WHY DO WE HUNT WATERFOWL   Leave a comment

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Sitting in a damp, musty duck blind, watching the drizzle fall on that expensive gun one wonders why we hunt waterfowl.  It is not just to sit there and watch the gun rust.  It certainly is not the beautiful weather.  After all, those beautiful “blue bird” days are some of the least productive.

Waterfowl hunting is a challenge.  Mature birds seem educated to where hunters lay in wait.  They change their patterns each year as if to frustrate hunters.  Hunters who do not adapt to the situation limit their opportunities.

Weather is a factor in that it seems the worst weather brings the best hunting.  Hunters prefer a cold front moving through and the wind and clouds that accompany it.  Clouds force birds lower where they can see the decoys.  Wind causes waterfowl to seek protection as flight becomes calorie burning.  They do not burn as many calories on warm days and will fly more actively.

Waterfowl seasons in Illinois are generous in number of days available.  Hunters sit for hours in comfortable blinds making the best of the situation by talking and waiting for birds.  They laugh and poke fun at one another and solve the world’s problems.  It is a time to share stories of past hunts, good and bad.  Perhaps the camaraderie of the hunt is sometimes more important than the number of birds bagged.

Waterfowl hunting is challenging.  Hunters must overcome cold, wind and rain.  There is the challenge of overcoming the natural defenses of the birds.  The blind or pit must be properly camouflaged and the decoys placed correctly to present a natural setting.  Calling skills are perfect.  Waterfowl calls are tuned to perfection.

The monotony of a day without birds has can be overcome by other activity.  Many hunters have their home away from home fully stocked with food.  Often they cook over small camper burners and it becomes a challenge as to who cooks best.  A thermos of hot drinks is a welcome addition.

Then there is the lore of waterfowl hunting.  Its history and equipment have become collectibles for hunter and non-hunter alike.  Decoy collectors pay big prices for some of the old decoys as art objects.  Callers have come to collect different brands of calls and some have vast collections.  Of course there has always been a market for different guns associated with the sport.  That is if they do not get too rusty from sitting out in the rain during the hunt.

Perhaps the most important part of the season is the myriad of birds.  There are literally dozens of different species.  Many hunters collect the birds in the form of trophy mounts made lifelike by a taxidermist.  Ducks and geese come in different colors, sizes and tastes.  The birds are excellent eating if properly prepared.

So sit in the blind waiting for some shooting action.  Spending hours with nothing happening is enough to make a grown man quit hunting.  On the horizon a speck appears.  Then several more appear with them.  As they get closer, you speak to them with your call.  They answer and dip, dive and slip ever closer.  Finally, they cup their wings as they drop toward your decoy set.

Up you pop out of your blind and the shooting is fast and furious for a minute or two.  The birds are soon gone, except for one or two that fall prey to your shooting ability.  All that is left is pick them up and return to your blind.  Then you begin again the waiting game.

But, it was worth all the waiting for those few fast and furious minutes.  That is why you waterfowl hunt.

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