The beginning of the off-season provides ample time for reflection
Unless you're in Mexico or chasing snows during light-goose conservation-order seasons, you've probably eased into the off-season by cleaning your guns and giving your pooch some well-deserved rest.
There's nothing wrong with that. Every waterfowl season must end. Otherwise, the beginning of the next campaign wouldn't be as special. Further, the long, sometimes depressing gap between hunts offers a chance at reflection; a time to decompress and sort through the blur of experiences you've just enjoyed.
Your mind can produce some pretty cool realizations during that down period. In fact, several have been bouncing through my head recently.
1) Duck nuts love to argue about the best shotshells. However, as I prove annually, the type of load you prefer makes little difference when you're 5 feet behind a duck.
2) Michael Pendley needs to write a waterfowl cookbook. Seriously, have you read the Timber 2 Table waterfowl recipes he's created recently? Incredible stuff. You'll never reach for cream of mushroom soup again.
3) The perceived effectiveness of calling seems to intensify when that call is blown 2 feet from your ear inside an enclosed blind. And I blame my tinnitus on muzzle blasts?
4) The odds of you missing a duck or your dog goofing up are directly proportional to the number of smart-aleck eyewitnesses present. Add a video camera, and the odds increase exponentially.
5) The chances of something malfunctioning on your duck boat are directly proportional to the fact that … well, to the fact that you own a boat.
6) I love old dogs; the way they seem to take everything in and soak up their time afield, almost like they're rewinding a lifetime of memories. And I love young dogs, with the way they charge headlong without thinking into any situation; their bodies rippling with muscle, their entire career before them. I guess I just love dogs.
7) One day, drought will return to the prairie pothole region, duck production will decline, and we'll have to settle for a few years of reduced bag limits and shorter seasons. It's a guaranteed natural cycle. Until then, however, we'd better appreciate this great run we've had since the early 1990s. A couple of generations of duck hunters have grown up knowing nothing but liberal season frameworks. And although I don't want to return to the tight regulations of the late 1980s and early 1990s, those drought years really made you appreciate the experience and pursuit of ducks.
8) Bold prediction: You will enjoy some great days next season. You will also suffer through some duds. But after almost 40 years of this waterfowl thing, I've yet to experience a morning when it wasn't worth getting out of bed, setting a spread of decoys and watching the sun rise. Yeah, maybe being part of an 80-bird morning in Manitoba stands out more than a zero-duck day during bluebird weather, but each hunt has a lot to offer. And you never know how many such days the man upstairs will provide, so you need to take advantage of every one.