Monday, September 29, 2014

Confessions of a Reluctant Duck Hunter

I have to admit, I did NOT want to fall in love with duck hunting.  I was perfectly content with big game hunting and did NOT need any additional taxes on my time during the already hectic Fall/Winter months.

At the same time, I should not be surprised.  The seeds were firmly planted 2 years ago and have taken root with a flaming, never ceasing vengeance.  Plus, the activity involves (i) being outside, (ii) being slightly cold, wet and miserable and (iii) firearms - 3 of my favorite things.  Looking back, this was inevitable.

It all started innocently enough.  I noticed that a guy I've known for a long time but would not have been considered a close "friend" was a member of a Ducks Unlimited group on LinkedIn.  I mentioned it to him that I did not know he was a hunter.  We emailed, we talked, we made plans.  I'm always up for something different.  This should be fun.  Not rifle hunting fun but fun nonetheless.

A few weeks later I'm sitting on levee in a flooded rice field southwest of Houston, TX, slowly dying of hypothermia.  Decoys had been placed and Robert had fine-tuned them to his liking.  (I have no idea WHY they are to his liking but he has quit walking back into the spread every 4 minutes to tweak their placement.)  Soon enough, ducks could be heard and seen in the area.  Ducks came in, we shot a few and the duck hunt proceeded as planned with a good time was had by all (OK, not by the ducks).  (The previous statement should be I shot AT many and managed to kill a few.)

Later, on a subsequent hunt, I made some comment to Robert like "There are 7 ducks coming in at 10 o'clock high".  His reply was a deadpan - "Don't shoot the 3 on the right.  They are pintails".  Apparently, we already had our limit of pintails.

"What???... its just a bunch of ducks.... how can you tell the difference?"  Looking back, I'm surprised that Robert did not shoot me on the spot, or at least not invite me back again.

This, ladies and gentlemen, was the first of a loooooooooooong list of questions I've peppered Robert with over the past two years.  He continues to be shockingly patient, pointing out the wingbeats of this species, the elegant profile of pintails, the distorted look of a flock of shovelers, the "peep" whistle of a drake teal or the single quack of a mallard hen.

I've also learned that I can learn a great deal from his 10 year old son who seems to unintentionally make me feel stupid since I can't tell the difference between this hen over that one or had "never seen a bluebill before?"!

So now, when the very tame ducks come flying over at Disney World or at my in-laws house, I catch myself lowering my head, stopping all movement and muttering something like "Mallards, 3 drakes and a hen" under my breath.  If I'm overheard, someone will usually reply.."How can you tell?  They are just a bunch of ducks."


A Man in the Woods carrying, with increasing frequency, a shotgun and a waterfowl stamp