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The wheel has come full circle. -William Shakespeare
Like most of us, I am blessed to have someone to share their passions with me. I consider myself self-taught for a lot of things, but not duck hunting. I have one buddy, Tommy Gunn, who got the ball rolling for me over 20 years ago.2018: Tommy Gun and his son Christian
Some early adventures stand out to me. We carried plastic decoys in the mesh backpack and wore our cheap plastic hip boots. We’d walk in for what seemed like miles through state land at zero dark thirty or paddle around in a hand me down canoe with a crack that was sealed with fiberglass resin. We'd find the "duckiest" spot we could and then just sit for hours and hours. We'd talk about everything: the loss of a parent at a young age, money and relationships. And, if Tommy set the decoys better, we'd see more birds.
As my love for the sport increased, so did my gear. I started collecting hand-made decoys, invested in a Benelli Super Black Eagle and bought the best dog I ever met. I even started my own duck boat company.
My circle of hunting friends began to grow too. Bobby and Andy shared their love and experiences, which got me into sea duck hunting and venturing to many different states. It was truly an awesome adventure to be on and to share it with so many good people.BobbyBest Dog Ever
You ever hear a country song where the guy had to sell his truck, his dog dies and he had to pay the mortgage. Well, that was me. Between raising kids, work, mortgages and the same stuff that happens to us all, duck hunting passed too. Now that country song didn't end bad at all. (Except for the dog part of course.)
Being a dad has taken front and center. Nothing I've ever done can even come close to it. I've been blessed with the opportunity to spend all of my kid's lifetime with them. We've shared a million memories with millions more to go. I cannot lie though, even when they join me out there and few ducks fly by, I flashback to that canoe with Tommy or sea duck hunting with Bobby and Andy. It happens every time, without fail.
I made a commitment to myself this past year and I held myself to it. I started getting back after those birds. Things are much different this time around though. Life has come full circle, I'm almost starting over again. Instead of my Dodge 2500, I’m sporting a sweet minivan. The 22’ Bones is decorating another outdorsmen's dock off Montauk. My beautiful hunting dog Boka has been gone for years and somehow an old canoe has graced me again. My Benelli Super Black Eagle and some beautiful hand-made corks all that are left from the the glory days.
The biggest difference now is that my hunting companions have changed.
Tommy now lives in Tennessee. My other buddies like Bobby and Andy are raising kids and fighting the good fight. My new partners in crime are my kids. The kid's love for hunting didn't "just happen"; it was years in the making. They helped me clean birds while having "binkies" in their mouths. I'd take time teaching them about each species and sharing that day's hunt with them. They loved the web feet and all the different colors.
We have the same early morning shuffle as with my buddies, but talks about life have been replaced with giggles and complaining about the cold. Instead of hearing someone yell "take 'em", now when a seagull flies by, some little one asks “Is that a duck?!” Some mornings it is so cold, that I keep the girls in the van to keep warm until the very last moment. I bring extra blankets for them to cuddle under.
I bring two layout blinds for me and the boy.
More than once I find him curled up next to my in my blind wanting to wrestle. Yes, to answer your question, we do miss a lot of opportunities to get birds. The kids have to constantly be moving to keep warm and fight boredom. Nothing is worse than hearing, "Can we go now?" I hate to do it, but I'd find myself fibbing to them saying, "It's almost sunset and then we can pick up." Cliche' I know, but it's not about the birds anymore; it's about the memories and making them want to go back out there. It's about sharing a love. It's about quality time and the experience.
I miss hunting with my friends immensely, but that love they shared with me is now being passed down to my kids. Whether it's hunting or your love for art, music or knitting, you are blessed with gifts to give to kids; share it when they're young. And, you will never be short of companions to share the love of these treasures. If you're in a hard place in your life right now, just be patient. LIfe can always come full circle and give you a chance to start doing those things you love again.