"Today should be a great hunt", I say to my hunting parter, who is also my father. "We are finally getting a cold front, and maybe some birds will be riding this North wind...."
...Two hours later, we are both scratching our heads and wondering why we have only seen 100 ducks, none of which seem interested.
This was the story for most of my hunts this season, and many other hunters that I have talked with have had similar luck. You can blame it on the unseasonably warm weather (blame El Nino?), you can blame it on too much water, you can blame it on too much hunting pressure/wise birds, you can blame it on conservation organizations, you can blame the government, you can blame etc...but the fact is, this season is one I will remember for a long time. I will not remember it for the multiple days of multiple limits like last season. I will definitely not remember it for all of the birds coming in while we were walking out with our kill for the day. This season will be remembered as the season that reminded me why I hunt waterfowl.
Each day I jumped out of bed when my alarm went off, eager to get to the field to see if the ducks would be there. Most days I was disappointed, but a couple days later, I repeated the process again. Each time that I rushed to an empty field, I was greeted by beautiful sunrises or sunsets. I paid attention to the natural world around me, and listened to other animals as they woke up or got ready to sleep. I took time from a busy schedule to spend a few hours with my father. I was reminded what duck hunting was about. Its not about the kill. It's not about a sky full of ducks forming a tornado over my field. It's not about getting a limit before most other fields have even shot. These things are great, but to really appreciate the good hunts, I am convinced that you have to have some bad hunts. The days where the most action is coming from the blackbirds flying over after a beautiful sunset are there to remind us to slow down, to enjoy the little things in life, to learn to be happy even when things do not go our way, and to motivate us to give it another try tomorrow. These things are much easier said than done, and it is sometimes hard for me to watch empty skies. However, this season has really helped reset my mindset to enjoy duck hunting like it should be.
Next time you have a terrible hunt, or even a terrible season, look around, take a sip of coffee, and enjoy the nature around you...you are, after all, in a position to be able to get out and hunt.