However, I bring everything back with me, to offer up in this column and at fishlbi.com.

This is the time of year I enjoy making drives over to the Mullica, especially to mid-way river points, like the landings and bridges. Most recently, a few small bass are the most I’ve heard of off the bridges. The landings have been very quiet.

Graveling Point has seen small fish at very most. Per Scott’s Bait and Tackle (yes, he’s open), there have yet to be any legal-sized stripers from the Point.

The ocean has been gorgeous of late – clean and inviting, be it for surfing or surfcasting. I’ve taken water temps as high as 46.9 but have heard surface waters going above 50. Those are schoolie bass temps.

There are small bass in the bay, north (High Bar area) to middle (Causeway bridges zone) and south (Beach Haven-ish). Most of the action is nighttime, on artificials.

By the by, I have no insights whatsoever into the legality of fishing atop, or even beneath, the Causeway trestle bridges while the Big Bridge rebuild is taking place. Give it a go. Tell the judge I said it was all right.

I do know fishing is legal, fine and good off the Ship Bottom bayside fishing pier, West 11th Street – boat launch area. That pier can also be fished to target winter flounder during the day, the channel being within casting distance.

Tackle shops can set you up with best black-back rigging and bait. You’d just better have patience coursing through your veins. That’s a tough one for me; I’ve noticed that patience can be very time consuming.

jaymann@thesandpaper.net

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