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Teachable Moments

Teachable Moments

I am like most people: I learn through mistakes, and in my case, a lot of them. Hunting is no exception, but I have found the trial and error to be an important part of the allure.

Most everything in our lives today is organized by a set of rules. From taxes to stoplights, we are governed by commonly accepted principles. Often, these rules don’t leave much room for interpretation. Just ask the Internal Revenue Service if paying taxes is optional, and you will quickly understand what I am saying. Please do not misunderstand: I am not in favor of doing away with rules or stoplights (taxes might be a different story). However, the freedom to make choices — and even mistakes — is very appealing.

Duck hunting allows me that freedom. I have heard many people talk about the joy of hundreds of mallards dumping into their decoys or the sight of the sun coming up in the morning, but often, I find it’s the stories of a hunter swamping waders or boat troubles that consume much of the conversation at duck camps and boat landings.

For instance, the time I accidentally spilled gas on my outboard throttle. Over a number of hunts after that, I noticed the rubber around the handle was wearing away, but I kept telling myself I would fix it eventually. Of course it wasn’t until the cold rain set in at the end of my hunt and the entire throttle assembly broke off in my hand that I realized I had procrastinated for one hunt too many. That was a long boat ride back across the lake while thinking about the rule of equipment maintenance.

How about the time my buddy told me to go hunting and that it would be a “tennis shoe” hunt? The hip boots I was wearing were fine until he stuck our boat on a stump and I had to get in the lake to unstick it. The rule there is the Boy Scouts motto, “Always be prepared.”

I guess a couple of rules help me when I am hunting ducks, such as keeping the wind and sun at my back, and the advice of my grandfather “to call half as much as you think you should and sound like a duck.” That said, I have absolutely broken these rules before and had a heck of a good time doing it.

For me, making mistakes on a duck hunt become moments of laughter and learning because I chose my own actions, not because I had to follow the conventional rules. My days are already filled up with enough of that.
So if you find yourself stuck in knee-deep mud or sitting in a boat troubleshooting the engine, look up and chuckle to the duck gods for giving you a chance to make a memory.