REFLECTONS ON OPENING DAY OF WATERFOWLING (September 23/13)

The long range weather forecast for the first day of the waterfowl season calls for relatively mild weather and showers. This is far from being good waterfowling weather for the first day. On top of that, there’s a late morning tide on opening day, which usually isn’t good either.

As I see it, the ideal for opening day is a windy morning combined with a high tide around sunrise. In the areas where I like to set up on the first day (a few miles from salt water) this combination of conditions usually means a fairly good shoot. Not always, of course. One thing that’s a given in duck hunting is nothing’s for sure.

What do I mean? Well, I’ve had good opening days – “good” meaning bagging a few ducks – on a local river when it was calm, the sky was cloudless and it was extremely warm. And poor first days – “poor” meaning no ducks – when it was stormy and the tide was up as the sun rose.

The vagaries of opening day were summed up nicely by an old friend’s paraphrasing of a time worn saw. After we had some so-so first days when conditions seemed perfect, he said, “I guess you can’t count your ducks until they’re in the game bag.” He made this comment when we greeted the sunrise on opening day in gale-like weather, a day we figured the ducks should have been swarming into our decoys. I’d have to look at my notes to check but I believe we only saw four or five ducks all morning, and they never came close.

For the most part, opening days are generally good. On opening day ducks aren’t as wary as they will be later and even weak calling will sucker them in. Inexperienced hunters who enjoy good shooting on opening mornings often are surprised later when they learn how tough duck hunting can be. Never judge duck hunting by the first day, in other words.

But good or not so good opening days, I always enjoy and look forward to them. Don’t ask why but opening days always seem special. I feel like I’ve missed something when opening morning comes and goes and I wasn’t out on the marsh at first light.

Around here, and anywhere in the province where you can hunt waterfowl, getting out on the first day is a tradition. Again, I say don’t ask me why. Maybe it’s because our duck hunting Dads did it and their fathers before them, and their fathers before them.

Why wouldn’t waterfowling be a tradition anyway? Generation after generation of Mi’kmaq hunted ducks and geese here; as did the French that followed them, the Acadians even naming a river or two after ducks. The Planters and other settlers harvested ducks and geese without hesitation and right down to today we’re still doing it.

That makes waterfowling a tradition, an old tradition. So enjoy opening day; enjoy the waterfowl season. I suppose if this was Ireland I could say: May the ducks swarm to your decoys, may your calling be true, and may you have your limit before the sun is fully up and be on the way home before the devil knows you’ve been in the duck blind.

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