Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Magnificent Duck Hunt

We finally had a brief spell of truly cold weather, and with that, duck season has been ushered in.  When I was younger, I actually hated duck hunting.  The cold weather, the preparation of decoys, boats, and warm clothing was just too much for a young fellow with lots of energy and little patience to endure.  However, with age, I have come to respect the passion a waterfowler exudes for his quest.
If you are a waterfowler, aka duck hunter, you are at the top of your game.  There are many varieties of ducks, geese, mergansers, and coots and one must learn flight patterns and silhouettes, sounds and calls of each in order to be both successful and lawful.  North Carolina not only limits on each, but also on each breed.  So you have to be able to distinguish a mallard from a black duck from a pintail from a wood duck.  And do this while they fly at 40 mph in wind, rain, and cold.  Yes, it is not for the beginner.
I no longer look at duck hunting as a burden.  I see it as a challenge and a thrill.  While I know what I could see fly in the area I hunt, I still wait with anticipation for what may come down the flyway.  Did I get a drake (male) with vibrant colors, or did I bring down a hen (female).
While I consider myself, well, AWFUL at calling, it still sets my heart beating when I see a high flyer take a turn to my lame excuse for a ‘come back’ call and cup its wings for a landing in the decoy spread.  Oh, and the surprise when the universe is abuzz with honks and cackles from a large flock of Canadians can really pump the blood through your body.  My hunting buddy and I sat with excitement this weekend when two different flocks of geese decided to merge just in front of our blind.  One came in from 10 o’clock, the other from 2 o’clock to form a large group of low flying heavyweights in the waterfowl world, and we could hardly hear the shotguns fire from the riot they were causing.  Keep this part a secret, as it could ruin my reputation as a decent hunter…out of five shots between the two of us, all we got was feathers raining down upon us as the geese continued over top as if we were more of a nuisance then they were.  (I will keep my hunting buddy’s name anonymous for the same reason, so we will just call him Adam for this story).
We did bring in some birds though.  One of which has to be classified as one of the most beautiful waterfowl in the world.  In fact, a quick Google search of the words beautiful and waterfowl had this one listed in several lists.  While most hunters in the know will list the mandarin as the most beautiful duck, the wood duck is listed right there with it.  Another fact, the wood duck is so proliferate in North Carolina, it is called the Carolina duck in most of North America.  It’s green, black, and white crest and magnificently painted bill of red, yellow, black, and white makes it stand out against most others.  They prefer the swampy areas, are congenial, and have a unique call compared to others.  A whistler, it has a short, high pitched blast and can be heard from a good distance away.  It is not the ‘quack’ most associate with ducks.
Fortunately, as I have come to love the waterfowler’s life, I have been able to experience this creature one on one.  Just another reason to participate with nature.


  1. Very nice thoughts and very much appreciated! Thanks for reminding us...!

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