Opening Day: Rebirth of a Waterfowl Hunter’s Soul

“Regular” folks are themselves 365 days per year. But not duck hunters. We merely go through the motions of daily life, feigning interest in our careers and the yammering of our significant others until a new season dawns.

Some of us golf. Many of us fish. But regardless our chosen summer hobbies, aren’t they merely distractions from the longing to partake in our truest passion — fooling mallard ducks into dangling their toes over the decoys?

What a wonderful time of year. Perhaps your opening day has already arrived. Not yet for me. I’ll be pitching decoys in just a few, exceedingly long weeks.

Will there be ducks? Perhaps, but more importantly I’ll be on the water, with a shotgun in my hands, once again a duck hunter.

I’ll arrange my spread, savoring the satisfying smack of every decoy striking the water’s surface. A favorite dog (aren’t they all?) will be at my side, his deep, brown eyes gleaming with appreciation to be off the couch — he, too, has suffered through the off-season’s doldrums. Then, the metallic clang of the action closing on a 3-inch magnum will ring as if a starting bell, restoring my waterfowler’s soul.

I’ll enjoy the first winks of orange light gleaming through the trees, the culinary delight that is duck blind coffee, and the knowledge that at any moment I might direct my barrel ahead of a drake’s bill for the first time since January.

Maybe it will be a wood duck, a local mallard or perhaps a teal. But no matter the species, when I shoot my first duck of the season I’ll clutch it with the same joy as a kid who just earned a Delta First-Duck Pin. I don’t know what will prove more pleasing: Observing my dog deliver it to hand or scenting the lovely aroma of crisping duck skin filling my home.

And so it will continue. I’ll awake hours before even my toddler would dare stir, leaping from bed with energy that defies my age. We will hunt, you and I, and hunt, and hunt and hunt, until the grass turns from green to brown and the ice is too thick to sledgehammer open. We’ll endure sleep deprivation, the aggravating whims of an unpredictable migration and the constant toils of maintaining our gear throughout the season’s abuses.

But we will cherish every second. Opening day is finally here. Here’s wishing you your best season ever.