After just finishing a year-long construction project culminating in the bare-walled, semi-finished office I occupy as I write these lines in early October, I admit I haven’t had a chance to get out and get after the ducks—yet. That’s all going to change in just a few days when I head to my first hunt of the season.
What I have had time to do in these chained-to-my-desk days while others send photos of full duck straps is to ruminate on some of the great hunts I’ve been on and the great people I’ve met and hunted with along the way. There’s a great community to be found in the brotherhood, and sisterhood, of waterfowlers.
You know it when you meet them, those people with their eyes to the skies and the mud on their boots. Tossed together at small-town lunch counters, rural gas stations or outside ma and pa motels, even on phone apps, these straight-up duck hunters fashion their regular lives around the thing that matters most to them—waterfowl hunting!
Then, of course, there are also those in the brotherhood who’ve carved out careers in the waterfowling industry, including the gear makers, inventors, entrepreneurs, artists, photographers and outfitters. Some are, quite frankly, celebrities in their own right, or on their way to becoming celebrities in the hunting world. I could name drop, but the list would be long and beg elaboration, because even without their names, many of us certainly have come in contact with the products of their ingenuity and talent, coupled with their love for chasing ducks or geese.
Many of the personalities behind this trend setting are still around today, though not all of them. We heard of the passing of Tim Grounds just short weeks ago. We can’t go back. And there have been others, now gone, who contributed greatly to the waterfowling world. It’s a fellowship, and when we lose one we lose a little bit of the fellowship, a little bit of ourselves along the way. But we never lose that thing that they were known for, that they invented or championed. It lives on in us, in the ways we hunt, the ways we subscribe to wild things and wild places, and in our collective consciousness.
But it’s not celebrity this column is about. It’s about waterfowlers and their unique passion for something that, frankly, a lot of people might view as strange, bordering on insane. Truly, the fellowship of duck hunters doesn’t belong to a handful of hunting celebrities. It belongs to all those foolish enough to get up long before dawn, to toil in the mud and the wet simply to capture a moment in time. For us, to live is to hunt, and to hunt is to live. The rest is just life.