Up until a few years ago I had zero desire to duck hunt. I did not get it, did not understand it and did not want to do it. Then a client fed me grilled duck breast at deer camp and my interest was piqued. A few weeks later I shot my first mallard and the rest as they say, was history.
I routinely harvest whitetail deer and turkeys but duck hunting is not easy for me. I think that is why I like it so much. I cannot call to save my life, need A LOT of practice shooting moving targets and the fact I am not good at it only drives me to want to hunt more. That being said, my first handful of duck hunting experiences was at a very, very, very….very nice duck club. Not the place most of us cut our teeth learning to blow a call. It took but one hunt to get a taste of the public land experience and realize it is not for the faint of heart.
Duck Club Experience: Arrive 30 minutes before shooting light, drive ATV to blind, sit in blind surrounded by decoys lovingly placed by someone paid to set decoy spreads and shoot ducks. Someone will come by later to pick up your shell casings.
Public Land Experience: Get up at 1:15am and drive to the local conservation area to stand in line with 80 other sleepy men and women to draw a wooden cube with a number on it for the chance to hunt. If you don’t draw, go directly to breakfast and lament getting up at 1:15am.
If you are lucky enough to draw you drive to your pool, drag a heavy sled filled with decoys, marsh seats, mojo’s, dog stand and whatever other bits of gear we have been suckered into buying at the local sporting goods store to a location that, in the dark, looks good (keep in mind you will probably change location and decoy spread at least three times if not on the X…it took me three hunts to know what that meant). The drag could be as short as a quarter mile but I have been blessed with distances of a half to three quarters of a mile….through muddy fields. I swear you sink six inches with each step but I am sure that is an exaggeration. I think. It really feels like you sink six inches.
As a personal trainer and fitness coach, it was my first experience on public land that really got me thinking about how we would design a Fit To Hunt workout program for duck hunters because once you have dragged your gear one half to three quarters of a mile, you put out your decoy spread. Then you hunt. At the end of the day, you don’t just hop on the ATV and drive home ala the duck club experience. You collect all of your decoys, package them up and drag the whole collection back to the vehicle.
Sometimes you get a duck or six. Sometimes you get nothing but an experience.
It is through the burning muscles, gasps for air and overall fatigue that the reward comes. You either love this experience or you will never do it again. If you are reading this I am betting you hunt public land and will do it over and over and over. Why? Because you crave the satisfaction that comes from a day in the field with friends and family. The comradery fills your soul.
You long for the joy of watching a dog make a long retrieve and then sit on his or her perch ready to do it again. You need the sting of the wind and rain on your face and the wonder that comes when a group of birds lock in and commit to the call.
Public land duck hunting is iffy, arduous, dirty and exhausting.
It is not for sissies and I cannot wait to do it again.
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Contributions made by Fit2Hunt Staff!