The Sweet Spot

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I haven’t anticipated a duck season like this since I was a kid. I’ve got a serious case of duck fever.  Thanks to the conservation ethic of America’s hunters, the prairies are full of birds.  Slightly down from last year but the second best numbers since they started counting in 1955, at 45.6 million ducks, there will be plenty of opportunity.  I have freshened up both my goose and duck spreads with some finely crafted birds. 

First, Final Approach has come out with some flocked head, flocked tailed, full body field honkers that look dead sexy. They have aptly named them Last Pass. .

If you hunt waterfowl and you haven’t heard of Hard Core decoys, put it on the list. High quality, guaranteed paint, and damned affordable; I picked up a half dozen of their field dekes as well as their pre-rigged floaters. The idea of a complete system straight out of the box is perfect for me. With young kids, time is at a premium and I already spend more time away from home than my wife can tolerate. Being able to put them together in literally 10 minutes is just up this young father’s alley. I can’t wait to try all sorts of placement schemes and trick me some quackers.

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This year I’m going to be dry, warm, and comfortable. Sitka Gear came out with a waterfowl line in January 2012 that is changing waterfowl clothing as we know it. Just pick up any outdoors catalog to see some of the copycats. Sitka has technical gear that isn’t bulky but keeps the elements out. I’m most excited about their Pantanal Jacket and Duck Oven. They crafted their waterfowl camo pattern on what a duck would see, not you and I, a duck. That’s the prey, right?

So all this new kickass gear and reports of thunderous -flocks are exciting but not ultimately what makes my heart quicken. My-five-year old daughter Cidney has been interested in birds since I started bringing them home. She has stood by my side, handing me birds to clean and watching me clean them since she was one.

Last year, she asked if she could do more. I thought for a minute and then showed her how to breast a bird out…it took a couple tries but after she finished that brace of birds that night, she was a pro. Now, she cleans birds better than most of my friends. No qualms! Soon I will teach her how to use a knife. We spent one day in the marsh last year. It was a sunny mid-day hunt, not ideal for harvesting but good for her first hunt. We got all camoed up and headed to one of my favorite spots close to town. She helped me set dekes and she tried her hand at blowing her pink DU duck call. While she isn’t a world champion caller yet, she was an enthusiastic guster. We will work on her feeding call. About a half hour in we heard a truck pull up across the river about a half mile downstream. We watched what appeared to be a grandfather and his grandson get out with loads of spinning tackle. Hard to blame them as it was a sunny fall afternoon. With all the racket Cid was making and a dozen and a half decoys in the water, I was surprised when they walked right up on us. It was time to go. I got out and started picking up dekes when the grandfather said, “Oh we didn’t see you there, didn’t realize you could duck hunt this time of year.

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As I put the last decoy in the bag, two drake mallards almost landed on my head! Not our day. On the way back to the truck Cid asked, “Why did we have to leave dad?” I thought for a second and then responded, “Cid, we will hunt again. It’s best to share the river with others and today, it was that grandfather’s time with his grandson.” This seemed to appease her. And you know what, this little girl and I will get ours this year.

We have made a pact to hunt every Sunday, some good ol’ fashioned daddy/daughter time. She will see her beloved Turk retrieve some wily waterfowl and all will be right. This is what I most anticipate about hunting this year. This is what takes over my brain and gives me the fever a lot more than the gear or the birds themselves. Building the love of hunting in my daughter just as my father built it in me is the finest gift I can give her. It’s the sweet spot.

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Hellgate Hunters and Anglers
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