Off-season dreaming takes us to distant places, strange birds
Mired in the off-season — that is, after duck season, before turkey season and unable to chase light geese — a waterfowler's mind begins to scheme about the future.
Faster boats, better decoy rigs or perhaps a new gun — anything's up for consideration. But equipment doesn't necessarily equate to adventure, and that's why many cabin-fever-bound hunters dream about far-flung pursuits and birds of different colors.
Social media just makes it worse, of course. Seeing pictures of full-plumage sprigs and redheads from some distant coast makes the prospect of a day at your local wildlife area seem pretty mundane. It would be great, you reason, to stash away some money and brownie points and take an extravagant trip to a bucket-list destination.
Trouble is, you have many options, and picking one must-visit spot can be tough. Ultimately, choosing a lifetime adventure boils down to personal preference. But, in the spirit of off-season musings, here's how I might go about it.
Locale Vs. Players
First, I'd consider the exotic qualities of a potential destination and the waterfowl I'd likely encounter there. A true Arkansas green-timber hunt or open-water shoot off the Florida gulf would provide new experiences in unique environments. Then again, it might be nice to hunt some birds I'll probably never see at home.
But we're talking ultimate trips here, so why choose? Assuming time and money aren't issues, I'd opt for an Alaskan adventure or a late-season — that is, northbound spring migration — trophy hunt on Mexico's Pacific coast.
Alaska would have to be a multi-faceted deal, complete with harlequins, common eiders and king eiders. A Barrow's would be cool, as would an Aleutian Islands green-winged teal. The chance for a Eurasian wigeon might be the cherry on top.
Mexico, on the other hand, would be a taxidermy collection mission for peak-breeding-plumage drakes, such as pintails, blue-winged teal, American wigeon and others. A few brant would be fantastic, and a colored-out cinnamon teal would top everything.
That's a tough choice. Ultimately, I'd probably opt for Alaska, as it just seems like more of a rugged adventure, complete with rolling seas, brown bears and snow-topped mountains. But that's just me.
I'm not sure if I'll ever hunt ducks in Mexico or Alaska (or Arkansas, Florida, Texas, California, Washington or other ultimate-trip contenders). But I'm not complaining.
Trips to Canada, the American prairie, the Mississippi River or even the local lake, four blocks east of here, offer waterfowl adventure aplenty. And in the gloomy post-season haze of March, those options seem pretty great … even if I won't see a Pacific brant or a brown bear.