We Get to the Bottom of Those Fantastic Stories
Waterfowlers love a good read, especially when it involves our passion. Whether we dig deep into stuff by the greats — Buckingham, MacQuarrie, Ruark, Hill and others — or just peruse a hunting story on a local outdoor blog, we enjoy reading about hunting almost as much as going afield.
After a while, however, the cynic within us might suggest that many waterfowling stories follow a fairly trite template. Further, we begin to suspect that some authors might be prone to, um, hyperbole. Consider this brief synopsis from a typical piece of duck hunting literature.
I arose before dawn to the smell of coffee and sizzling bacon. A glance outside the cabin revealed low clouds and a strong wind — duck weather. We launched the boat in surging whitecaps, and sleet stung our faces as we motored to the blind. After setting our decoys and settling in, we heard whistling wings overhead. A simple chuckle on the call turned the ducks, and they soon hovered over our decoys. 'Take 'em,' my partner cried. We rose in unison and fired. I took a stunning drake with my first barrel and then swung smoothly through another, touched the trigger and collected a perfect double. For the next hour, we enjoyed similarly spectacular action. Finally, our faces red and fingers numb, we declared a halt to the shooting, each of us one duck shy of a limit. It had been a perfect day, and roasted mallard accented by three fingers of fine whiskey over a roaring fire awaited us at camp.
Not a bad story, and we've all probably had days similar to that. Still, it seems a little too good to be true, so I called on the Duck Hunting Truth Filter to sift through the writer's embroidery and provide a more realistic account of that hunt. Here's what it came up with.
I woke up to snoring. It was 2 a.m. I threw my boots and gloves at that moron, but the boots missed, and the gloves just made him angry. Never got back to sleep. I finally got up to make some coffee but realized we were out, and Mr. Snore-All-Night hadn't bought more. So, I ate some stale toast and looked out the window. The thermometer read 75, and the flags hung limp. Great. Another bluebird day. Soon, we hooked up the boat and headed for the lake. After the hitch popped off the ball and we almost lost the trailer, we hooked up the boat again and headed for the lake … albeit much slower. The motor finally started after 15 minutes of pulling and cussing. It was breaking light as we haphazardly tossed out a few tangled decoys and scrambled into the blind. Unbelievably, a mallard flew over at legal shooting hours. I was about to send a feeding chuckle its way when Sir Snores-A-Lot blew out my eardrum with an 18-note hail call. The duck did not return. An hour later, miraculously, two spoonies swam into our spread. Senor Snoro tried to ground-pound them before I could shoot, but I jostled him enough with my elbow to throw him off. I missed with my first shot, whiffed wildly with my second but finally connected with No. 3 — or so I thought. 'Yes,' yelled Capt. He-Shoots-He-Snores. Great. He was going to claim the duck. After an hour of arguing about who shot first and how steel No. 3s would have killed the bird better than No. 4s, I finally gave up and threw the bird at that rat. Five hours of similar soul-strangling boredom later, we said the heck with it and left. One perforated shoveler and warm tap water awaited us at camp, and I needed to take a nap before I dropped dead of sleep deprivation. Enough of this garbage. I'm taking up deer hunting. Besides, the decoy bag rolled off the boat on the way home, so I don't have any blocks.
All right, that might be a far-fetched study in contrasts, but you get the picture. Maybe some writers gild the lily a bit when it comes to duck hunting. Perhaps our love for the activity tempts us to paint pictures of perfect hunts and seamless seasons.
Not me. No more. This exercise has taught me a valuable lesson, and I strive harder than ever to provide only realistic accounts of days afield. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to perform a necropsy on that Hollywood mallard. I know I hit it, and there's no way his steel No. 4s killed it at that range.