One of the best things a hunter or fisherman can do is introduce someone new to the outdoors. When that person is their significant other, the effects are magnified.
One of my favorite things to do is hunt, especially duck hunt. Abby found this out early in our relationship when I would say goodnight at about 9:00pm every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and sometimes Sunday night during duck season for my 4:00am wake-up call. On days when I had class, I would drift into the Oak Hall parking lot, duck boat and decoys bouncing around in the bed of my trick, smelling like a combination of sweat, swamp water, and gunpowder. I would often use a bottle of water to wash black and brown face paint off my face the best I could while cruising back to Bemidji. Unbelievably, I never was never late for class; I always was there either right on time or a minute or two early. In short, I fit right in with many of my those who sat next to me in class.
Abby had never really hunted before, but had completed her hunter’s safety class in high school, so she wasn’t totally foreign to the concept. She was either really curious about what I actually did when I woke up at 4:00am and threw on my waders and camouflage jacket and speed-walked to my truck in the dark, duck calls jingling around my neck, or sick of me constantly asking her to come with me the next weekend. Either way, she finally agreed to tag along with me to one of my favorite duck lake one chilly October morning.
We left early in the morning, a couple hours before sunrise. We hooked up the boat, loaded the truck with waders, decoys, jackets, and all types other gear, and headed to the lake. Abby was surprisingly giddy the entire thirty minute drive, singing along to the radio and asking questions about where we were going, how far away we were, and if we would shoot any ducks.
Finally, we arrived. I began to back the boat down the narrow dirt boat launch in the dark, checking both side view mirrors as I centered the boat in the lane. Abby, standing near the water’s edge with a headlamp fastened around her forehead, did a great job of giving me directions. “Left, left, straighten out, right, right some more. Straight back. Stop!”
After putting on our waders and jackets and loading the boat with all the necessary gear, we began the slow boat ride to the spot we were going to hunt. Using an electric trolling motor to slowly push us along, it took about a half hour to get where we needed to go. Abby was not a huge fan of not being able to see much further than twenty or thirty yards into the darkness with our headlamps (or maybe it was just that I was steering the boat, I don’t know. I considered it a trust exercise.), but I assured her that we were almost to our hunting spot.
I hid the boat in a stand of cattails, pitched out the decoys into the predawn darkness, and settled in with Abby sitting by my side. There was little more do than wait for the sun to rise and swarms of ducks to fly within range. Or not.
Abby and I saw a few ducks, but none were interested in our decoy spread and quickly flew to the other end of the lake. Also, someone got tired and fell asleep. This is a common theme.
The weather began to deteriorate by 10am with steady wind and rain and we were both getting a little bit antsy for warmth and food, so we decided to call it quits early and head back to Bemidji for breakfast.
When I asked Abby if she would ever consider duck hunting again, she made it clear that she did not like the dark boat ride, or sitting in the dark, or the rain, or the cold wind. But other than that, she had an alright time. She was a good sport all morning, and I really appreciated it.
“I’ll chalk that up as a success,” I told myself, happy that I was able to introduce Abby to something that I’m passionate about. The laughs we shared that first hunt will always be some of my favorite memories.
Thanks for reading!