If you have ever had the chance to strap on some waders and walk a few miles into thousands of acres of flooded timber with just a call and man’s best friend, then you know how rewarding the simplest of hunts can be. With today’s fast paced life filled with overbooked schedules and pressures to constantly climb more, get more, do more, and be more… it can be just about enough to make you go crazy. It doesn’t take long for a guy or girl to lose themselves in our modern world. More and more of our society is moving away from time honored traditions like a simple hunt. Falling back into our roots and finding simplicity can be exactly what we need. Often times it seems that many duck hunters believe that you need a boat load of fancy gear to have a successful hunt. While modern gear can make hunting more enjoyable, the challenge of returning to a simpler time in the history of duck hunting can provide the ultimate sense of satisfaction. I can remember my first duck hunt. I was 16. My longtime friend and mentor, Bob Busteed, picked me up on a January afternoon. We drove all night to Stuttgart, Arkansas. We didn’t stop except for a few refills of coffee and a bathroom or two. We had nothing on our minds but our hunt with all of our worries left behind. We arrived just before day break, parked on public land and walked in with limited supplies. I quickly realized my borrowed waders had a hole in them. The water was frigged, dark, murky, and a bit intimidating. I had no idea what lay ahead. Every moment of my first hunt was a new experience, nothing like my everyday life or any other hunting experience I had ever had. We walked for miles paying close attention to our surroundings and how the birds were working. We worked hard to find that perfect hole. Once we settled in, I leaned against a tree with water trickling onto my half-frozen toes. We kicked, making as much motion on the water as possible. I tucked my head, filled my lungs with air and blew into my call. We didn’t have any decoys, mojos or jerk cords. Just a couple of guys with their calls and dog getting down and dirty in the timber.
For most duck hunters actually shooting ducks is not what brings us back time and time again. It’s certainly true for me. It’s the feeling you get when you step out of your truck, pull up your waders up over your back, and hear the click of each buckle. It’s the smell of your dog, gun, and crisp cold morning air. It’s the sound of the water with every step you take, the anticipation of settling into your hole, and being led into the dark green timber by only a head lamp to guide your way. As the sun comes up, it’s the hope of fooling nature once again. Hunters enjoy calling and working birds down right in their face more than they actually like the kill. Don’t get me wrong, killing ducks is fun, but the competition between you and nature is what gets you addicted. Being competitive is a part of being a human, it is a part of our instinct. It’s in our DNA to hunt, conceal ourselves, and deceive nature.
I can’t imagine my life without that first simple hunt and the hunts that followed. These experiences influenced the way I think, tackle challenges, and view life. They have shaped me as a man. The things I have learned in the flooded timber have followed me into my everyday life. I am thankful I wasn’t given all the best gear on that first hunt. Learning to be strategic and struggling to find a good hole was good for me. Watching the birds work while we explored and finally pulling them down into a new hole was far more rewarding than having a spot where ducks were known to come year after year. The experience of a simple hunt, roughing it and thinking like a duck makes you a true hunter. It’s something I wish more people could experience. When you can do that with the right instinct and right call, it’s over.
Years ago, someone invested in me with a duck call and a simple hunt. I’ve dedicated my life to passing that gift on and preserving a time honored, classy tradition. I challenge you to do the same. Let’s go hunting.