Some chase waterfowl to pass the time between big game and turkey season, and others for the pure numbers and trophy bands. I chase waterfowl for the shear beauty of it. The most incredible thing about hunting waterfowl is the diversity and stunning beauty of the birds themselves. Each species brings its own unique qualities and colors, which has never been more apparent to me until this season.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to hunt the flooded fields and timber of Arkansas which are a long way from the rivers and ponds along my home front range of Colorado. As I absorbed this new world, I kept envisioning the proud pictures of mallard drakes that piled up by the dozens. It seems that this was the trophy duck most sought after in the south. Though having already shot my share of green-heads over the years, I had my sights set on other unique birds. This time, it just wasn't meant to be.
As the end of the Colorado duck season approached and having already shot the “normal” ducks (Gadwalls, Mallards, Goldeneyes and Mergansers) I had no clue how the waterfowl gods would bless me in the coming weeks.
A small lake mostly used for summer time activities was our spot. It offered islands of ice with sections of open water which, for some reason, brought in a variety pack of species this year. The first group of three birds began approaching and something about these birds stood out from the rest: they were pintail drakes, one of the most elegant and glamorous ducks in North America. The first shot rang out and before the bird fell into the icy water I was already yelling with the kind of true excitement only felt when something you’ve wanted for along time finally happens. Laying my hands on a bird that looked like he was dressed for a spring formal was like a dream. And it was just beginning.
Not long after the retrieval I was dealt another great hand. This time it was a flock of redhead drakes and again, I capitalized, making a great crossing shot and the male folded right in the decoys. The day continued to produce ducks, and drake after drake fell. It seemed the hens weren’t allowed out of the house that day. By the days end we had collected a beautiful mixed bag of pintails, redheads, mallards, and green wings. Having the chance to shoot two ducks that I have not had the opportunity to shoot before was unbelievable. Especially when it happened in the same day.
With the season closed and time for reflection a plenty, I have come to the conclusion that we are so blessed to spend countless days in the field doing what we love. I’ll never think I’ve done it all as year after year I continue to learn and experience new things. Growing as an outdoorsman and conservationist has always been important to me and this year was one of the best to date. My respect for these gorgeous creatures grew almost as much as my taxidermy bill.