Waterfowl Hunting Isn’t about the Harvest │ Memories from the Duck Hunting Marsh
Make no mistake about it, here at Hard Core we live and breathe waterfowl and waterfowl hunting. It’s in our blood, it’s what we do and it’s what makes us who we are. It has helped define us, helped guide in ways that we never even realized until after the fact. Yeah, I guess you could say that waterfowl hunting is our lives.
The most interesting thing about waterfowl hunting, regardless of whether your interest is chasing ducks or geese, it is amazing just how similar waterfowlers as a group are. That is certainly not to say that there will not be those rare instances where you encounter someone whose waterfowl hunting “style” doesn’t necessary mesh with yours, but all in all you can bet that those folks are just as passionate about waterfowl hunting as you are.
Over the years, we have had the opportunity to meet and share the blind, corn field or layout boat with a lot of different people from many different walks of life. Many of them, we met for the very first time a short time before taking the field. The one thing that holds true is that regardless of how new the friendship may be, it doesn’t take long for the fun to begin once we hit the field.
Chasing ducks and geese has truly introduced us to many fantastic people, and helped to foster friendships that we will cherish for years to come. The social aspect of waterfowl hunting is what draws many outdoorsmen and women to the sport. It is what the sport of waterfowl hunting that fostered many of the outdoor traditions that we enjoy today.
All too often the social enjoyment of what we do as waterfowl hunters becomes somewhat overshadowed by the constant focus on the harvest. Now, that being said, here at Hard Core we love pulling the trigger of ducks and geese more than just about anyone but what makes waterfowl hunting waterfowl hunting is more than number of birds that you walk out of the marsh with, it’s about the memories that you make while doing it that matters and what makes the sport of waterfowl hunting unlike any other in the world.
During a recent waterfowl season we found ourselves in Central Missouri in mid-December, snuggled into our layout boats in a flooded corn field with the Hard Core Duck Decoys doing what they do best. We had been going hard all week and grinding out some pretty amazing hunts. This week was special. It wasn’t because of the high number of ducks and geese in the area, it wasn’t because of the strong northwest winds and cold front that was pushing through, no, this hunt was special because we had a some longtime hunting partners in camp that we had not hunted with in a long time.
We knew that if we could find the “X” that we would stand an excellent chance of pulling the trigger on some large and in-charge, migrating mallard ducks. Typically, in mid-December this area of the country experiences its first and sometimes “lethal” freeze of the year
. We say that it is lethal as it typical years you can go from open water to 3.5” of ice overnight, and the ice may stay on the duration of the duck season. This would be the conditions we would face on this hunt.
With bitter cold temperatures and wind chills pushing the single digits, we hit the water. It didn’t take long to find what we were looking for as we located an area with several thousand ducks huddled in a tight groups feeding in the flooded corn field. While the threat of frost bite was a reality, we were so excited to have the opportunity to joke, laugh and cut up like we used to that we barely felt the cold. Once shooting time was upon us, it didn’t take long for a pair of green headed mallards to find the Hard Core duck decoys, and with the birds finishing at ten yards, with two shots and we had two dead ducks in the water.
After the first two drakes were down, it seemed as though we were being strategically being bombarded with wave after wave of mallards. Luckily for us, the waves of ducks were spaced long enough for several cups of coffee to be ingested and several wise cracks to be made at each other’s expense. It pretty telling of sport where you can be reminiscing on previous times spent afield while in the process of making new memories!
Two hours and seven minutes after the hunt started, the final greenhead hit the water bringing our total to 16. As the wind grew colder and stronger, the water we once dredged across to get to our location was now the consistency of your favorite gas station slushy. No words were really spoken as we began to break down the spread. Each of us new our role in the process as if we had continued to hunt together every day since the last. This hunt would turn out to be our last in Missouri during that season as severe ice conditions would push many of the birds further south. We have been fortunate to have successful hunts afield since then; however, this hunt will be one that will always stay close to us. It will always hold a special place in our memory not because we harvested a limit of green heads or that the conditions were brutal, but that we had the opportunity to share those conditions and experiences with some wonderful friends and sportsmen. It’s amazing how much pressure can be removed from a situation when you realize that it’s not about the kill, but it’s about the experiences and the memories you make with friends and family that really matter.