The Expectations and Realities of Waterfowling

The Expectations and Realities of Waterfowling

By Kyle Wintersteen, Managing Editor

It happens every year on the night before duck season: I lie awake in bed as if a kid on Christmas Eve pondering a BB-gun-shaped present under the tree. Restlessly twisting and turning like a flock of teal — and ultimately causing my wife to bounce one of her many pointless throw pillows off my forehead — I’m wide-eyed with visions of wood ducks and mallards dangling their feet over my decoys.

My optimism on opening-day eve isn’t just high, it’s decidedly irrational. Sure, I’ve had some good openers, but most were simply OK and others were well … awful. Yet somehow as waterfowlers we’re able to block out the bad and remember only the good. Case in point: My expectations of what would occur versus the cruel realities of opening day 2014, a fantastically memorable affair for all the wrong reasons.

Expectation: We’ll have a pleasant hike to our secluded spot on a public creek, leaving plenty of time to toast opening day with a fresh cup of coffee.
Reality: My GPS malfunctioned and I found myself stumbling through a beaver swamp that wasn’t supposed to be there. A roosting grouse thundered from a branch approximately next to my ear and I shrieked like that goat on YouTube that sounds like Taylor Swift.

Expectation: The decoy spread will be set with precision.
Reality: Two decoys were swept away before sunrise and never seen again.

Expectation: The teal, wood ducks and mallards we scouted will not only return, they’ll bring the motherlode with them.
Reality: By 10 a.m., every flight of crows made my stomach flip as my brain tried desperately to turn them into ducks.

Expectation: My dog will sit mannerly on the bank, handle unflinchingly to each downed duck and retrieve gingerly to hand. My buddies will compliment me on his progress from last season.
Reality: The only thing my dog retrieved was a sandwich from my buddy’s duffle, which he swallowed whole. He later broke on a passing heron and returned covered in burrs.

Expectation: My calling will be masterful and lure limits of naïve early-season greenheads. My buddies will compliment me on my progress from last season.
Reality: In my excitement, I called way too loudly and flared the first pair. My lanyard was placed on a one-hunt suspension.

Expectation: We’ll likely see a game warden. It’ll go well.
Reality: The first thing the warden said was, “Sounds like everybody is shooting except for you folks, heh-heh.” He checked a buddy’s license and asked to see how his new Benelli Vinci works. That’s when my pal demonstrated that the Vinci’s magazine spring not only removes easily for cleaning, it’s also possible to eject it shockingly far into a creek and lose it forever. The same buddy then gestured toward me and said, “Hey, that guy on the end is an outdoor writer.” During the extra-thorough check that ensued, a drake wood duck swung by and the warden paused so I could shoot. I missed three times.

Expectation: After the action finally slows, we can walk the creek and jump-shoot our remaining ducks.
Reality: Shortly into our first stalk, I discovered my waders were leaking. But one wet knee didn’t much matter when I slipped on a rock, faceplanted and created a portable neoprene jacuzzi.

Expectation: The duck straps will weigh us down on the hike out, but our excitement as we recount the day’s events will carry us to the finish line.
Reality: Little was audible aside from the “slosh-slosh-slosh” of my water-logged footsteps. At the truck, I was unable to dislodge my soggy feet from my waders, and so had to brace myself as a friend yanked on my boots — much to the delight of passing motorists.

Expectation: I’ll be excited to hunt again tomorrow.
Reality: I couldn’t wait to hunt again the next day. (We shot ducks, too.)



  1. Stephen Wagner September 12, 2018 at 7:07 pm - Reply

    So true!

  2. Iñaki Collados September 14, 2018 at 6:29 am - Reply

    It happens mostly, expectations are ideal and perfect situations that we image. The reality is tough and in those moments can look adverse. But, I don’t know why, when we are released and remembering those moments, we fill pleasure and say ourselves, God how well de enjoyed that duck hunting… with a beer, better.

  3. Phil Sumner September 23, 2018 at 7:58 pm - Reply

    Phil Sumner
    In my case it would’ve been the motor jumping off the back of my boat!

  4. Brad Meintsma September 24, 2018 at 10:44 am - Reply

    Very true, but we keep coming back. Not many things can require that much work and patience, and still draw us to it.

  5. Gary Elderman September 25, 2018 at 3:27 pm - Reply

    I wish I even had that. Funny read.

    Expectation: Having a place to hunt that actually has game.

    Reality: Some guy who has tied up that property plus 60 more. Or, we don’t like hunters……..or we let ________ hunt once.

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