The Good Stuff

By Travis Thompson

 

In today’s morass of social media driven limits and wall mounts, it’s become disorienting to figure out what the good part of the the watefowler’s lifestyle is anymore.

We’ve become obsessed with followers, and likes, and fully plumed drakes and pro-staffs.  We’ve identified with heroes of the industry, yet their real product is anything but heroic.

It’s time to figure out which stuff is the good stuff . . .

It’s a single mom booking a hunt for her boys, trying her damnedest to make sure they are exposed to the outdoors in the right way.  Her paying a guide and driving all night and buying guns and ammos and licenses so her boys will have those memories they don’t even know they need yet.

It’s dads spending afternoons in duck blinds with their kids, bribed with chocolate donuts and Mountain Dew, their children’s chattering keeping the ducks just out of range, but keeping smiles on their sons and daughters faces that “daddy spent all his time listening to me and we still had fun and never shot a single duck.”

The good stuff isn’t found in limits and wall hangers.  It isn’t behind quota hunts and gaming the system so you end up hunting the premier spot weekend after weekend.  If you believe it’s found in the amount you spend at the taxidermist, you’ve lost your way and need to recalibrate.

It’s in the McDonald’s breakfasts and the taco stands.  In the shots you miss, the waders you flood, the decoys you kill while whiffing at the trophies.  It’s in the aforementioned chatter of your son as he drones on about a video game or a girl at school or the ducks you can’t seem to find . . . The sunrises and the sunsets . . . The first ducks, the first mergansers, hell, the first coots . . . It’s grandpas and grandsons and first hunts and, unknowingly, last hunts as well . . .

It’s in the camaraderie – the long drives, the laughs, the wonder when a flock of 200 bluebills drop into your spread and all 200 escape unharmed . . . That time before sunrise when you talk about football games, and religion, and politics, and fart jokes . . . It’s spending time with friends who become family, and family coming together . . . It’s in laughter and coffee and seeing your breath and watching the moon set . . . The smell of gunpowder and wet labs . . . The sound of a duck landing unseen, a light splash, as though someone dropped a bag of feathers into the water . . .

I’ve spent a lot of time recalibrating this year.  Self reflecting.  Am I adding to the noise, or trying to create a new path, one that combines our online presence with honorable content.  It’s not always easy, and there will be swings and misses, but I think it’s important to reexamine the way we consume this media, especially as it feeds into our addictions . . .

There’s nothing wrong with being proud of your limit, or your lit pintail, your canvasback or wigeon or redhead . . . I’m a fan, too . . . Where we go astray is when our arrogance overtakes our joy in the harvest . . . Oneupsmanship replaces sportsmanship, and when this happens, a small piece of our sport, of our heritage, a sliver of it dies.

Just try to remember that we’re all in this together.  The weekend warrior who can’t seem to find a duck to save his life is working pretty hard all week just to get to the blind on Saturday morning . . . Don’t make fun of his single hen mallard, or his hen merganser . . . Or his sunset pictures . . . Be kind when he asks for identification of a shoveler, or a hybrid mallard, or an eclipsed pintail . . . Someone somewhere taught you, why can’t we check our sarcasm and scathing comments at the social media door . . . You weren’t born with an innate ability to distinguish between a black duck and a mottled . . . A ringneck and a bluebill . . .

The good stuff can be found right where you’re at . . . Take a minute, quit worrying about the harvest, and see if you can find it too . . . Because that’s what I’m chasing, starting now . . .

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