BY TIM HOVEY
I harvested my first duck somewhere in the late ‘90s. It was a bufflehead and it turned out to be the only duck I would kill on our dedicate waterfowl trip. After that brief trip, I hunted waterfowl every year for the next several years and seriously enjoyed it. In the mid 2000s I relocated north to an area that had little to no waterfowl opportunities and I simply shelved that interest and concentrated on other forms of hunting.
Last year, I dusted off the decoys and the waders and headed out with a few friends to duck hunt a few private ponds. I can clearly remember not being super enthused about the trip, but I was looking forward to spending time in the field with good friends.
When the shooting time came, the sky exploded with activity and something inside me clicked. I don’t remember if I limited or not, but I had an amazing time. So much so that the very next day I was stomping around the same muddy marsh hunting for ducks again.
That season I hunted waterfowl more than I had ever hunted them previously. Whenever someone wanted to go, a trip was planned. I started paying more attention to the flying patterns of ducks and sounds of the different species coming in. I had a call but I preferred using my voice to get them close. I invested in some updated decoys and upgraded my aging waders. I even went out and bought a second semi-auto shotgun. I have no idea why, but my recent emersion into duck hunting has me slightly obsessed.
Once last year’s season ended, I started scouting out new duck spots and areas where me and my friends could jump shoot. I started glassing park ponds to see what kind of ducks were in the area. And the amount of steel, number 2 shot I kept on hand for duck season quadrupled in quantity.
As the 2021 waterfowl season approaches, I find myself a lot more excited to hunt than I was last season. Like I do with the start of every season, I have set a few goals for myself.
While I did bag several limits of ducks last season, I’d like to be more species selective this season. I harvested a few new species to me last year and I’d like to try and take a limit of greenhead this season. I picked up a mallard call last month and have been practicing in the truck as I drive. This year I’ll be doing the calling.
While it’s easy to grab a shotgun from the safe and just go waterfowl hunting, this season I’ll hunt with a special firearm. Several years ago, a good friend gifted me an over and under 20-gauge shotgun. His health was failing, and he decided to send me this amazing gift so that his guns could keep hunting. I will admit that after his passing the shotgun stayed in the safe for a few years. Last year, I decided to use it on a few trips and instantly knew I needed to put this firearm in the hunting rotation.
This season, Ken’s over and under shotgun will come out with me on every trip. Beyond being a firearm far nicer than I’ve ever shot before, I just wanted to make sure Ken’s shotgun keeps hunting.
My last waterfowl goal for the season is to harvest a Canadian goose. I’ve never harvested one before and while I don’t see them often here in California, I did get a good chance at one last season. This year I hope to capitalize on any additional chances I may get.
As I get older, I find that I have a greater appreciation for the season opener of any game species. Instead of rushing out to bag limits or fill a tag, I take a few moments to admire the wild beauty around me. For me, it’s not longer about what I load in the cooler. I’d rather enjoy the company around me, maybe work on getting better, or just keep a good friend’s shotgun hunting.
As the waterfowl season gets closer, I find myself getting more excited for those early morning hunts. The scouting continues, as I try and nail down a spot for the opener. Me and my friends are in contact weekly to pin down plans and figure out where we’ll be staying. While most of the plans are still up in the air, the two things I can be sure of is that I will be enjoying good times with great friends, and Ken’s shotgun will be in the blind with me.