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Relishing Duck Food

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I was fresh off retrieving ducks from the grill and settling in for my first couple bites of duck, and my little girl, Katherine Grace, pleaded, “Daddy, more mallard please.” And after her second helping of mallard was promptly consumed, I heard “Daddy, can I try the green-winged teal?”

To say I was a happy dad is an understatement of epic proportions.

See, my exchange with my little girl, and the scarcity of duck left over for my lunch at the office the next day, has a profound impact on how and why I hunt today.

I must be honest, it wasn’t always this way. I suffered through innumerable bad duck dinners in my time. Eating ducks was a responsibility — sometimes a burden — rather than something I looked forward to enthusiastically. I killed ’em and I ate ’em more commonly out of duty than desire. I am sure I am not alone in this reflection.

No more. I have found a few simple (I am a long way from a fine game chef) ways I can prepare duck for my family. I find myself relishing duck dinners almost as much as I cherish the scene of ducks settling into the blocks or the elation I feel at the sight of a dead drake in a black

Labrador’s mouth after a tough retrieve. I have turned the corner from suffering through the task of eating ducks to prepping, cooking and eating ducks with zeal. I have come to believe that consuming my kill isn’t a burden to fulfill a moral quandary, but rather, a way to bring my game home to celebrate with my family. I view the ducks laid on the bow of my duck boat as a gift not only for the grand experience in the marsh they represent but also for what they represent in the coming days at our family table.

According to research recently released by Responsive Management, a firm that conducts a great deal of social survey and polling work related to hunting and wildlife management, the importance of hunting as a means to collect food has increased exponentially in recent years. A number of factors were described in the report, including the growing interest in wild protein, the “locavore movement” and even the recession were noted as contributing factors. I see this as great news because, like me, a more hunters are learning to appreciate their kill not only in the field, but also on the table.

So if you happen to see a picture of me grinning ear to ear clutching birds after a successful hunt, know the reason for my glee isn’t just reveling in a great hunt (yes, that will likely be a large part of it) but also that my family will be dining on ducks in the near future!

For more information on the Responsive Management research, click here.

John Devney is vice president of U.S. policy for Delta Waterfowl.

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