If hunting ducks was simply about nothing more than shooting ducks, I’d have quit the game long ago. Not that I’m ALWAYS shooting ducks, much the opposite. Sometimes we win, sometime the ducks win, and that’s the way it should be. But a lot of people assume that because I’m the editor of a waterfowl hunting magazine, I simply go from outfitter to outfitter, shooing piles of ducks, or geese, everywhere I go. That sounds interesting—for about 10 minutes.
Not that I don’t like shooting, or winning—if you knew me well you’d know I like both. But I get little satisfaction from being simply a triggerman, which is what guided hunts amount to, for the most part.
Naw, I like the process. I enjoy scouting. I enjoy the challenge of coming up with a plan. I enjoy the process of executing that plan and all the work (and perhaps suffering) that comes with it. Finally, I REALLY enjoy the results when a plan comes together. Shooting? It counts most when it comes with the satisfaction that WE did it ourselves. We don’t always get it right, which makes it all the sweeter when we get it oh-so-right.
Do-It-Yourself (DIY) means being willing to “own it” when a plan doesn’t work out so well. Perhaps we misjudged the X, perhaps we caught a bad wind, perhaps we came up against birds that really weren’t as committed to a spot as we guessed they might be. Or, perhaps we made a fatal miscalculation (well, not actually fatal fatal).“As in, assuming that a flock of ducks in a field on an evening feed in the late season would be back on the X in the morning—forgetting the cardinal rule that as daylight decreases and temperatures plummet, ducks can suddenly changeover to a once a day feeding forays, always in the afternoon when temps are warmest. Yep, stuff happens.
I enjoy hunting with outfitters because they offer a new experience, a way of doing things a bit differently than we might. I enjoy sharing info back and forth and learning from their experiences. And of course, I enjoy the bullshitting. What I don’t enjoy is having the decoys set for me, the blind pre-prepared and the calling done, because that leaves little to do except pull the trigger. If the hunt goes slowly, all the better. Every minute in the blind is a minute to be experienced, another minute under God’s great skies. The longer it takes to limit out, the more time that gets to be enjoyed in the great outdoors.
Unfortunately, that’s not the way many, outfitters see it. You see, hunting is their job—a job they can leave early if the pile requirements are met. You may not be hunting tomorrow, but they will be, and they know it. I recall a goose hunt in Alberta where 4 of us shot 32 honkers sin 26 minutes. When the last bird hit the ground, the guide stood up and excitedly hollered, “32 in 26 minutes! That’s not a record!” The poor souls who set the record! I went from exhilarated to empty. Less than a half hour in the field and our morning was over. We packed up and were trucked back to camp to hang around doing nothing for the next 8 hours just waiting to get out and get after some ducks in the evening.
So. if you’ve never hunted with an outfitter, you might be surprised to learn that I encourage you to do so. There are many good reasons; first among them that outfitters have access to land and birds! There’s the comfort of not having to scout, not having to be responsible for the decoys or blinds and being able to relax and enjoy hunting. It’s a real treat, especially if you are with a kid. But beware, the highs are not as great as when you succeed at DIY hunting.