By Travis Thompson
1. Jumping out of bed at 4 am, whether it’s day 1 or day 48 . . .
2. Finding an unopened pack of beef jerky in your blind bag from last season.
3. And it’s Teriyaki.
4. And you split it with your Lab.
5. And it’s mostly not stale.
6. The echo of the first shot of the morning.
7. The magic of a Tuesday hunt on public land, where you slip into your spot just before shoot time, a small spread leading to a magical shoot, and sneaking into the office by 9:30, no one the wiser
8. Gas station hot dogs for breakfast. In the South, Racetrac is the gold standard . . . Wawa is a close second, and 7-11 will do in a pinch.
9. Realizing you have a case of shells left over from last season’s “Sale of the Century” . . . HeviShot #2’s, and a bunch of them.
10. The anticipation of rigging new decoys.
11. The anticipation of painting old decoys.
12. The smell of your gun after those first shots are fired.
13. Watching a flurry of teal bank impossibly wide and dump right into your decoys
14. And missing the shots because you were so dumbfounded at how perfecet it was.
15. The sound of airboats and surface drives and longtails revving around the marsh in pitch black, spotlights bouncing
every which way, a perverted Indianapolis 500 from Hell, but one we miss as soon as the season is over . . .
16. First ducks . . . There’s just something special about first ducks . . . Resplendent drakes and drab hens and eclipse teal . . . and the smiles that come with them . . . and the smiles that come after them . . .
17. The trophy . . . His colors don’t even look real when you reach down to pick him up . . . purples mixed into the greens, flecks of white in some ethereal burnt umber color, crisp tuxedo lines . . . Whether a wood duck or a wigeon, it’s hard to put into words the excitement and joy that you feel as you pick up a trophy.
18. The camaraderie . . . waiting for sunrise and shoot time . . . Politics, and religion, and girls are all fair game in the duck blind . . .Who’s playing in the football games this afternoon, and where do we think the birds will come from, and hey, have you heard from so-in-so this year . . . We go for the hunt, but make no mistake that the fellowship of the blind is a big part of the same hunt.
19. The Orange Box Café. Fried Bologna with biscuits and sausage gravy. The Marsh Landing. 3 eggs over easy, with grits. Sweet’s Diner, the Pile Up. IHop. Cracker Barrell. Food, Fellowship, and flight patterns are the big parts of duck hunting . . . For us, there’s nothing better than reliving the hunt while warming up at one of our local haunts. For you it may be the lodge, or the house, or the back of the truck, but there’s something intricately tied together between waterfowling and food.
20. The follies. Stepping out of the boat into a hole exactly 3/10 of an inch deeper than your waders and listening as your buddies roar with delight. Forgetting to reload after the last volley and watching a hand painted pintail light in your spread as your trusty Browning gives off the “click” of death, and all you’re left with is the memory.
22. Putting out the decoys. Picasso with a paintbrush. Bryce Harper with a bat. Hillary Clinton with a scandal. You with a decoy spread. Whether the ducks fly or not, it won’t be because there’s a single bird out of place.
23. The thrill of arriving back at the ramp or lodge with a full strap on a morning when everyone else is empty.
24. The ghosts of those we’ve shared our blinds with in the past . . . Grandfathers and fathers, friends and family, gone too soon but somehow still close . . .
That’s our list for this season . . . What are some things you love most about duck season?