Hindsight Brings Perspective, But Waterfowling's Appeal Remains
All hunters appreciate and relate to elements of our shared outdoors passion. But if you're reading this, you know that only waterfowl hunters understand certain aspects of our secret society.
I don't need to tell you about the thrill of whistling wings and whirring silhouettes at sunrise, nor the sting of a cold wind in your face and the chill of icy decoys on your fingers. Likewise, you can probably also relate to smudges from a Lab's nose on your truck windshield and seat covers that smell more like a duck boat than a family vehicle at season's end.
That's great stuff, but I think the appeal goes deeper. Toward the end of every autumn campaign, I often wonder what drives me to get up at ridiculous hours and subject myself to awful weather. I don't need any more ducks or geese, and I could — probably should — back off and take care of more important matters. Yet there I am, year after year.
In hindsight, much of it seems absurd.
I've gone neck-deep in 30-some degree water while crossing ditches or retrieving decoys.
I've sent a buddy neck-deep in the same water while trying to push him across a ditch on a bag full of decoys. (In fairness, he made it halfway across.)
I've fired way too many shells some days, leaving me wondering if I possessed any wing-shooting skill whatsoever. (Friends and observers assured me I did not.)
I've ruined waders, damaged guns, shot decoys, lost hats, bent push-poles, dinged boat hulls, wrecked motor props and smashed fiberglass skiffs. Shoot, I've even wrecked a truck while duck hunting. (Tip: Make darn sure to use your parking brake at the boat landing.)
I've almost been fired from a job because of my obsessive behavior. My boss was too kind. I would have fired me. He could probably relate, though, as he was a duck hunter.
At times, I've placed my retrievers in dangerous situations in frigid water. I'm not proud of that, but it happened, and they're fine. In fact, they'd do it again tomorrow.
And, in the ultimate wake-up call, I've almost died while duck hunting. I'm not proud of that, either, but we were young and supremely stupid. And we hunted the next day.
So what's my inspiration, 38 years into this waterfowl deal? Easy. It's that moment when a passing bird or flock sees your decoys, changes course and commits to your spread, wings back and feet down. That millisecond before I rise to shoot equals waterfowling perfection. Whether I whiff or triple makes little difference. For one instance of one day, I participated in a centuries-old game and played it right. And if being in the marsh or on the lake day after day lets me see that a few more times, I'm in — no questions asked.
But hey, you know that. You've been there. Like I said, if you're reading this, you understand.
Editor's note: Brian Lovett is Realtree.com's new waterfowl editor. He will write regularly in The Duck Blog.