I like to think of myself as a versatile hunter. I chase turkeys, squirrels, rabbits, deer and doves throughout the year with plenty of dedication and passion. Despite the gusto I give each game animal, I believe every hunter should have one type of hunting by which he or she defines themselves. For me this is waterfowl.
My obsession with waterfowl borders on the unhealthy. What is so special about waterfowl hunting is that it takes some of the best things from other hunting pursuits and then adds in it’s own special characteristics that make it unique. Here’s what I love about it:
Waterfowl have incredible eyesight and in order to be successful you have to get your camo right. I have a closet full of different patterns that I like to mix and match depending on where we are hunting. The search for concealment extends to our blinds which give us plenty to stay busy with during the off-season. And of course there’s facepaint which has become all the rage in the hunting world and for good reason. It’s effective and it looks pretty cool in photos. My daughters call it my ‘war paint’.
I love my deer rifle, but my shotgun is my pride and joy. Waterfowl hunting means shooting animals on the move. It’s fast-paced and requires constant practice to improve. For me it’s also the most challenging and quite frankly the most fun type of shooting I do.
There’s a reason that waterfowl hunters get a reputation for being crazy. We welcome adverse conditions because they bring on some of the best action we get. Rain, sleet, cold. We take pride in hunting with ice in our beards. We’re like the postmen of the hunting world.
Upland hunters get to take their dogs into the field and I’ve loved hunting behind them when I’ve had the opportunity, but usually they are out in front and the interaction with them is mostly all work. With waterfowl hunting, the dogs are in the blinds with us, sharing a snack and snuggling up to us in cold weather. On solo days our dogs make great companions and I have been known to have long conversations with my lab. When they get a chance to make a picture-perfect retrieve it almost feels like a bonus.
Hunters love their gear. If the saying, “He with the most toys wins,” then waterfowlers are the champs. Our style of hunting can require dozens of decoys, plenty of clothing, a variety of blinds, boats, waders and the list goes on. I won’t speculate about how many marriages have been placed in jeopardy by the quest for more gear, but I will say that my Cabelas wish list is obscene.
Especially when hunting ducks, we take to the water. Whether it is a knee-deep pothole or the open ocean, waterfowlers are happy to be on the water because that is where the birds are. It adds an extra dimension to our hunts and feels a little more like an adventure.
I use calls with deer and turkey and occasionally even with squirrels. It’s a chance to interact with animals and calling adds an extra dimension to any hunting trip. With waterfowl hunting, effective calling is the mark of an experienced hunter. When you turn a whole flock in your direction, your hearts skip a beat. Working in tandem with other experienced callers is an art itself. And let’s face it, a lanyard full of calls is the universal symbol of waterfowling. You won’t ever catch me in the field without mine.
Lat year I shot my deer on opening day of gun season. I just needed one doe to fill my freezer and while I was happy it was a successful hunt, it was weird driving home and knowing they season was already over. With waterfowling I can shoot plenty of birds all season long and not feel greedy about it.
Waterfowl hunting is often a team sport. Because it doesn’t require perfect silence you can have a good conversation when there aren’t birds overhead. Working as a team to call and flag birds into gun range is extremely gratifying. Having friends there to take your picture after the hunt and recount the best moments of the day is even better. The older I get the more important I find these friendships to be in my life. Waterfowl hunting gives me lots of opportunities to spend time with competent hunters in pursuit of a sport we love and for that I am grateful.