What is it about opening day that drives hunters crazy? I have been part of opening days now for well over 40 years and each one that rolls around is as special as the last one. In some parts of the country, “on” is used as slang to describe what you are about to do. I’m going to get my Friday “on”. I’m going to get my boating “on”. And so on and so on. We duck hunters like to get our “cave man on” the night before the opening day of duck season. You see, over the years there are two things I have found to be common with the night before duck season – meat and fire.
I have tasted some of the best food at a meal the night before that has consisted of everything from the summer’s walleye catch to home grown steak and everything in between. I have never, and I mean never seen a vegetable on a duck hunters plate at a night before meal. For some reason, the words, “I hope Dave’s wife makes that vegetable casserole for us again this year” have never been muttered.
Fire is used for two main reasons – cooking and conversation. After the meal, generally speaking, there is fire involved. This can be in the form of a nice, calm, open flame in the hunting lodge, or outside in some form of enclosed container.
In my opinion, this is where the real season starts. This is the time to size up what will happen over the next several weeks. You see, we waterfowlers are optimists. We don’t remember the bad hunts, only the good ones.
It’s also a reality check. Maybe this is ole Shep’s last year. He sits around the fire to keep warm and doesn’t run around and beg for everybody’s plate like he has done in years past. And you want to get him on a couple of hunts before the ice sets in. Maybe this is Papa’s last season. You could tell by the summer fishing trip you took with him that the vision is failing, and his general health isn’t near what it use to be. Or maybe there is an open seat around the fire where Jeff used to sit because some terrible condition took him to the great swamp in the sky since last season. Life sucks sometimes.
It’s also a reality check for the positive things in life. Maybe there’s this young voice, in the form of a daughter or son, that is wrapped in a blanket sitting next to you by the fire that didn’t pack the red rider this year, but is packing “heat” in the form of a new 20 gauge you picked up this summer. Or maybe Joshua is joining the team for the first time. He’s the new buddy you found this summer trout fishing the same stream you do.
No matter where you are in your life’s journey, the night before duck season is a very special time. At the time of this penning, some of you have already opened your season. Congratulations and good luck this year. For the rest of us poor souls, we will have to wait a few more days to enjoy this cherished time of year. Good hunting.
This post is written by our father. As you can tell, we are all excited for next duck season!
Find the Ducks!