Having had the good fortune to hunt ducks and geese for all these years, I would be lying to say it wasn’t also a lot of work. But hey, for those born with the waterfowlig curse, what’s a little work if you get a chance to shoot a few. And when I say “a few,” I mean that literally. No matter how acclaimed the waterfowling Mecca, and I’ve been to some dandy places, there are days that don’t live up to the hype. But, a few is better than zero, a number I’ve notched plenty of times as well. Of course, I’ve also been rewarded with days when limits more or less fell into our laps. Work equals reward in waterfowling, and though the work is steady, the reward isn’t guaranteed.
When our group of compadres sets out on a waterfowling freelancing venture for a few days or a week, we have a saying that if we get one really good shoot for every three days of hunting, we’ve had a great trip. Some days, we are just plain in for a win, but the ducks have to win some too, otherwise there wouldn’t be many ducks.
Being a born and raised Minnesota boy, I’ve watched the hunting quality change there over the years, I was around when there were easily 200 percent more potholes than there are today, when South Dakota grew more cattle than corn and North Dakota grew almost entirely small grains so that southbound ducks out of Canada seeking cold-weather fuel in corn found it first in western Minnesota. Times change. It is, without question, tougher hunting today.
I’ve heard lately that the brain-trust that is the Minnesota DNR is considering making it easier to hunt ducks by softening long-standing regulations intended to shield ducks and geese from excess pressure, keep them around longer and help maintain the traditions of waterfowl that move through the state. There’s no need for these foolish changes, in Minnesota or anywhere. Discouraged by falling license sales, they want to abolish guard rails in an effort to get more cars on the road.
They misjudge waterfowlers. Waterfowling is about traditions, not ease and convenience. And part of that tradition is WORK.
When hunting got tougher because of drought, lowered limits or shortened seasons, waterfowlers didn’t stop hunting. They just worked harder. When the spring white goose conservation season was established some two decades ago, fish and game departments envisioned that with relaxed rules everyone would chase white geese. It didn’t happen, mostly because it’s really not part of “everyone’s” waterfowling tradition. It’s a SPRING season, and it doesn’t include ducks. It maters not that they have taken all the “regular” rules out of snow goose hunting to make the hunting easier—it’s still SNOW GOOSE hunting—something only a slice of waterfowlers get excited about.
Changing waterfowl hunting to somehow make it like picking up drive-thru won’t bring more waterfowlers into the fold. On the other hand, it wouldn’t hurt if entities like the Minnesota DNR and the federal government did a better job of protecting wetlands and conserving grasslands to help ducks. We’ll do our part. We’ll keep hunting.