The passion for ducks...
Some people wonder, why in the world would someone WANT to get up well before the rooster crows and subject themselves to frigid temperatures and harsh weather, all for a few birds.
There are songs written about those sixty days that duck hunters experience and if you've ever had "one of those hunts" you'd know why the words they sing send that weird tingly sensation of excitement throughout your body. There's something to be said about standing in the partially frozen waters of a small timber hole watching greenheads drop through the canopy or laying in a frozen Canada field inside a strategically placed layout blind watching thousands of birds work over you and down into your spread. There's truly something magical about it... and for those that have never experienced, it's difficult to explain. But I'll try.
As long as I can remember throughout my 40yrs on this earth, there's nothing that ever excited my dad as much as duck hunting. (Maybe the birth of his grandkids and the day I got married- to a duck hunter- but those are givens.) My first recollection of duck hunting was when I was about 4 or 5yrs old and being completely fascinated by the immense collection of duck stamps my dad had collected. The birds were beautiful, the meals were delicious, and I knew that one day I wanted to be a duck hunter. Throughout the years growing up, I would tag along and hunt here and there with my dad but it wasn't until I met my husband, Andy, that I truly realized how deep my passion for duck hunting ran.
Living in Virginia, I learned at a very early age that it wasn't always about the "fat straps" because let's face it, the Atlantic flyway has dwindled throughout the years and you have to truly learn to love what you're doing to combat the days that you feel defeated. It wasn't until the first day I stepped foot into the Arkansas timber that I realized what the songs were about... what that tingly feeling was... and why I truly loved duck hunting.
On that cold January day, the fire inside of me was stoked. As we took the ride through the sloughs in Bayou Meto to find what ended up being the perfect hole, I remember thinking "wow, so this is what it's all about". As we finished decoy set up, I fired up the camp stove and prepared some of the best breakfast sandwiches you'd ever eat as we waited for first light. Listening to the water moving around us and the early morning chatter of ducks from a far, the excitement began to build in my stomach. All I could think about was how awesome it was that I was here, a thousand miles away from home, about to experience one of the coolest moments of my adult life with my husband.
As the darkness began to lift, I could hear the sound of wings zipping around overhead... in-flight chatter of the birds started... the faint shadows of what looked like ducks fluttering down from above. The anticipation was almost painful, yet awe inspiring as I watched birds landing in the spread, playfully enjoying their morning, calling their friends in to join in the festivities. It feels like an eternity counting down the minutes as your heart begins to speed up and you can feel it pounding in your throat. As the darkness fades, the moment you've been waiting for finally comes... legal shooting time. While many will say the first group that comes in is one of the best, I'd have to disagree. For me, every group that comes in is the best. When you are so amazed at what your seeing that you hang the gun up and just watch, you know you're witnessing something incredible.... And that's how you know you've found your passion.
Every duck season, my husband and I travel around North America chasing ducks. Our trips are primarily freelance, which require a lot of hours and hard work but ultimately feel like more of a reward to me but guides hunts are pretty awesome, too! Whether it's guided or on your own, find yourself a friend that has that deep passion for waterfowl and tag along with them. Get out there and see what it's all about. Get involved in conservation efforts. Build up the habitat and help improve the environment. It'll be an adventure you'll want to repeat over and over and over again... then, and only then, will you see what the passion for ducks is all about!
Prois Virginia State Coordinator