Chance Meeting Illustrates a Better Path for Hunters
The truck slid gently onto the snow-covered shoulder of the town road, and then reality struck.
Headlights, I thought. Nah, no one else would be hunting here, would they?
But as the beams approached, slowed and stopped, I knew the answer. Sensing a brewing and perhaps contentious conversation, I rolled down the window.
Morning, said the camo-clad driver. How far up the creek you going?
The little devil on my left shoulder whispered something about grabbing my gun and running for it. However, the polite angel on the opposite shoulder won out. Besides, I hadn't donned my waders yet.
Just up to the bog by the bend here, I said. How about you?
Well, I was going to go upstream by where it turns north and west, he said, pausing as if to think. But I'll tell you what. I have access to the field by that turn, so I could just walk in from there instead of going through the stream and messing you up. Would that be OK with you? I mean, you were here first.
I had been, but only by 30 seconds. And I hadn't anticipated the chat being so positive.
No, that'd be fine, I replied. That's plenty of space. Maybe we can bounce 'em back and forth between us.
Yeah, keep 'em moving, he said. I'll do that then. Good luck.
I replied in kind and waved as he headed off, somewhat ashamed of my bad initial reaction. Too many packed public marshes with harsh words, rolling eyes and BB showers, I guess. It's been said that no one hates a duck hunter like another duck hunter, and I think that's true to an extent. Many folks have experienced unpleasant encounters and poor hunts because of crowded conditions and, to a point, unethical or at least apathetic behavior, and that leaves them smarting and dreading the next close-quarters meeting with competition. Sometimes, I guess, it takes a chance pre-dawn meeting with a kindred spirit to make you realize the other guy is usually just like you — someone who loves waterfowling and wants to enjoy a day afield. That's a powerful takeaway, and it should probably alter the way we greet and treat other duck and goose hunters in potentially tricky situations. Cool heads and a willingness to work together could replace insults, stubbornness and wasted mornings.
I never got the guy's name. In fact, I'm not sure if I'll see him again. But if I do, I think I'll get to know him a bit better and chat about hunting in that area. Maybe we don't have much in common, but I'm guessing we share a love of cupped wings and wet retrievers.
Oh, back to the hunt. I only shot one duck, and the other hunter, set up about 200 yards east, worked in just one flock of mallards, and I'm not sure if he got one. But we hunted with happy faces because of his basic civility and eagerness to adapt.
And if you ask me, that made for a pretty good morning along the little creek.
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