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Article contributed by Field Staff Writer G. Ford.
At least once every few hunts, I thinkâ€¦why the hell am I even here?Â Why am I spending my morning like this?Â Why did I come hunting, when I could have stayed in bed; where it is warm, dry, and cozy?Â I mean…look at the ridiculous mess that I am in right now!Â Following are a few outtakes from this past duck season where I caught myself entangled in questionable and hilarious situations.Â
Duck hunting with friends on public land usually does not turn out like you see in the magazines and the hunting shows often filmed in Arkansas, with massive numbers of waterfowl circling overhead.Â The Piedmont of North Carolina is a tough place to waterfowl hunt, and with more hunters getting into the sport, there is a lot of competition for the prime spots on public land.Â (For the record, I view this as a great thing.)Â My buddies and I usually address the competition by getting up at insanely-early hours to meet at the boat dock or walk-in point of entry.Â As each season passes, the suggested time to meet (to beat everyone else) gets earlier and earlier.Â There are mornings where the alarm goes off at midnight, or we just donâ€™t go to bed at all.Â Some mornings, I head down Hillsborough St. in Raleigh so early, there are still people out at the bars, drinking and having a good time.Â With a kayak hanging out of my truck bed, I definitely get noticed.Â I am off to bust my ass in the swamps all morning, in hopes of killing some birds.Â Theyâ€™re going to catch a cab home and sleep until lunch.Â Again, I reflect on my life choices as I drive bleary-eyed and sleep deprived away from the neon lights and into the darkness of old county roads.
Once you get to the ramp or trail, the work has really just started.Â There are still hours of preparation before the sun is even close to coming up.Â Weâ€™ve still got to lug all manner of decoys, guns, and gear over great distances.Â Headlong we go across woods and fields, aiming for the swamps.Â We precariously traverse beaver dams, ponds, and creek channels with a cumbersome load, at an hour where everyone in the country is sleeping.Â Again, I usually catch myself questioning my sanity on long walk-in ventures.Â This past season, I was crossing 300 yards of beaver pond at about 4 a.m.Â Carrying my blind bag and gun case across one shoulder, with about two dozen decoys strapped to my back, I was doing all I could to make forward progress.Â I had to test every step to avoid sunken logs and stumps that created an underwater minefield.Â Any slipup with this load and Iâ€™d go face first into the water.Â Going for a swim was not my goal at this time of year or this time of morning.Â The result would be a canceled hunt and worries of hypothermia.Â On the other side of that beaver pond was a wide creek mouth opening onto a lake.Â There was nothing but boot-swallowing muck between us and our intended setup point.Â A few hundred yards in, we still had a half mile to go.
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Public land hunting is hard hunting.Â I usually retreat to private land for the easier access and less competition, but I still canâ€™t get out of my own way sometimes.Â The night before the last day of central North Carolinaâ€™s 2015 duck season, it rained all night.Â We got between 1 and 2 inches.Â I thought it would be a fine idea to drive down my woods path (which is little more than a four wheeler trail) to get to my private duck hole.Â Fifty yards down the path, the path had turned to slick mud and I slid off the path.Â My truck came to rest slammed against a yellow-poplar.Â There was nothing left to do then, as it was 5 a.m. and I was by myself.Â So, I still went hunting, in the rain, where I did not see a single duck all morning.Â Back I trekked to my truck.Â Humbly, I called in reinforcements, and it took several tries with a tractor to finally get my truck unstuck.Â Three hours after the hunt and well after lunch, I was finally on my way home, empty-handed.Â Any other morning, to simply go out in the early morning hours, get my truck stuck in the mud up against a tree, stand in the cold and rain, looking for something that wasnâ€™t thereâ€¦.it would be tough to find the rationality of that morningâ€™s endeavors.
Even through the hard work and frustration, however frequent, I hunt because of the prospect of adventure and success.Â I did not know what would be walking or flying until I got there.Â There is only one way to find out.Â As my dad always says, â€œyou ainâ€™t gonna kill â€˜em sitting on the couch.â€Â You have got to get out there and mix it up.Â Â Dig deep and find drive and determination.Â Follow through on goals you set for yourself.Â Accomplish on real terms a vision you had for yourself.Â Donâ€™t give up because it is hard.
I do it all because I love it, not because it is easy or glamorous.Â And no matter the circumstances, if my passion is real and true, I donâ€™t care about the outcome.Â I forge on, better prepared for next time, and I end the hunt with a story to tell.