Waking at 3:30 in the morning, my daughter Kailee and I made the 30 minute drive to my favorite Public Land hunting spot, shallow water Mud Boat in tow. Though entry is not permitted until 5:00am, we waited anxiously at the entrance area, knowing our promptness could be the difference between securing a prime location and being forced to change gameplans. However, today, it didn’t matter. I was looking for a waterfowl experience unlike any other. I was taking my daughter hunting for the first time and there would be no racing to the spot. If we got it'd be the icing on the cake.
While we were waiting we prepared the boat, put our waders on, had a cup of coffee (or coco) and I repeatedly raced through my mental check-list. As we sat there in the pickup the questions started. “Why can’t we go yet?”, “Who's in front of us?”, and the best of all, “Dad, how do I go pee in the boat with waders?” That was one I had not thought of and hopefully would not have to figure out.
Once we arrived at my chosen location I set the decoys while pulling the boat around as Kailee continued to ask pertinent questions. After getting the decoys set, I stuffed the boat in a Tule patch and put up the boat blind. As we kicked back enjoying a cup of Coffee and Coco waiting for shooting time I couldn’t help but reminisce on some of my first hunts with my father and his hunting partner 32 years prior at the exact same location. The spot I had chosen obviously holds a special place in my hart and mind as it was, and still is, a favorite of ours. Plus, it always seems to present shooting opportunities no matter what the conditions. Being able to share this area with my daughter made it even more special.
As Kailee and I waited patiently in the boat blind, birds began funneling in and around the decoys. Seeing that it was going to be a great day I asked Kailee, “What type of ducks should I shoot?” She quickly replied “All of them!” Shortly after shooting light, a pair of Pintail floated into the decoys. Wanting to make this day last forever I only shot the lead bird; a pintail hen and sent the dog. This being the first time she had ever seen a duck shot I wanted to remember it forever and quickly took a picture. Once the Camera was out, Kailee had something else to pass the time and actually took a few good pictures, but most consisted of her finger and duck eyes.
Over the next four hours we had significant discussion on waterfowl, waterfowl species, gun safety, keeping warm in the duck blind and American Girl Dolls. All the while, picking off a bird here and there until eventually I had a mixed bag limit consisting of Pintail, Widgeon, Teal, and Gadwall.
No matter what type of wild game you pursue, doing so on public land always adds another angle to the hunt. Waterfowling on a Public-Free Roam Wildlife Refuge takes that excitement and fulfillment to the extreme. Being able to take my daughter on her first duck hunt at the exact location my father took me on mine 32 years prior made this day epic!