FEB 26, 2024

Keep Talkin with Chad Belding

When the last decoy is lifted from the water, the last feather is carefully plucked, a glass of Jack Daniel’s is poured to celebrate with friends, and the final evening of duck camp wraps up, a mix of gratitude, pride, and great sadness falls over us as another season comes to a close.

Duck hunting isn't just about an escape. For some, it's a part of our makeup that we cannot ignore. Call it whatever fits best: a celebration of the great outdoors, a personal calling, a way to connect with something greater than ourselves, etc. But if you're a passionate duck hunter, it means something more than just killing ducks. So every year, when the last sun sets on the last day of the season, there’s a weight that comes along with it… What now?

It's not just “something” special about duck season; from duck camp with old and new friends, stories and new recipes shared, endless laughs, learning experiences, frustrations and trials to successes and cheering, the dogs shivering with excitement as the first flocks break into view, seeing the look on a new hunter’s face experiencing the same thing you once did, watching the drakes hunt the sounds you've spent hundreds of hours perfecting, the smell of gunpowder, to the sound of silence that is not silent at all... It's everything.

So when each season comes to a close, it might be nearly impossible not to feel sadness that comes along with it. But like a lot of great things, I believe distance truly makes the heart grow fonder. The anticipation of a new year, the planning, watching a mallard hen tenderly care for her clutch of little ones, protecting them from all the dangers of nature, daydreaming of that opening morning crisp air, getting some new gear you've had your eye on for a while, tending to our guns, washing decoys, and cooking this season’s bounty for our families—it sure makes a person grateful for the opportunities and grateful for what’s to come.

Although, even with immense gratitude, I often hear hunters expressing deep sadness and even depression this time of year. Days spent on the water and in the blinds are some of the best days of our lives. I think it would simply be strange not to mourn the pause of such a blessed part of our lives. I even see it in our dogs! Have you ever gone to grab your gear to clean it off after the season closes and look over to see the look on your bird dog’s face? They get it!

This season was exceptionally challenging for a lot of hunters in America. If you are one of them, don't fret, my friend; the hard years are what make us better hunters and make the good seasons great! I know I'm not alone in saying that the countdown until the next opener is already on! In the meantime, let’s celebrate what makes this life so special, and Keep Talkin’!