By Brent Birch, contributing editor
I am a Mississippi Flyway waterfowler, and our seasons are confined to a sixty-day season right in line with the Atlantic Flyway. The Central Flyway chases them for 74 days, while the Pacific Flyway has the longest stretch at 107. The different lengths are based on different numbers of hunters, mallard populations and a few other factors.
When you look at the actual number, all of those seem like such a long time, so much opportunity with plenty of days to hunt.
Then, in a blink of an eye, duck season comes and goes in a flash. Duck season may be the fastest 60 days known to man. At least to anyone that has a love, appreciation and passion for chasing waterfowl. Remarkably, even the tough seasons seem to fly right on by like a blur.
We all know that end of season, been through the ringer feeling. All those mornings waking up well before daybreak, plowing through gas station breakfasts followed by, hunting, scouting, fixing eventually catches up with all of us. But when it’s over, a near feeling of depression sets in and the countdown until the next season begins.
So in a world that runs at an accelerated pace with everyone wanting anything, right now…how do we slow those 60 days of duck season down? How do craft experiences to maximize our days afield whether you hunt six days or all 60? That’s undoubtedly a challenge and varies by the individual.
But I’ve got a few ideas that work as I try to navigate an Arkansas duck season.
Chase Experiences, not Limits
With social media creating narratives, good and bad, in everything, not just duck hunting, the duck hunting community has found themselves obsessed with showing off. Pile pic after pile pic litter social media feeds as if they are some kind of exclusive club or a rarity. Guys…we get it…you kill ducks and lots of them. But…yawn.
The sooner the waterfowling community cares more about the entire experience than the pile pic…the better off we will all be. There is so much more to the duck hunting experience than the brag.
Make the Give as Important as the Take
Waterfowlers have gotten really good at the take and I acknowledge that’s a big piece of why we hunt. Myself included. Otherwise we would be bird watchers with really fancy gear. But how many of use are in the business of giving back to the resource. Whether that’s habitat or fowl, both need everything we can give them if we want to sustain this sport we all love. If all we do is take, ducks and geese will eventually go the way of other wildlife that was over-hunted, over-pressured and undercut out of valuable habitat. You don’t have to own ground to give back. You don’t have to wealthy to give back. Get creative and thinking beyond your own decoy spread and I ensure you will find a way.
And I can assure you when the give plays a roll in your take…it is exponentially more gratifying.
Mentor a Young Person
I hate to keep harping on social media but it is unfortunately become the avenue where far too many “learn” to duck hunt. Although there are some resources out there promoting the good stuff about waterfowling, there are plenty that do not. This is where each of us have an opportunity to show someone the ropes. The ability to teach what an ethical shot is or how to interact with other hunters, especially on public ground, would go miles and miles to improving the duck hunting experience. Your family members, your neighbor’s kid, someone you see randomly running astray in the waterfowling world…doesn’t matter who, just look for opportunities to influence and get waterfowling edging back towards the gentlemen’s sport it once was.
Control the Controlables
Let’s hope this duck season aligns with everyone’s hopes and dreams. But a lot of that is beyond of our control or the hay is already in the barn as far as duck populations and such. Weather…not much influence on that.
So, to get more satisfaction out of this season, go forward with a focus on controlling the controlables. Eat well. Drink well if that’s your thing. Enjoy your company, the sunrises, the sunsets, a quality working dog and so on. Definitely do less stressing out about your harvest or keeping up with what you see online (hot tip…what you see isn’t always on the up and up).
Duck season is going to speed by regardless how good or bad it is. Be thankful for the opportunity to be afield and never take a single day for granted. Those 60 days are special and finite so don’t waste them. Whether there’s limits all around or a duck never peaked at your decoys, there’s a positive experience to be had.
And just like every other season that’s gone by, I’ll be stoked when it starts and sad when it ends but such is the life of a waterfowler. Always ready to do it all over again.
About the Author
Brent Birch is a contributing editor to the Tom Beckbe Field Journal. A lifelong waterfowler who cut his teeth duck hunting in the White River Bottoms at Crocketts Bluff as well as rice fields and reservoirs across Lonoke, Prairie, and Arkansas counties, Birch is the publisher of The Grand Prairie: A History of Duck Hunting’s Hallowed Ground, which details the legacy of Arkansas’s rich waterfowling history. He is also co-creator and editor of Greenhead: The Arkansas Duck Hunting Magazine and co-founder of the Arkansas Waterfowler Hall of Fame located in Stuttgart, Arkansas. Birch is a host of The Standard Sportsman podcast.