This all started this summer with a brave proclamation… I am not hunting duck this year. Instead, I would spend my fall and winter weekends camping, cycling, and hanging out with my kid. Truth be know it was not just the time and competing activities that prompted my proclamation but also increasing license fees, asshat game wardens, limited hunting lands and a tight economy.
Then this Fall while sitting on my deck in the sun; it was one of those days you could smell the hint of winter in the air but the Sun would still hit my back yard in the afternoon, I took a good look at my undocumented Labrador retriever Hunter. No he is not Mexican, just a W.O.P. He does not have papers but take one look at him and his pedigree is undeniable. He is one of two remaining pups from a litter of 14 that did not sell five years ago. The other is his brother Rusty, Lost Rider Highway's dog. In the late afternoon light I could really see the gray in his beard and on his muzzle. I was feeling guilty so I started the process of trying to figure how I was going to hunt this year. Slowly I bought licenses, some diver decoys for the big water and got ready to hunt. One problem remained, there was nobody to hunt with. Everyone stuck by their guns but me.
Almost weekly I started loading & unloading the boat but never getting out. Some days it was 80 degrees sometimes it rained or was too windy and other times I was just too damn tired. If you know me then you know how OCD I am and how much this was stressing me out. The next thing I know and my dog is looking at me and thinking “hey dumbass, it’s the end of December and there is only 5 weeks left”. He was right. Two days before the University’s holiday break I burned some vacation time to get into the field.
Day one, Monday, we went out in 26 degree weather and got skunked. It did not help that we did not get out until about 9am. The crack of dawn right? Actually, I had not scouted this property this year so I was not eager to walk in before first light. We did not see any ducks but I took advantage of the situation to properly scout the property. Tuesday we were in at first light and had the last decoys and the blind set right at shooting hours. It was 32 degrees and freezing rain. We were better today, two teal, a drake & hen.
Last year I would have never hunted in these conditions, but this year the pressure was really on to get out. I am glad I did. These two birds in these conditions really got the monkey off my back. The dog is happy and so am I. Is there a moral to this story? I don’t think so. Maybe there is, don’t skip any duck seasons because you do not know how long your Lab will live?