My favorite late-season waders are a thick neoprene pair made by Cabela's. They fit me perfectly and, given the way I abuse gear, it's remarkable that they've lasted eight hard seasons.
One of my favorite features is the handwarming unit attached to the upper chest. I rarely tuck my mitts inside, but it has a nice, big, waterproof pocket for stowing important items such as my keys, license and extra shells. My wife calls it my "fanny pack," but I don't allow her words to demean me. It works great—that is, when it's zipped up.
Which proved little comfort when, in the midst of plucking a freshly shot mallard along the creek bank, I realized the zipper was open and that its contents—two shells and, worst of all, my truck keys—had spilled out. When? Where? How? I had no idea. But I was stranded and beginning to panic as I sifted through the snow.
With no sign of the keys, I began carefully retracing my steps, which was easy given my tracks in the snow. Earlier the mallard that now lay nearly plucked had landed upstream of my decoy spread, so I'd snuck through the trees and crept in for a lucky jump shot.
Oh no! I thought. Surely my keys had flown out of my waders as I sprinted out into the creek to retrieve my prize. I don't know if any other hunters saw me slowly wading back and forth in the creek trying to find a set of keys on the bottom, but it was surely a sight to behold.
I returned to the bank, empty handed. When I came into view of my decoys, a dozen black ducks were swimming in them. "Of course," I said to myself.
They flushed just before my phone rang. It was my wife. She wanted to know when I'd be home. I informed her possibly never, and she advised praying to St. Anthony, patron saint of lost items.
I'm not the best Christian, but what had I to lose? So, I said a little prayer and, while I'm not about to preach to you, all I know is as soon as I finished the prayer—I mean immediately—my panic dissolved and I knew the exact location of my keys.
Earlier, after I'd shot the mallard, I pulled down my waders to—well, use your imagination—which caused the pocket of my fanny pack to tip over. Sure enough, when I revisited this spot and sifted through the snow, I found my keys and two unspent shotshells.
Had I been stupid? Yes. Careless? Sure. But I suspect we've all been there in similar terms at one time or another. And we learn lessons from our mistakes. Certainly I'll never hunt with just one truck key again.
I kicked myself for ever having done so in the first place as I carried my decoys to the vehicle. The sound of a truck engine turning over has rarely sounded sweeter.