I pulled my old duck boat out of the weeds this past week. Over the years, the 14-foot aluminum boat had collected a layer of pine needles and acorns on its overturned surface and there were a few hornet nests hanging from the seats.
The old boat has served myself and my brother well, and seeing its cattail painted sides brought back memories of a time when we drug it through the muck and marshlands to open water with the possibility of shooting a fast flying teal or catapulting bluebill duck.
Those were exciting times.
I hear that duck stamp sales are down and the duck hunters are also. There are still duck hunters, but as our citizenry continues on an urban curve, it is no doubt that less and less are connected with the hunting legacy that I was.
Most of my uncles hunted waterfowl, ducks and geese. As a kid, I never tired of listening to their stories about how they snuck up on a bunch of corn-munching mallards or surprised a flock of wheat-eating geese. I couldn't wait to join their ranks and experience the same hunts that they did.
And, over the years, I was able to join them in the sport.
The old boat that I had tugged out from its mooring site next to our backyard raspberry patch had played a role in my duck hunting forays to the ponds of west central Minnesota, as well as the pothole country of the Dakotas. It has witnessed my brother and I toting huge bags full of magnum decoys through the muck and then floating silently, powered by wooden oars, to a blind made up of a bunch of cattails whipping in the north wind.
There is a small seeping leak in the front of the old boat, but one never noticed the small puddle of water on the floor because when you are duck hunting, getting wet is just going to be a part of the overall experience. If you don't get wet duck hunting - well, you're probably just not doing it right.
More than once I came home with water in my waders or hip boots. Usually the floor of the boat was adorned with red or green empty shotgun shells and a few duck feathers.
Duck hunting took my brother and me to the pothole country of North Dakota a few years ago. The old duck boat followed us out and we pulled into a motel parking lot near where we'd be hunting the following day. I strode into the office and asked if there was a vacancy. The owner of the motel wearily told me that the motel was full except for the bridal suite.
Bridal suite? We had no choice but to take the room after being warned by the owner that we couldn't take our dog into the room. I figured it must be a pretty special room. I don't know what the other rooms were like, but the bridal suite featured dirty, worn carpet, a toilet that wouldn't flush and a bed mattress that felt like it was stuffed with boulders. I think our dog had a better accommodation in its kennel in the back of our vehicle.
Bridal suite? But, we stayed. We still chuckle when we think of that place.
So, the old duck boat is out of the woods. I've power washed it and found that the cattails are still painted along the gunnels. It is ready for another duck hunt. But, it won't be holding me when that happens. I'm putting the old boat, memories and all, up for sale this week. Duck hunting starts soon and I'm hoping someone younger than me can put it to good use.
The old duck boat has served me well. Aluminum doesn't rot, so hopefully some other young duck hunter will add to its story. I don't think it's done yet. Beware of duck hunting motel bridal suites.
See you next time. Okay? Be safe!