There are some days in the duck guiding business that stick out in your memory. In talking to some of my guides sitting around a fire pit the other night, one of those stories popped up that made us have a good laugh. It was the day that Barney came duck hunting. No! It wasn’t that lovable character that most of our kids grew up with. It was a guy that came hunting with some business partners and he didn’t know what to expect on a duck hunt. If there is one negative and positive of being a duck guide, it is the opportunity of sharing a duck hole with someone on their first hunting experience.
Let’s start with the positive first, because I have always been a glass half full kind of person in life. The main reasons I started a duck hunting business was to show others the proper way of hunting ducks and to share that virgin experience of the glow in their eyes of that first duck hunt. Many people jump into waterfowl hunting because it is the cool thing to do. They never take time or didn’t have anyone teach them the little things to make a duck hunt successful. So that is where God uses me and my wisdom to show other duck hunters how to do it right. I always try to tell people they aren’t paying for a hunt, but they are paying for an experience. I am not saying that in an “I am a better duck hunter than you” tone either. I just have more experience and there are people that have more experience than me. The other thing with being a guide is watching someone’s eyes on their first good duck hunt. Men turn into boys and boys into men on their first good duck hunt. It is almost like watching your children on Christmas morning. Sometimes I want time to stand still in those moments not only for me, but for the hunters that are having such a good time.
There always has to be another part of the glass that is empty though in a half glass. If there is one negative I would have to say, it the lack of preparation on the hunter’s part. In the many conversations leading up to hunt, I try to prepare each hunter on what to expect as far as duck numbers, gear to bring, and hunting and weather conditions at the time they are coming. Since I can’t predict the weather or duck numbers (only go by yearly averages), there is only thing that is predictable in that list. That is the gear that is essential to kill ducks or geese if they are in the area. I can make out list and e-mail them or call and give them a gear list, but it seems there is always one “never leave behind” piece of gear that is always just that “left behind”.
So, I tell you all of that to bring us back to the story of Barney. While sitting in a flooded buck brush hole one morning with my guide helping him out and also filming the hunt. I took the camera because he told me it was gonna be “jam up”. Yall know what that phrase means! With the way the hunt started off, It was “jam up”, but as the minutes progressed and the sun came up so did the number of killing shots. Ducks were flaring off of us and the hunters just out of shooting range. I started asking the guide if he saw something unusual in the spread that would cause this. He told me, “no”. Hold up I know what you are thinking, ducks in the southern part of the flyaway always have one time or the other when they flare off a duck hole. My answer would be, this was the first time we hunted this hole that year and these were new ducks after a cold front had passed through. So it wasn’t the ducks. The problem had to be with us in some kind of way. I got up and looked around the hole and there it was,” Barney”. “Barney” was a salesman that had got talked into coming with some clients of his. This was his first experience duck hunting. The only other experience “Barney” ever had with ducks was at the city park or watching them die on the “Outdoor Channel”. “Barney”, as I have called him for years, had on a purple coat with no facemask. Do I think the purple coat mattered? No, it was a very dark purple and blended in with the dark colored brush perfectly. Do I think the big, watermelon, white head looking up at every duck mattered? Yes! I asked every hunter that morning before leaving the lodge if they all had facemasks. I got a group yes from all the members of the hunting party. Do I think ever duck hunter should wear facemask? No! I do think new duck hunters should though. For some reason new duck hunters can’t control themselves from looking up into the sky when ducks are passing over.
Looking up at ducks with no facemask on is the number one reason of ducks flaring. Most people want to blame it on a lot of other things like the decoy set up, calling, or boat placement, but looking up at ducks in range with no cover on the face is the number one mistake made by new duck hunters. Do yourself, hunting buddies, dog, or guide a favor and go buy a five dollar mask and wear it hunting. The other way you can conceal your face is with the new in style thing in duck hunting made popular by “The Duckmen” is painting your face. I love “The Duckmen” and what they are doing for waterfowling, but I love the warmth of a facemask on a cold morning. Don’t be the “Barney” of the duck hole.