You’ve been sitting in your duck blind since well before sunrise on a frigid December morning. Having watched the morning duck movement come and go without being given a chance for harvest, you are left cold, hungry, and alone, yearning for anything with webbed feet and a bill to fly into sight. Your stomach begins aching in hunger and your cold stricken fingers are becoming as stiff as the rigor mortis ridden duck you wish you possessed. As the minutes turn to hours with no ducks in custody and no visible signs of hope, your hunting spirit fades to the temptations of a warm shower and tasty lunch awaiting you at home. You stand up to unload your gun, giving in to the allure of comfort. Just as your concentration turns to ejecting your second shell out of its chamber, you hear one of the most distressing sounds in all of duck hunting; the wings of two ducks flaring right over your decoys. You look up and two ducks that were in shotgun range seconds ago are heading the opposite direction at warp speed. Hungry, tired, cold, and frustrated to no ends, you head back to your boat duckless.
The story of the uncomfortable hunter who packed his bags seconds before an opportunity arises is a repetitive one. Too often have myself and hunters across the nation been in this situation. As frustrating as these moments may be, there is a simple solution. Fight temptation and find comfort in discomfort with an “I’ll hold for one more minute” or “I’ll hold for one more hour” mentality. Waiting a minute longer could be the difference between two ducks heading south on migration and two ducks on your dinner plate. The tactic reaps rewards, but only in the presence of a strong mindset and proper preparation for common sources of discomfort such as cold and hunger.
Whether it’s being out on the coldest day of the year over the only open hole in a large expanse of ice, or braving a storm front that has ducks in a frenzy, there is no doubt that hunting insufferable conditions has its benefits. Taking advantage of these scenarios can result in a legendary hunting story that will be told for generations to come, however there is a price to be paid for facing harrowing, and at times gruesome, conditions. As blood vessels constrict in reaction to extreme cold, hands, fingers, feet, and ears fall victim. Everybody knows the feeling of hunting with freezing extremities, it bears the same agitation of an unreachable itch. However, this is no excuse to pack up the gun, fire up the 15 horse Johnson, and head home. Just prepare. For the sake of sticking it out in the hopes of a quality hunt, preparation for uncomfortable cold must be in place. Spending the extra money on a good pair of gloves, making sure there are no leaks in your waders, emptying out your dresser for added layers, and topping the layering off with a water resistant jacket in your favorite camouflage pattern all goes a long way in being able to “hold the extra minute.” Take time to prepare, both in the offseason and before leaving the house, for an extreme weather hunt.
The drive for acquiring food is an innate behavior shared by every human being: For some reason, this drive seems augmented while hunting. Although hunger can serve as a motivator to stick it out in the field and acquire your own meat, it can also be an equal deterrence in the presence of store bought food waiting at home. There has been many times I have experienced, and surely others, where the duck movement slows down and my mind drifts to how hungry I am. Fighting off natural instinct can be tough, but it is often times necessary. While watching Duckmen 14: Weather The Storm, I witnessed a conversation between Phil Robertson and a hunting partner that spoke volumes to this very same idea:
Hunting Partner: “Hey Phil, I think it’s time to pee on the fire, call the dogs, and lets get out of here. I’m hungry, that’s what it all boils down to.”
Phil Robertson: “You can’t let daily sustenance get in the way of a possible duck whacking.”
Never have truer words been spoken about fighting temptation in the duck blind. Duck hunting is a mission to put yourself in a position where you have the greatest chance of hunting success. By leaving early for the sake of food, you are undermining yourself and the mission at hand. Preparation by course of consuming a hearty meal before departure and packing snacks for during the hunt is key. While hungry in the blind, hold out just one more minute, or you may be cutting yourself off from “a possible duck whacking.”
No matter the hunting target, whether it be whitetail, turkey, or duck, a certain degree of mental toughness is required. In fact, I would go as far to say that those with a higher threshold of mental toughness experience a distinctive difference in the amount of quality hunts per season. Hunting is not an activity for those reliant on comfort. Toughness through cold, snow, hunger, and aches is imperative for success in the field. The point is not to sit out there all day every day killing yourself, but to push your own personal limit continuously and find results in that strive for success. Those who are not able to hold out for one more minute, or one more hour, may be providing themselves with more missed opportunities than they’d like to be cognizant of. The next time you find yourself falling to the temptations of home while out in the wilderness, hold out for just one more minute– it may be worth it.