Waterfowl hunters are a funny breed, and I mean that in the most positive and admirable sense possible.
Before you start typing out that email cursing my name and calling me out, I can make the above statement about waterfowlers, without fear of getting socked in the mouth, because I am one.
For lack of a better description; I‘m a dyed in the wool, windier and uglier the conditions the better, refuge rat foot races, spotlight showdowns, tule ninja sneaking, die hard waterfowl hunter.
I love this sport, plain and simple.
I love everything about our culture, our history, the ridiculous amount of gear we all have, the absolutely insane amount of time we spend in pursuit of the hunt, and, most importantly, the camaraderie.
Trying to explain waterfowl hunting to the uninitiated often times leaves them scratching their heads, wondering if you’ve lost your marbles, or if they’re just that out of touch. More often than not it’s the latter, except in the case of merganser shooters, in which case they have indeed lost their marbles.
Anyhow, back to my original point about waterfowlers being a funny breed of hunter.
By nature, I think waterfowl hunters tend to not attract as much attention in the hunting community as our big game hunting counterparts, for the simple reason that we’re a smaller and tighter knit community.
As of the most recent stats, there are roughly 989,500 waterfowl hunters in the United States, compared to roughly 11,400,000 deer hunters.
Despite the competitive nature of this sport, there is a defined sense of camaraderie within the waterfowl hunting community that’s incredibly unique……sort of for better or worse (you know I’m right, stop denying it).
Let’s look at the wildlife refuge system for starters.
Where I’m at, in Northern California, there are numerous refuges spread throughout the Central Valley, with the majority being within a two-hour drive for me.
Accessibility wise it’s pretty stellar.
But, the one thing that I’ve begun to appreciate more and more are the same familiar faces that I encounter at the Friday evening lotteries and early Saturday morning call times. The same hunters, week in, and week out, either following the migration patterns in the valley, or hitting their favorite locals only refuge hunting spots.
It starts as a single wave or “how ya doing” in the parking lot, but often times leads to discussions around what ponds are hot or what areas to avoid, quickly followed by a “Hey, you wanna join us?” invite. This sense of community, once again, is something that doesn’t exist outside of waterfowl hunting, at least not in my experience.
While it’s true that every type of hunter has their own honey hole or secret spot, I’ve never met a duck hunter that didn’t eventually give up the location of his ”secret spot” to enjoy some wing shooting with a hunting partner, new or old, albeit most often times blindfolded on the way in.
Can the same be said for any other type of hunter?
Next up on the funny meter, the absolutely insane amount of hunting gear that waterfowlers accumulate.
Now, to be fair, I have a decent amount of big game hunting gear, but the sheer volume of waterfowl hunting gear I’ve managed to accumulate over the years is absolutely mindboggling.
Multiple pairs of waders, Mojo’s, motion decoys, duck decoys in general, choke tubes, blind bags, layout blinds, full-body decoys, goose silos, floating gun cases, non-floating gun cases, too many hoodies to count, etc. The list goes on and on.
(Alicia, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry and I know I can’t buy anymore decoys unless I buy a bigger house.)
Could I add everything up and figure out what I’ve invested in gear over the years?
Do I want to? No, absolutely not.
My point is though, waterfowl hunters invest more money in their hunting gear than just about any other type of hunter out there, and for good reason. Bottom line, my name is Casey Hartwell and I’m a waterfowl hunting addict.
The final aspect of what makes waterfowl hunters a funny breed is the pure ingenuity I’ve seen over the years when it comes to finding the “X” and getting on some birds.
Waterfowl hunters are willing to do WHATEVER it takes (for better…….or worse) to give themselves the best shot at getting some shots.
Have you ever seen any other type of hunter pulling up early morning for a hunt with an enclosed 20-foot trailer filled to the brim with decoys, ATVs, light rigs, sleds, or otherwise?
Waterfowlers pull out all of the stops when it comes to the pursuit, and if we don’t have what we need, we find a way to fashion it from whatever we have available.
For example, when hunting the local wildlife refuges, I’ve seen such an innovative mix of ways to get gear out in the field. Everything from hauling gear out on your back in bags, to modified three-wheeled jogging strollers fitted with a jet sled (hit me up if you’re looking for ideas here), to golf bag totes converted to haul whatever mess of gear you can think of bringing.
Hell, I’ve even seen someone pulling an old Radio Flyer wagon (camo painted of course) stacked four feet high with gear, secured by more bungee cords than I could possibly count.
Where there’s a will there’s a way and duck hunters always have a way of finding it.
So, what do you think? Are waterfowl hunters indeed a funny breed? Maybe not for the reasons you originally thought but funny, nonetheless.