It’s easy to get lost in the why’s of waterfowling. It’s a type of hunting that involves a preponderance of waiting. Waiting gives time for the mind to wander. That reliability, coupled with the human need to justify suffering and explain away failure results in a gaggle of pseudo-profound pronouncements. We all become philosophers waiting in the dark, doing our best to ignore the penetrating chill as we wait for the sun to rise and birds to fly. Poetic ruminations abound when triggers are pulled and birds escape unfazed.
Five years ago, Jonathan Wilkins, bought an old, southern church in the Arkansas Delta. Initially, it was only to serve as a bunkhouse for personal duck hunting expeditions. He thought a good scrubbing and judicious use of paint would yield a passable waterfowl camp. As he soon learned, he was beyond his depth.
“We’re just guys who hunt. I didn’t set out to be a spokesperson, and never in a million years could I have imagined the response being as big as it has been. We just hunt ducks, write raps and make videos. The DMs we get from young kids telling us we have inspired them to get into hunting—man, that is humbling. To me, hunting is about fellowship, and that’s something that you can’t buy off the shelf.”
Michael Braun learned to carve decoys from his father, and he carved his first one at the age of nine. Now that creating these one-of-a-kind, functional pieces of art is his full-time career, it’s still the tradition behind the artform that he finds most appealing.
As a duck caller and call maker, John Stephens has always been captivated by the people who practiced these art forms before him. “Waterfowl is one of the few sports that has so much tradition,” he says. “There’s so much history behind our sport. There have been so many call makers across the country, and even though they were making tools, they were making functional pieces of art. And to me that’s really just fascinating.”
Dusty Brown loves a good challenge, and getting sandhill cranes to come into a decoy spread is sometimes as challenging as it gets. “They see really well,” he says, “It’s more gratifying than decoying a duck or a goose. They’re a little more methodical how they approach the decoys. They don’t just come to bombard decoys with reckless abandon like ducks do.”
For Ira McCauley, duck hunting is about more than just the ducks. It’s about time spent with family, dogs included, and it’s about food. His favorite mornings of the year are spent in a Missouri duck blind known affectionately by the family as “Heaven.” The blind’s most distinctive feature is a ceiling mural of a mallard drake descending through the clouds, painted by Ira’s father and brother.
Josh Miller of River Stone Kennels has spent his life training dogs to be lifelong companions, at home and in the field. His work through the years has taught him that dogs can teach us as much as we teach them.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that Dr. Doug Osborne’s project to help save timber duck hunting kicked off in a green timber duck blind. In January of 2015, Osborne was hunting with a couple of pals in the famous big timber of Arkansas when one of the hunters mentioned that he rarely shot a banded duck anymore. He looked at Osborne, an associate professor of wildlife management at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, and asked: “What’s up with that? Why can’t we band them here?”
Canvasback Recipe: Canvasback Duck Recipe - a Great Table Fare
The Canvasback duck has long been revered as great table fare. From the bygone days of market hunting the Chesapeake Bay, to modern hunting targeting these diving ducks, hunters from coast to coast agree on the deliciousness of this species.
Highballs rang in the timber as Charley kicked the water, keeping his face down as the ducks worked overhead. It was a small bunch of birds, weary from a long migration and keen to get out of the wind and hunker into the cover that the marsh provided. Banking into the wind and setting their wings, the ducks dropped elevation quickly as they made their final approach.