youth hunter with wood duck

Sitting on a flooded-out beaver swamp last Saturday, a pile of wood ducks on the blind floor, my cell phone went off with a text from my good buddy Mike Bard. He was a couple hundred miles away for the youth season, hunting with his son Zach. Few people are as dedicated to waterfowl hunting as Mike. He built a barn just to hold his 10,000-plus decoys, two boats, and small fleet of ATVs, trailers, blinds, guns, and gear. Zach had just shot his first bird, a drake wood duck, and had joined his father’s fraternity.


Youth Hunter with Wood Duck

All those miles away, I was hunting with another friend’s dad, Tim, and Tim’s younger brother. On Sunday, we were joined by six more hunters; our oversized party ranged in age from early 20s to middle 60s. A week later, Tim sent me another photo: his granddaughter Micaela cradling a drake woodie. She had sat in the blind on a late-morning hunt with grandpa.


wood duck

Over the first three days of the season, our amorphous hunting party shot 25 ducks and two bands, but like Tim says in the video above, the duck opener isn’t really about killing ducks. It’s a holiday from work and life, shared with family and friends, with laughter and small victories communicated over coffee and text message.