Monday, January 3, 2011

"That Ain't Hunting...or...Them's Trash Ducks!"

We've all heard those phrases said, generally multiple times, and typically thrown in the direction of someone who does things differently, enjoys a different method of hunting, and overall appreciates more than the 'status quo'. Click on any semi-busy internet waterfowl talk forum, and you'll see much the same - diver hunters taking jabs at guys who prefer to hunt puddle ducks out of pits and in the timber, calling their main quarry (mallard ducks) "park ducks" or "bread eaters". Or, maybe it's those same puddle duck hunters calling a diver hunter's brace a "bunch of trash ducks", unfit for the table. Either one couldn't be any further from the truth. Having hunted many different areas of the country, under many different circumstances, I thought I had turned the corner with my attitude towards ANY duck or ANY method of hunting. There's just too much in the way of quality gunning experiences to be hamstrung by a closed mind. There are too many adventures to be had that can never be duplicated. One simply can not appreciate a group of 50 strong mallard ducks slapping wings against pin oak limbs as they drop into the timer. Likewise, I know of few instances in waterfowling that are more heart stopping than a squadron of divers making the turn into the decoys. The sound of the wind shear of those wings is truly remarkable. Yep, I got it licked. That is, until my good friend Kris asked me if the ruddy ducks were on the catfish ponds. The conversation went something like this:

Kris - "Hey man, ya'll got any ruddies up there?"

Me - "Aah, yep, they are everywhere...but, who on their right mind would want to shoot one of those stinking birds? Ain't nothing you can do with them but look at them after you kill one."

Kris - "I'll probably eat them."


That pretty much ended the ruddy duck talk for the day. We probably started talking about the new year, or any number of other topics, just so long as I steered the conversation away from ruddy ducks.

As luck and happenstance would have it, this conversation took place on my drive in to work. And, as sure as I'm sitting here, not 3 hours later I can across a thread on a waterfowl message board entitled "Six Dollar Ducks". The title peaked my interest, so I clicked on the link. Little did I know, I would soon thereafter be looking for some water to wash my "crow" down. The author of the post had shot a couple of ruddy ducks and took one of the coolest photos I had ever seen - the 2 birds laid across an old side by side with spent bismuth hulls just above them. Just a fantastic shot. Then, I started reading what the author had to say about ruddy ducks in general. Basically, the ruddy duck was called a "dollar duck" during the old market hunting days we all look back on with fondness. And, why exactly were they known as 'dollar ducks'? The answer lies in what a ruddy duck brought a market gunner back at the turn of the century - around one dollar, which was pretty good money back then. Now, ask yourself what our highly prized pintails or teal (widely lauded as great table fare today) went for? Around 30-60 cents per bird the best I can tell. Yes, you read that right - the ruddy duck brought more to the pocket than our prized birds.

For more reading on this topic (market hunting prices, ruddy ducks, and cooking wild game in general) check out this link:

Where am I going with all this?

Hunting is hunting, and every style or method used along with every bird taken is unique in and of itself. Every bird, every hunt, and every experience should be savored and remembered as unique. I learned that this week myself.

This year, I have yet to get up to my camp (L'anguille Lounge) to hunt, nor have I hugged a tree in order to shoot mallards, gadwall and wood ducks in the timber. All I've done is sit on an old catfish pond and pick endless shots at scaup, shovelers, a couple of canvasbacks, and yes, even some ruddy ducks. I have stepped out of my comfort zone and hunted under different rules, employing a different style, and taken birds most consider "trash ducks". And, I've had as enjoyable a duck season as I've had in a long long time.

Next time you see someone's strap of 'trash ducks' or 'bread eaters', you may want to take notice - you may just be missing something.

OPENING DAY SCAUP...and yes, they were eaten as part of a nice gumbo

Here's to an open mind in the new year, hope you enjoy, Justin

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