It's Good Just To Get Out
As a young hunter I remember being confused listening older hunters talking about hunts they had considered successful. Often they didn’t shoot much and I sort of figured when they said things like, “It was good just to get out”, or “you don’t need to shoot a bunch of birds to have a good time” that was just an excuse for being bad at hunting. This crazy notion that you didn't need to shoot birds just didn’t make much sense to me because after all we are there in the pursuit of birds. The ultimate goal is of course to harvest some for the table, and harvesting those birds is what makes the hunt fun and offers the reward of satisfaction. So in bird hunting shooting a bunch of birds is the very definition of success. Right?
Thirty years later I am one of three friends sitting on the banks of an Idaho stream in mid January. Blissfully unplugged, unchained, and out of cell service for a time lapse series that will become the last day of duck season 2014.
The bitter temps at or near zero kept our toes and noses cold in the early hours. The only thing that resembled movement was each of us taking turns periodically to go on short walks to warm up a little. There was no action. It was a little boring and cold. Not many words were spoken, but even in such conditions each of us seamed content with the situation. Experience had taught us that often good things would happen if we waited patiently and put in our time.
When the sun finally peaked down into the canyon our spirits were lifted with it's warmth on our faces, and the Goldeneye that had started to whistle by from time to time. A few made the mistake of trying to make friends with our fakes, and though I chose not to shoot, it was fun watching the the other guys harvest a few.
After lunch a bald eagle soared down the the canyon gliding close over the top of our hide with the brilliant back drop that only Idaho can provide. The very symbol of our country, it made me think of how lucky I really am to have been born here. To be able to sit with two friends in the sunshine under a blue sky just doing what we love. It is a great thing.
A flock of rarely seen Trumpeter swans flew by. We marveled at their beauty and song.
We had many hours of pleasant conversation talking philosophy on everything from food and hunting to family and life in general. I think all hunters become philosophers after a time.
Late in the day a few mallards started moving. It was exciting to think we would finally get some action. When the ducks flared we noticed what we thought were two hunters walking toward us. As they got closer we could see they had no guns. We took pause as we realize one of them had a fishing rod, and appeared to be a pretty girl. You just don’t see that every day in a duck blind. She worked her way up stream as her boyfriend crossed to the other side. It became obvious he was working a trap line. She was so sneaky getting close enough to pull out her phone and take pictures of the birds sitting on the water. They did not frighten or fly away from her. She took several wonderful shots of our decoys. We got a really good laugh at her expense when we casually stood up and said hello. She was so embarrassed. She could do nothing but laugh with us. We were entertained enough that it wasn’t a big deal that there were for the first time all day mallards in the air and we could do nothing about it. I don’t think she really knew what to do so she just stood there twenty yards outside our spread for what to us seamed like the longest time. After a while the boyfriend crossed back over and they wandered off the direction they came from.
At sunset it was getting cold fast so we picked up and got back to the truck as quickly as possible. The young couple we had seen earlier stopped by as we were loading to apologized for messing up our hunt. We had another good laugh about it all. She was really a good sport about the whole thing.
We were getting really hungry so we got back in the truck and headed in to town for some dinner. Entering the restaurant a young man who had noticed how we were dressed said “Did you have a good hunt?”. I didn't know what to say. As my friend answered I laughed to myself thinking I guess it really was good just to get out.