Highlights and Low Points from a Retriever's Point of View
Sniff. Hmm. Sniff, sniff. Hey, the Duck Blogger is cooking lunch. And it smells like that big greenhead I retrieved at Bob’s brother’s slough in October. I’d get up and try to steal some, but I know what he’ll say. “It’s not dinner time for dogs.” Broken record, I’m telling you.
Man, the hunt with that bird seems like forever ago. Wind howling, and ducks flying everywhere. Best, that place was full of mallards. The Mighty Duck Hunter had glassed some divers off the road there and figured we’d get ringnecks and bluebills. Wasn’t he surprised when the big birds flew? Ha, what a goofball.
I can’t be too hard on him, I guess. The season was pretty good. For once, he didn’t fry me in late-September heat on opening day. And even more surprisingly, we got out of there by 9 a.m., as he — are you sitting down? — shot pretty well. The next day wasn’t quite as productive, but that’s OK. In the future, Mr. Blogger might want to take that easy crossing shot at a mallard instead of flailing at it in vain as it exits the pothole. But that’s just me. As I’ve pointed out, I cannot shoot, as I lack opposable thumbs.
“Birdie,” he said to me after opening weekend. “We’ll go to Bill’s next week and get a bunch of ducks.”
Oh, sure. Translation: “Birdie, we’ll go to Bill’s, and I’ll sit on a comfortable muskrat hut while you bust your back in that miserable muck trying to find and retrieve a wood duck Blogger Boy sailed 50 yards down the bog.”
But I gotta admit, it was a pretty good day at Bill’s. Mr. Dead-Eye even dropped most of the birds in the open water, too, which was an unexpected pleasure. Not a big fan of the bath that followed that trip. “Oh, dogs love getting baths,” he’ll say. Uh huh. Have you ever been blasted at point-blank range by a garden hose and then coated in shampoo that smells like a lavender factory, only to be rinsed off by a 5-gallon bucket full of freezing water? Not exactly a spa day.
“Birdie,” he said a week after the hunt at Bill’s. “We’re going to South Dakota. Are you excited?”
Sure I was — for the hunting. The eight-hour truck ride while crammed in the bucket seat of that truck? Ugh. But I’ll admit, the trip was pretty great. And judging from the Duck Blogger’s shooting performance the first day — can you believe he actually gives people wing-shooting advice online? — it’s good I was there. He never would have retrieved that big drake pintail without me. Or that gadwall. Or that other gadwall.
I was pretty pooped when we returned home after that week. In fact, I just kind of slept and ate for a few days while the blogger “worked” and went open-water hunting. But I knew he’d come crawling back when the weather got cold and he wanted to try his mallard spots. I think he might have gone too early, though, as we didn’t get many birds. Still, the trip was worthwhile when I saw him break through that shell ice and go crotch-deep in the muck. I didn’t seem to have a problem walking across that frozen marsh. I’m not sure what his issue was. Too many mallards for lunch, I suppose. He could share some.
So, we’re deep into the off-season now. I’ll get a pheasant hunt here and there, and it won’t be too long before I can start swimming and fetching dummies out at Dick’s place. But man, I miss duck hunting — all those wild smells in the marsh, birds zipping overhead from all directions and that moment when you find that duck in cover and can bring it back to the skiff. It should last all year.
“Birdie, old girl,” the blogger says, “you’re going to be 8. Do you have enough in you for another season?”
Seriously? Don’t worry about me, old man. Just get me to the marsh. I’ll be there, ears back and legs trembling, waiting to do what I was born for. See if you can keep up.
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Realtree waterfowl editor Brian Lovett has been an obsessive duck and goose hunter for more than 30 years, chasing his passion on the Dakota prairies and the marshes and open water of his home state of Wisconsin. He's been a writer and editor in the outdoors industry since 1991.