This story was published in the September 1999 issue of Wyoming Wildlife magazine. It was awarded first place in the Magazine Humor category of the 2000 OWAA Excellence in Craft Contests.
To an incurable duck hunting addict, opening day of the season is like no other day. You may have other interests that occupy your time during the rest of the year, but no matter how much you enjoy them, they are, after all, just a way to kill time ‘til duck season.
We all have our own ways of preparing for opening day. I once had a hunting partner who went into this most important day of the year with no preparation all.
“You mind stopping by a convenience store?” he would ask in the truck as we drove through dark city streets on our way to the interstate. “I need to pick up some donuts or something.”
Once he even uttered those words you never want to hear at 4:30 A.M. on opening morning: “You don’t mind taking a little detour, do you? There’s a place across town that’s open 24/7. I need to pick up a hunting license and some shells.”Needless to say, he’s now my ex-hunting partner.
Such people often use their work as an excuse for this thoughtless behavior.
“I didn’t get home from work ‘til midnight so I didn’t have time to get all my stuff ready.”
I turn a deaf ear to this pathetic whining. You can always find another job, but a ruined opening day is gone forever.
My preparations usually include nausea, diarrhea, irritability, and compulsive rechecking of shells, decoys, and dog paraphernalia. Does my shotgun have the plug in it? Is the automatic coffee maker programmed to fire up at the appropriate time? A.M. not P.M?
I set a minimum of three alarm clocks to ensure that I don’t oversleep, which is ridiculous because I never sleep at all. If I do happen to fall asleep, I have a realistic recurring nightmare in which I wake up at 9:00 A.M. in a cold sweat, cursing my malfunctioning alarm clocks.
My long-suffering wife always volunteers to sleep in another room to avoid my tossing and turning. When I get up at four-thirty opening morning I try to be quiet so I won’t wake her as I tippy-toe out to the kennel to let my Lab out. This is pretty dumb on my part. Who could sleep with all that racing around, slobbering, panting and whining going on? And that’s just me! The dog barks, stares at the door, and sometimes pees on the floor in her excitement.
At one time I made a living selling cartoons to a popular men’s magazine that features photographs of attractive young women. At least once a year I would fly to New York from my home in Kansas and have lunch with the magazine’s self-important yuppie cartoon editor. These trips were blatant attempts to suck up to him, not “hoping to catch a glimpse of the bimbos” as my wife’s accusations suggested.
On one such trip the editor explained that each year the magazine throws a big party with lots of free food and drink. All the luscious models featured in the magazine would be there. Would I like to attend this year’s gala as his guest?
I am a normal male human being. While my testosterone level is probably no higher than the next guy’s, I’m sure it’s no lower. This sounded like an occasion I wouldn’t want to miss.
“Sure”, I said. “When is it”?
“Well, in that case, I can’t make it”, I said sadly. “But send me an invitation anyway. I’ll frame it and hang it in my studio”
“Hey, they only give me five,” he said. “I can’t waste one on someone who won’t use it.” He took a sip of his Perrier with a twist of lemon.“What could be so important that it takes precedence over a bash like this?”
I looked him straight in the eye and told it like it was. “That’s opening day of duck season.”
“You mean you’d rather sit in a cold wooden box in a swamp and hope a bird flies by so you can shoot it than go to a party like this?” I thought he was going to spill his Perrier on his tassel loafers
“It’s a tough choice,” I said, “but yes, I’d rather be in a duck blind.”
He shook his head and rolled his eyes toward the ceiling.
“What are you – some kind of weirdo?”
“Yeah. You might say that,” I replied. “I’m a duck hunter.”