With the exception of that West Coast University with the hideous football uniforms, I’m a lover of ducks. I find them fascinating, at times even mesmerizing. I do so enjoy the simple pleasures of observing their behavior.
About 50 years ago I went on my first duck hunt. My dad had purchased a new Auto-5 and gave me his 870 Wingmaster®. It was a great day for ducks; heavy dark, almost ominous cloud cover, a soft but chilly breeze causing the grass camouflage on the blind to rustle softly. There were about 8 to 10 water fowlers scattered in blinds on an empty irrigation ditch surrounding a stubble field. They decided to let me, a wide-eyed and anxious kid have the first shot. A pair of Mallards set their wings and came straight for me. At the report of my gun, my first duck fell from the sky. Later, as I sat in the blind with my duck next to me, I felt somewhat melancholy at taking the life of this lovely creature, but I also had even more respect and love for ducks.
During my teen years I explored and learned the Missouri River area at the head of Canyon Ferry Lake. This was before the dike project and I knew every nook and cranny in that rich wetland. I found areas of open water and places where ducks would cross the various channels. I became a quite successful hunter. Mallards, widgeon, goldeneyes, and mergansers were just some of the species I harvested with my trusty pump gun. It was great fun.
Over time, I drifted away from duck hunting preferring to concentrate of the very tasty upland game birds. If fact, I haven’t shot a duck in about 30 years, but I still love them. Like duck hunting, I also drifted away from the Ducks Unlimited® fundraisers. In the late 70s and early to mid-80s I attended the annual dinner in Zootown. I really enjoyed comraderies and stories of the other attendees, the fun of bidding and occasionally buying a piece of art, a hunting accessory, or winning a door prize. Mostly, I enjoyed the good feeling I got knowing that some of the money I was spending would help ensure the future of ducks and the wetlands they and other fauna need to survive.
Recently, I attended the DU® dinner in Broadwater County. Almost as soon as I entered the banquet room I felt the same good sensation I got at the dinners so many years ago. I saw the volunteers working hard, the patrons bidding and buying, “greenwings” wide-eyed and hopeful of winning a shotgun, much like I was at their age 50 odd years ago. It was a wonderful and special time for me and my wife who attended her first DU® fund raiser.
I was a successful bidder on one item. It was this year’s decoy of the year. It is the finest example of a carved duck I have ever seen. The canvasback you see next to these words is a wooden carving and everyone that sees it touches the feathers that seem so soft and real. It is truly an artful sculpture that will find a prominent place near the door of our new home where it can greet our guests. When I look at it, I get that same warm feeling that comes to me when I attend a “ducks dinner.” I suggest you treat yourself and attend one too.
Be safe and good shooting.