I’ve never been one to boast or brag or be overly confident in a serious way. Not outwardly anyway....
Over the last 11 years I’ve been blessed with opportunities to hunt more days than most hunters will in a lifetime and I don’t take that lightly. It’s something I thank God for in my prayers and it’s something I thank my wife for when I’m home, or when I’m gone and probably even while I’m sleeping. It seems that she needs a little more appreciation during those days. Weird right?
When making mention of confidence or of pride I try to keep that to a minimum. I prefer lowly over showy and the calm over the crowd. But one thing that I’m becoming more and more aware of is my insatiable desire to become a waterfowler.
I have blindly prided myself on being a “duck hunter” and nothing else. I can’t say there’s anything wrong with that, but there are some experiences, or lack of, that have led to that uneducated and naive self-given title.
I used to snicker at the term waterfowler because it was something “yankees” used to describe themselves. While I understood that ducks were a fowl of the water, I couldn’t bring myself to say that I was a waterfowler. It was a pride thing....
Waterfowler meant I shot all types of fowl from the water. Ducks were on the list, but so were the many types of geese. I didn’t hunt those geese, I shot them if they flew within range during a hunt, but I didn’t hunt them. To be honest I had no desire to do so.
Ducks were the antidote to my off-season blues, and I THOUGHT I needed nothing else. Boy was I wrong.
Here in my direct area, there is a HUGE concentration of “I’m a hardcore duck hunter” going on and no mention of “I’m a hardcore waterfowler”. I can’t say I blame them. We have some of the best hunting (over water) that can be found anywhere. Ducks Unlimited actually listed this area as one of the top five places to retire in the U.S. as a duck hunter. The public land hunting scene can be phenomenal and there is a plethora of public land within an hour and a half drive.
If public land isn’t your thing, we’ve got countless leases to choose from. Agricultural fields of rice and soybeans are plentiful. Crawfish ponds double as duck holes and we even have managed flooded timber and cypress tree breaks.
It wasn’t until I made a trip to Sterling, KS in the beginning of December 2013 that I realized what I was missing. I had always wanted to hunt Canada geese, but it was never really a big deal. I have always skipped the scene on the DVD, or fast-forwarded the VCR (#tbt) through the goose hunting segments, but not anymore.
Me, along with three of my good friends, (Jeff, John, & Derek) who were also hunting buddies of mine booked a hunt with Chase Buckman of Cut Em’ Close Outfitters, now Quivira Valley Outfitters, for three days and three nights. It was an experience I’ll never forget.
First out of state hunt. First layout blind hunt. First dry field hunt. First Canada goose hunt. First hunt in below 0 temps. The first and only hunt (so far) that I shook uncontrollably as the 150-200 birds with wingspans as wide as a man is tall floated seemingly forever right above the ground for the length of a football field and down into our spread of over 30 dozen. I was hooked.
It was the epitome of anticipation and was unexpected. I’ve experienced “buck fever” and watched groups of mallards put their feet in the water less than 15 yards from me, neither compared.
I mean, ducks were great, but I wanted nothing more than to see those big honkers float in and fall lifeless. You could almost feel the ground shake when those big birds hit the ground with a forceful thud that only dreamed up giants are capable of. It was nothing short of spectacular!
Now that I’ve been back home and settled down, I’ve birthed an appreciation for waterfowlers and the sport of waterfowling. It’s more than a few notches up on the skill level from duck hunting and now your skillset is forced to become more of a “jack of all trades”. And let’s face it, as duck hunters we use a mallard hen call for WAY more than just mallards. Decoy placement is now a massive mural instead of a small canvas. Bird movement is more like predicting Wall Street, instead of the price of a gallon of gas. Even blind placement varies to a degree for a well rounded waterfowler.
Over the last few years my appreciation and respect for true waterfowlers has grown tremendously. My infatuation with becoming one grows exponentially, everyday. The idea of truly being what I’ve only read about almost consumes my train of thought throughout the day.
While this doesn’t apply to all, but most definitely to some, I ask everyone to expand your circle and try something new.
Book a hunt with a guide, or swap a hunt with an acquaintance. Venture out into the unknown so you are forced to watch, listen and learn, instead of doing what you already know. It’s refreshing to watch with child-like faith and trust, that the guide or whoever you’re with knows what they’re doing. Since you have no clue, you have no choice. You’re in their element now.
My journey is just beginning. I’m a duck hunter, yearning for the title of waterfowler.
Video Produced by Wingmen Staff from a hunt with Nick Kafkas.