We grew up in a household that hunted. Venison tacos were a staple. The species we primarily hunted in Vermont was the elusive whitetail. When I was a child hunting was more about getting to hangout with my Dad, and his friends than it was about hunting. I looked forward to hearing the stories, lies, and heckling. Eventually Cole became old enough to join in the shenannigans.
When I moved to NC I got dragged into a duck hunt. Terrible idea... I became hooked instantly. It was everything I loved about hunting. I got to sit in a blind, drink coffee, and cut up with my friends until the ducks showed up. Eventually it became much more than hunting as I poured myself into learning strategies, planning hunts, and researching the rich history of the fabled fowl hunters.
As I have gotten older my hunt time has gotten more limited, which lead me to my friend Gary. I had heard Gary was the best, and if I had limited time I wanted to use it well. The first time I hunted with Gary his attention to decoy placement caught my attention. Group after group of ducks would work exactly how he described they might as we placed decoys in the morning moonlight. Gary knows his stuff, and worked harder to put ducks in front of me than anybody ever had.
I had never shared duck hunting with anybody in my family. My dad thinks I am crazy for sitting in the water in zero degree temperatures to shoot some ducks, I still think Dad is crazy for sitting in his deer stand and talking to the squirrels all day. This year Cole mentioned that he would like to try it with me. I had a hunt planned for the 22-23rd of December, so letting him join would be the perfect Christmas Gift.
I had to let him know ahead of time what he was getting so he could go ahead and get his Duck Stamp and NC Hunting license. We scraped together my second hand gear, loaded the car, and were on our way. My best friend Jared was meeting us at duck camp. Anybody that knows Jared and Cole knows there is laughs to be had when they are together.
Duck hunting depends a lot on the weather. Not only your local weather, but the weather to the north of your location on the migration route. The weather wasn't looking great, but I was optimistic as one must be as a NC duck hunter. I knew I would at least laugh at Cole and Jared.
The action started slow the first morning, but the coffee was tasty. We scraped out a couple ducks and introduced Cole to the fast pace shooting. We laughed a lot and it turned out to be a great morning to knock the rust off and get our routine down for the following morning.
The next morning we were going to a blind I had personally had a lot of luck in before so I was excited. We threw a large variety of species of decoys out in their respective groups and got settled into the blind as we waiting for shooting light. The first pair of ducks that came in right at legal shooting light were Teal and they came right to the Teal decoys. The pace of the morning was constant. We would shoot 1-2 ducks at a time. Garys young dog Reed would retrieve them while we reloaded and sipped more coffee. We never waited more than 15 minutes between ducks and it was constant from shooting light until we finished up with our limit at 9:30am.
Everybody shot well. Cole soloed on a drake Shoveler, Jared and I did as Jared and I do and competed on every shot. Reed at only 1 year 5 months put on duck retrieving clinic which included one dry land retrieve and a long water cripple swim down. In total we shot 7 species of ducks in our 3 man limit of 18; Pintail, Teal, Scooter, Bufflehead, Gadwall, Shoveler, and Bluebill.
I sat far right in the blind, and have a mental picture burned into my mind that will last a lifetime. Everyone is reloading. Cole is to my left, smiling ear to ear as he sips his coffee. Jared to his left laughing hysterically undoubtedly at something Cole said. Gary is to Jared's left smiling and watching as Reed is jumping off the bank to do what he loves and retrieve ducks. All is right in the world at that moment. I have black coffee, family, great friends, all together in the outdoors.