Duck Season Reflections From An Old Timer

Reader Contributed | February 4, 2021

By Tony Peters

I’m writing this on Feb. 1, 2021, one of the saddest days that will come during this year. It’s the day after duck season has ended and the first day of the long 305-day countdown until a new season begins. When I went outside this morning at daylight to retrieve a few logs to throw in the wood stove, I heard the pleading sound of Canada Geese flying into my cove on Lake Sinclair. The words came out of my mouth without thinking, “Boys and girls, you’ve made it through another duck season, so it’s time now to go hatch out new birds for the next season.”

Tony Peters (right) after a great morning of wood duck hunting.

I set out my first decoy spread for ducks when I was 18 years old. When duck season ended yesterday, I sat over my decoys for my 46th consecutive duck season. At 64, God continues to bless me with the good health needed to endure the icy tough weather conditions and the bottomless mud of swamps, marshes and beaver ponds that these intriguing birds inhabit.

Waterfowl hunting sure isn’t for everyone, but I’m passionate about it and was blessed to have hunted 44 days of this year’s 60-day season.

Most seasons we kill more than 100 ducks, and this season was no different. We had 154 ducks ride back to the boat ramp in my boat for an impressive average of 3.5 ducks harvested each day.

If variety is the spice of life, then my palate will get to taste both diving ducks and puddle ducks, as we killed eight different species of waterfowl in those 154 birds. The neat thing is that all of them were killed on public water.

A lot has changed in the 46 years since I began my exploration of every wetland I could find. I’ve hunted through today’s 60-day season and six-bird limit, and I’ve hunted through the lean years when we had a 30-day season and a three-bird limit.

I don’t miss the days when limits were determined by a point system. Each species of duck was worth a different amount of points, and hens were worth more points than drakes. If your hunting partners were accountants, they could keep you from breaking the law and exceeding the point system bag limit. On days they didn’t hunt, you were left scratching your head as to what sex and duck species you could still shoot without exceeding the point limit. However, it did teach me to identify each duck species by their shape and flight pattern before pulling the trigger.

Equipment has changed over 46 years, and it has definitely been a plus. Decoys are more realistic and made from more durable plastic, and now they come with battery-powered motors to create motion.

I don’t miss those cold, canvas-covered rubber waders that rarely lasted two seasons. Neoprene and breathable Gore-Tex dominate wader and waterfowl clothes these days, although I wish I could afford the functionality and nostalgic look of the waxed canvas clothes sold by Filson.

I do miss the days of hunting with lead shot. That first season that steel shot was required by law was terrible. Shot-shell manufacturers were behind the curve in creating efficient loads of steel shot for waterfowl. We may have lost more crippled birds to steel shot that year than the amount of ducks killed from lead poisoning the previous year.

Thankfully, technology has caught up with the market and better wad inventions along with denser shot patterns are providing us with more lethal and efficient loads for killing ducks. I just wish those new loads were more affordable. No shot load invented so far can match the affordability and performance of those of lead shot. None of the new shot loads can be fired through as many different choke constrictions as lead shot can be fired through.

It’s time now to clean and put away the myriad of gear I use for this demanding sport so it will all be ready for my 47th season of waterfowl hunting.

Well, “The Old Sage Of Sinclair”  signs off by saying, “Get up and go while you are able. One day it will be taken from you. Or you will be taken from it.”

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