These waterfowl hijinx added laughter to the hunt
Outdoors folks often point out that hunting goes far deeper than simply killing an animal. The pursuit involves many aspects, including immersion in nature, innocent appreciation of creation and, of course, camaraderie with like-minded people.
The latter really defines a good hunting camp (and by camp, I mean a gathering of hunters). Friends and acquaintances can learn, laugh and share experiences from each other — and inject some hunting-specific humor, too, in the form of practical jokes. I've witnessed some good duck-camp pranks through the years, a few of which are unprintable and many of which were probably funny only to me.
But a few stand out. Here's my short list of the best duck-camp practical jokes.
Scents of Humor
A hard-working farmer friend in South Dakota always lets us hunt his land and sloughs, asking nothing in return. So, from time to time, we help him with a few chores. One October, several of his cattle got out, so we joined in to round them up.
The farmer's youngest daughter led the effort. Independent and exhibiting a hard-charging work ethic, she'll put any of us to shame when it comes to ranch chores. But that day, she was also apparently quite aware that she was around several single guys. As such, the daughter had doused herself with perfume.
Everyone chuckled about the roundup afterward, but one friend said he might return to thank the farmer again for letting us hunt. Another buddy sensed opportunity and grabbed some aftershave from his shaving kit. Then, he splashed it on his face and encouraged us to do the same, and we surrounded the guy who was heading back to the farm.
He looked around awkwardly for a minute, took a good whiff, told us we were jerks and then drove off.
We heard nothing about what transpired at the farm later, but at least our camp smelled better for a while.
Khartoum the Spoonbill
One windy October morning, a friend and I huddled on a point and shot bluebills, gadwall and other ducks as they poured off big water and into a smaller slough. Toward the end of the shoot, a duck zipped low across the decoys and flared straight up toward the bright sun. My friend and I fired simultaneously, and I instantly recognized the mistake.
Shoveler, I said, as the duck fell to earth. Nice shot.
My buddy stared straight ahead.
Did I get it, or did you shoot it? he asked.
I was way behind it, I replied, smirking. Congratulations.
Not wanting to press the issue, my friend added the spoonie to his game strap, and we soon filled our limits. Later, at camp, we chuckled good-naturedly about the shoveler debate.
That night, tired and wind-burned, I announced that I was going to bed and hit the sack. However, something didn't feel right. I flipped open the covers to find a Ziploc bag containing the head of the shoveler, ala The Godfather, in my bed.
As laughter erupted from the other room, I tried to do my best Jack Woltz scream.
Please note that the shoveler had been cleaned and consumed as part of supper that night. No word on whether Luca Brasi was involved in the prank.
Layout hunting can be an exercise in trust. You're alone in a small craft, with nothing but the wind and waves for company, and you're completely dependent on your partners in the tender boat. But sometimes, that trust can be misplaced.
A few years ago, a friend drew first shift in the layout boat, and birds were flying everywhere. He shot a few but missed others, which was unusual for him. Finally, the reason became apparent.
Get me out of here, he said over the hand-held radio. I have to use the bathroom. I mean now.
(OK, he didn't actually use those words, but you get the gist. He had to go — bad.)
We fired up the boat, but an evil thought entered my mind. As another buddy steered us toward the layout for the emergency pickup, I motioned for him to slide past the layout and act as if we were tending to the decoys. Then, I picked up two of the silhouette boards and acted as if we were rigging them and would get back to our suffering buddy afterward.
What followed might have been the most colorful string of language ever uttered during open-water hunting. In fact, it continued even after we picked up my red-faced friend and drove him to shore, where he found … um, accommodations.
I know. Payback is coming. I expect it any day this season. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to figure out how to mount a porta-potty to my layout boat.