We toil and wait all summer until one day, finally, it's the opening day of duck season. It is this great anticipation which, I believe, makes success on the opener all the sweeter—and defeat, like I experienced last week, all the more painful. Here's a brief synopsis of my day:
4:00 a.m. Wake up and do a back flip out of bed. It's here! Duck season is here!
4:30 a.m. GPS malfunctions en route to creek where numerous teal, mallards and wood ducks were seen loafing day before
4:45 a.m. Stumble haphazardly through a beaver swamp. Where am I?
4:50 a.m. Flush grouse. Jump like startled schoolgirl.
6:00 a.m. Locate creek and place decoys. Shake with gleeful anticipation.
6:40 a.m. Season officially begins.
6:41-10:00 a.m. Nothing happens.
10:15 a.m. Get checked by game warden. Watch two drake wood ducks buzz decoys while handing him license.
10:30 a.m. Warden completes check, asks buddy to demonstrate how his Benelli Vinci works—magazine spring flies into water.
11:30 a.m. Decide to investigate jump shooting opportunities upstream
11:40 a.m. Buddy realizes his waders are leaking. I chuckle to myself.
11:45 a.m. Slip on slick rock, fill waders with water. Upper body sweating, lower body freezing. "Waterproof" pocket fails: Wallet soaked; cell phone fried.
1:00 p.m. Miss drake wood duck three times.
1:15 p.m. Snap fuzzy photo of dejected hunters leaving creek using fatally wounded cell phone:
1:30 p.m. Walk to truck. Discover wet feet are stuck in wader boots. Hold onto truck while buddy attempts to dislodge them. Endure passing motorists' catcalls.
1:40 p.m. Stuff soggy socks into sneakers, drive home, inform wife won't be providing dinner.
Thing is—and here's what the anti-hunters certainly don't understand—I still had a blast on the opener. My friends and I exchanged jokes (my stomach actually hurt from laughing), we saw a mature bald eagle and, hey, we finally had shotguns in our hands and duck stamps in our pockets. I feel sorry for hunters who can't have fun without shooting ducks, and I suspect they're the reason why pressure actually decreases even as hunting improves later in the year.
You better believe I am not deterred. As I write this, my waders are on a boot drier, and my decoys and shotgun are ready for tomorrow's hunt. Rejoice, waterfowlers: The best time of year is finally upon us.