“The light mist at daybreak slowly turned into a steady drizzle and then into a pouring rain as the morning grew lighter. By eight o’clock, the chilling winds of a new cold front flew in from the north, stinging the faces of those who stared hopefully into it.
By 10 a.m., most were cold, wet, tired and ready to head for warmer, more civilized places. But still ahead after leaving the duck blind was wading through water, trudging through gumbo mud and a long freezing ride home.
Sound like fun? Would you pay $110 a day for such pleasure? For a dozen guests of the Duck Club and their guides, it was well worth it. And for thousands of Louisiana sportsmen and duck hunters all over the south, it is just the price you have to pay for being here on opening day of the season.”
Sound familiar? If you are a duck hunter, it does.
All except the $110 a day. It’s more like $1,000 a day now. But that was the price when the introduction above was written in a 1977 newspaper column, which by the way, won the top Louisiana Sports Writers Association Award of Excellence. A few ducks have flown south since then.
But other than the price, and a declining number of ducks, nothing much else has changed.
It’s too hot
These days, it never gets cold on opening day. It’s hot now and probably will be then, too. It’s way too hot to think about duck hunting. Yet here we are. Thinking about it. Talking about it. And reading about it. Later this month, waterfowl hunters transition (maybe these days I should say “shift”) from fishing or doing nothing to move into hunting mode.
It’s hard to get excited about teal season, yet hundreds of us go. To the teal! It’s the chance to get up way too early and get way too muddy to maybe shoot six little birds that fly way too fast and erratic for most of us to hit this early in the season.
But that’s not why we go. It’s because it’s the start of getting a chance to enjoy the happiness of craziness sharing misery with our buds, and we don’t take that lightly.
Forget that the mosquitos and wasps are looking more forward to opening day in the blind than we are. Forget that you may be sharing your blind with a big old water moccasin, one that you probably won’t see until well after daylight and you can’t shoot and keep all your toes. Ah. That’s part of the happiness of the craziness of it.
Let’s be honest. If most men had to work in the conditions that they have to prepare in and duck hunt in, they would quit their jobs. If they had to put in the time, effort and money they put into duck hunting to make a living, they’d just sign up for food stamps.
Am I right?
Put aside the beauty of cupping wings, the joy of seeing your black lab pounce out through the decoys to nab a downed mallard, the joy of sitting by your best buddies sipping coffee and watching the sun rise on Saturday morning. Think about how you get there.
Not an easy path
First of all, you have to find a good place, and we aren’t going to even think about listing what that costs here just in case your wife is reading, too. The blind, well, that’s a work of art, finely designed, welded and dropped in place by a big tractor that could pick up your four-wheel drive extended cab pickem-up truck. Relax, we won’t tell how much that cost, either.
Brushing up the blind, getting the wasp nests and water moccasins out of it, planting a little rye grass in the gumbo mud and cleaning up five or six dozen decoys is no big deal. Putting new batteries in the Mojo and packing your duck bag for every possible situation. That’s just part of the fun, right? Like riding through the mud and slinging it everywhere from the top of your head to places you thought you were sitting on.
Some of my best hunting memories are from a big blind on Wham Brake that was about as well equipped as you can get. But the numbers of ducks we killed paled in comparison with the stories from those hunts with my other two co-conspirators of those days, Bear and No-Show. Bear was my neighbor and was gung-ho for anything outdoors. He was always early, worked till dark and never missed a shot. And he never forgot when you missed one, either.
No-Show was, well, he was nicknamed aptly because of two things. First, when there was work to be done on the blind, he was a no show. Second, if there was any slight variance in the weather forecast that might induce unpleasantness, he was — yep — a no show. But he paid his share and his absence in the blind left more room for us.
You never know
You never know whether to bring mosquito dope or an arctic hoodie duck hunting. And there’s not even a porta potty out here anywhere. But opening morning is here and you are pumped. Here come the birds. One, two, three…. is that all? Okay, sometimes it is slow on opening morning. It’ll get better. And who’s counting? So what if it took you 14 shells that now cost $2 apiece to down two teal.
Maybe it ends up even being better than that and and you bag enough ducks to make a gumbo to feed 12 people, even though your hunting partner claimed two of the ducks you know you shot.
But wait. What? Who cares about all this practical stuff that some people don’t understand. It’s duck season.
And oh yes, here’s the last paragraph from that original article.
“But after a successful duck hunt, all the hardships will be forgotten. The scene of ducks flying in over the decoys, the sound of the duck call and the quiet of the early morning in a duck blind all linger on in the hunter’s memory.”
No matter how many times it is repeated.
Yep. Maybe that’s not crazy after all.