Hunters will recognize some of these opening-day experiences
You love opening day, but you loathe it, too. It's easy to see why. The opener is your first chance to get afield after a long off-season, and bird numbers — whether locals or early migrants — are often good. However, hard experience has taught you that everyone else with a duck stamp has the same plan, and marshes, lakes, wildlife areas and timber holes are usually crawling with hunters.
Of course, every opener is different, and you never know what to expect. Through the years, I've identified several types of first-day hunts on public water. You probably recognize these, too.
The Non-Participation Trophy
Opening day? Forget about it. There are too many yahoos, way too much calling, and far too many idiots crippling birds and not even trying to retrieve them. And who wants to swat mosquitoes all morning for a few wood ducks? There will be better days ahead, after the weekenders are gone and fresh migrant ducks arrive. Outsmart the masses by sitting out the opener. Go fishing. Go bowhunting. Heck, go for a walk in the woods with your wife. And when you start seething about missing the action, remember that you're also avoiding the unpleasantries.
The Rare Remote Gem
Like most guys, you scouted your butt off. Unlike most hunters, you actually found birds at a spot other folks have overlooked or aren't willing to access. This is a rare feat, and it doesn't happen as often as it used to. Mobile hunting apps have made everyone far more efficient at identifying secret areas. However, it's still possible to pull this off. And when it happens, you'd better make hay and enjoy it. Savor the experience of birds that actually work, and soak in the solitude.
The Blood Pressure Opener
You woke up at midnight or maybe even spent the night in the marsh. An hour before shooting light, two dudes with a deafening mud motor set up 75 yards downwind. Then they shoot at everything within 80 yards and keep encouraging their fat dog to get the birdie. It's maddening. Tempers are short. Shouting matches ensue. Birds flare. Hard feelings persist. Nothing goes right. And then you look on social media to see pictures of guys smiling over opening-day limits. These hunts will make you question your sanity.
Charlie Brown's Football
You know the drill. This year will be different. You and your buddies have a plan. Maybe you'll band together to monopolize a productive section of marsh. Perhaps you intend to beat everybody to a little-known timber hole. Either way, you're going to be smarter and better prepared this year, and that experience will show through when the shooting starts. Unless the inevitable happens (refer to the Blood Pressure Opener). Cue the football. Argh!
The Deep Breath of Acceptance
Ultimately, public duck openers rarely deviate from the script. Deal with it. Expect pressure. Expect hassles. Resist the temptation to get angry or frustrated. Try to enjoy the day for all it really is: a chance to be afield with your dog enjoying the outdoors. Opening day only comes once per season, thank goodness. It's just a day of hunting, not a race to see who can fire the most shells or hang a limit of brown ducks the quickest. Collect a few birds, pet your dog and soak in the good vibes afield. Smile and wave to other hunters (even though they're annoying as hell), and remember that the best is yet to come.
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