Insanity in the Form of Hunting

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Article contributed by Field Staff Writer G. Ford.

At least once every few hunts, I think…why the hell am I even here?  Why am I spending my morning like this?  Why did I come hunting, when I could have stayed in bed; where it is warm, dry, and cozy?  I mean…look at the ridiculous mess that I am in right now!  Following are a few outtakes from this past duck season where I caught myself entangled in questionable and hilarious situations. 

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.  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.  (For the record, I view this as a great thing.)  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.  As each season passes, the suggested time to meet (to beat everyone else) gets earlier and earlier.  There are mornings where the alarm goes off at midnight, or we just don’t go to bed at all.  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.  With a kayak hanging out of my truck bed, I definitely get noticed.  I am off to bust my ass in the swamps all morning, in hopes of killing some birds.  They’re going to catch a cab home and sleep until lunch.  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.

Processed with VSCOcamOnce you get to the ramp or trail, the work has really just started.  There are still hours of preparation before the sun is even close to coming up.  We’ve still got to lug all manner of decoys, guns, and gear over great distances.  Headlong we go across woods and fields, aiming for the swamps.  We precariously traverse beaver dams, ponds, and creek channels with a cumbersome load, at an hour where everyone in the country is sleeping.  Again, I usually catch myself questioning my sanity on long walk-in ventures.  This past season, I was crossing 300 yards of beaver pond at about 4 a.m.  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.  I had to test every step to avoid sunken logs and stumps that created an underwater minefield.  Any slipup with this load and I’d go face first into the water.  Going for a swim was not my goal at this time of year or this time of morning.  The result would be a canceled hunt and worries of hypothermia.  On the other side of that beaver pond was a wide creek mouth opening onto a lake.  There was nothing but boot-swallowing muck between us and our intended setup point.  A few hundred yards in, we still had a half mile to go.

My truck stuck in the mud
My truck stuck in the mud

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Public land hunting is hard hunting.  I usually retreat to private land for the easier access and less competition, but I still can’t get out of my own way sometimes.  The night before the last day of central North Carolina’s 2015 duck season, it rained all night.  We got between 1 and 2 inches.  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.  Fifty yards down the path, the path had turned to slick mud and I slid off the path.  My truck came to rest slammed against a yellow-poplar.  There was nothing left to do then, as it was 5 a.m. and I was by myself.  So, I still went hunting, in the rain, where I did not see a single duck all morning.  Back I trekked to my truck.  Humbly, I called in reinforcements, and it took several tries with a tractor to finally get my truck unstuck.  Three hours after the hunt and well after lunch, I was finally on my way home, empty-handed.  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 wasn’t there….it would be tough to find the rationality of that morning’s endeavors.

Even through the hard work and frustration, however frequent, I hunt because of the prospect of adventure and success.  I did not know what would be walking or flying until I got there.  There is only one way to find out.  As my dad always says, “you ain’t gonna kill ‘em sitting on the couch.”  You have got to get out there and mix it up.   Dig deep and find drive and determination.  Follow through on goals you set for yourself.  Accomplish on real terms a vision you had for yourself.  Don’t give up because it is hard.

I do it all because I love it, not because it is easy or glamorous.  And no matter the circumstances, if my passion is real and true, I don’t care about the outcome.  I forge on, better prepared for next time, and I end the hunt with a story to tell.

A.J. Fick

Born and raised in northeast Pennsylvania, I’ve lived in southern California, central Texas, and currently reside in western Idaho. I consider myself a western hunter at heart, enjoying being part of vast landscapes and the thrill of the stalk. One of my hunting mottos is “stretch the stalk, not the shot”. My motivations as an outdoorsman are rooted in the sustenance, independence, and challenging physical aspects. In fact, my largest driving factor for physical fitness is preparing for upcoming hunts and ensuring I’m well-prepared to climb mountains and cover ground with a heavy pack. I also recognize and respect the importance of conservation efforts for our wild animals and wild places and the close connection to hunting and fishing. If we want future generations to experience the wonder and adventure of the outdoors, and gain the countless benefits, we must continue to make wildlife conservation today’s priority to ensure continued opportunity.

2 thoughts on “Insanity in the Form of Hunting

  • We hunt public lands, and are often frustrated with it. Difficult access, crowded, fewer animals (the state of critter populations near where I live is a separate gripe). The crowded is the worst part- it’s unsafe. I’ve come close to getting pegged by squirrels hunters more than once, even ground hunting for deer, and we’ve seen some truly irresponsible duck hunters out there.

    Our solution is to blend private with public, and scout even more public land. In addition to choosing odd days and times to hunt, we hunt fewer days, but plan it better. We streamline our gear for the really difficult to access public land. No point taking all the decoys if we have to lug em a long ways. At least the we’re less tired and frustrated. The private land we hunt is about 4 hours away by car, so hunting up there is always carefully planed out, and not a frequent occurance.

  • Pingback: Staying on the Game: Adapting to New Areas to Hunt & Fish | Harvesting Nature

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