Top 6 Phrases Heard Last Duck Season

Top 6 Phrases Heard Last Duck Season

The 2015-2016 duck season was one spent waiting: on cold weather, on migrating ducks, on opportunities to call the shot. Record-high temperatures challenged the fortitude of waterfowlers across much of North America. Few duck straps, it seems, were filled with any consistency.

Still, I’m not prepared to call it a bad season. I may have fewer mallards in the freezer than last year, but several high points are engrained in my memories: My dog sticking his head underwater for a cripple, a buddy scoring his first duck band, and a friend’s elation after bagging a canvasback over his own hard-carved decoy, to name a few. Even in a slow year, what other pursuit provides such lifelong memories?

I could further describe the season, but I’ll allow other waterfowlers to do so. Here are the top six phrases spoken by duck hunters last season.

“It’s finally getting cold. Ducks should be here soon!”
How often did we assure ourselves that a chilly forecast would surely result in the promise of mallards? And yet, occasional cold snaps came and went, bringing small pushes of ducks before yielding to mild temperatures.

“They must be hammering ducks up north.”
If we aren’t shooting ducks, then someone else must be. That seemed to be the consensus last season, as hunters everywhere assumed that the slow migration was surely resulting in heavy concentrations “up north.” However, whether you talk to hunters in North Dakota or Arkansas, Washington or Utah, it was tough sledding for everyone. Even in areas with a lot of birds, high temps and ample water spread them thin.

“I need to take a layer off.”
Usually by mid-December I’m layered up like Ralphie’s brother in “A Christmas Story.” Yet this year I donned thin, breathable waders and a light parka — and still I was often too warm. I can’t recall another season when I’ve spent more time sweating than shivering.

“This is the day.”
We duck hunters are an optimistic bunch, sometimes to the point of irrationality. Perhaps our survival in the sport depends upon such positive thinking. Case in point: Every morning when the 4 a.m. buzzer rang, I was convinced a terrific hunt was in store, no matter how many duck-less days preceded it.

“The heck with the scouting report, let’s hunt.”
What do you do when scouting turns up nary a duck? You’re a duck hunter. It’s duck season. And so you hunt. Last season revealed the truly committed waterfowlers — those willing to continue chasing birds regardless the odds stacked against them. It didn’t always work out in our favor, but hey, it’s always better to be in a duck blind than sleeping in.

In late January, a winter storm broke through El Niño’s defenses, providing duck hunters with a last-minute hurrah nearly anywhere seasons remained open. I finally shot a limit of greenheads on the closing day of the Pennsylvania season, and the next week I gunned canvasbacks, bluebills and redheads with a buddy in southern Virginia. For those who experienced it, the finale was sufficient to wipe away much of the season’s frustrations, and its remembrance will sustain us until fall when another duck season opens anew.