Filson's own, Jack Duggan, gives a first-hand account of the 2012 Duck Season Opener.
Every year around spring time I get the itch, the excitement of knowing that Duck Season is getting closer and closer. Throughout the summer and fall anticipation of the upcoming season begins to consume my thoughts; day dreaming of the 4 am wake-up, layering up in my gear, and setting out for the breezy wetlands of the Pacific Northwest. I go through the mental checklist of what gear I have, what gear I need, what spots we will hunt, and I meticulously study the latest copies of Ducks Unlimited. All of this preparation leads up to opening weekend, and the day which so many people like myself long for.
I have vivid memories of being a young boy, sitting with my dad in the cattails of the Columbia Basin, watching our chocolate lab retrieve Mallards in the frigid waters of Eastern Washington. Like many future duck hunters my dad bought me a Red Rider BB Gun to carry with me to the blind. I remember sitting in the blind next to my dad, holding my BB Gun, while he held his Ithaca and reached for his duck call’s that are strung with silver bands. The experience was wonderful and I recall the desire and excitement to one day sit side by side with my dad hunting as an equal.
The 2012 Duck Season opener was October 13th, and, once again I am happy to say that I hunted with my dad, along with my best buddy and our Chocolate Lab Annie. This year we set up on a plot of private land located on the Columbia River. The weather called for blue sunny skies, 15 mph wind gusts and 65 degrees. I wasn't sure what to expect. Although I was hopeful, I didn't want to make any predictions. After arriving at the blind, my buddy and I waded out into the crystal clear water and began to set our decoys, the jerk line, and spinners. My dad positioned the boat around the corner, set up our stools and hunkered down with Annie. With 40 deeks set and the jerk line rigged-up we waited for the birds to start bombing in on us, or so we hoped.
Within 15 minutes we had all taken multiple pass shots which shook the cobwebs off and helped us get back into the swing of things. By 10 am we had multiple groups of Mallards, Pintails and Redheads committed and dropping into our spread. Annie made many impressive retrieves and she refused to take her big brown eyes off of the sky. Opening morning turned out to be a great success resulting in my leather strap to be strung full of birds.
The next morning my buddy and I set out for a new spot to hunt along a smaller river. We arrived late, around 9 am, due to a disappointing attempt at the Steelhead opener. Shaking off the funk of coming up dry for Steelhead, we set our deeks and huddled into the cat tails without stools or a dog. It was much warmer than it had been the day before so we decided to lose some of our outer layers; we made sure to wear our face masks to block the shining sun. Almost immediately the birds started pouring in. From left, right, up high, fast and low the ducks were everywhere. With cupped wings soaring in, mallards made passes around our back sides and long lean pintails screamed by directly in front of us. Geese honked their way in from miles out and landed right in our spread. Before we knew it, we had our limits.
The opening weekend of the 2012-2013 Duck Season was a great one. By far, the highlight of my opening weekend was a triple that I bagged on that second morning – three ducks with three shots in succession. I waded out deep into the water to retrieve the birds. I picked up one, a Pintail, and then the second, a Drake Mallard. But the best part of this year’s opening hunt came when I had finally trudged out to the last bird, a big Pintail, and pulled it from the water. I held the bird up and saw that it was a banded duck, a perfect ending to my 2012 Duck opener.