The Yin and Yang of Duck Hunting
Dark-thirty, Sept. 1: Daylight won’t arrive for almost an hour, but the distant clucks of honkers and buzzing of teal already fill the air. Soon, the grand game will be on, and another waterfowl season will have begun.
These first moments bring more than jitters. The smell of freshly cut alfalfa and a seemingly endless patchwork of late-summer fog remind you that today’s hunt will be much different than those three-plus months from now. In fact, change will be the only constant in every outing during the journey. That realization makes you appreciate the stark contrasts between the season’s first and last days.
Early season: Up at 3 a.m., and we can hunt till after 7:30 p.m.? That’s a long day. I’ll need a nap.
Late season: We can’t shoot till after 6:30 a.m. And we shouldn’t take any breaks, because it will be dark before most folks are done with work. Yawn.
Early: That northwest wind last night probably got some bluewings on the move. If it stays cool, we might see some molt migrant geese in a week.
Late: That northwest wind last night probably chased everything but mallards, goldeneyes and black ducks out of here. If it stays cold, we’ll be frozen until April.
Early: I can’t wait to put all that off-season shooting practice to the test. I’m in a groove, and I really believe my range time will pay off this year.
Late: I can’t believe I blew that cake shot at a bull pintail in South Dakota and then whiffed on a drake ’bill over the decoys a week later. Back to the gun club.
Early: Man, I am digging this new lightweight camo. I’m cool and comfortable, and I blend right in to this green cover.
Late: Man, I’m freezing.
Early: There’s nothing better than hearing those double-clucks as the year’s first flock of honkers banks and sails into the spread. .
Late: There’s nothing worse than trying to clean frozen spit out of your call as those die-hard geese fly from the refuge to a private field and then back again.
Early: That poor dog is worn out. Get him some water, and let him cool down.
Late: That poor dog is worn out. Let him warm up in the truck, and make sure he didn’t cut himself on that ice.
Early: This is great, but I’m really looking forward to cooler weather and the big pushes of migrants.
Late: This is great, but I really wish that nice fall weather had lasted longer, as this winter hunting is beating me up.
I guess that light-hearted look at the differences in seasons should make us appreciate every moment for itself. After all, waterfowl hunting is like no other outdoors pursuit — early, late or in between.