"It struck me as I watched the stingy daylight grow that it is not all of duck hunting to hunt ducks." – Gordon MacQuarrie

"It struck me as I watched the stingy daylight grow that it is not all of duck hunting to hunt ducks." – Gordon MacQuarrie


As Orion the Hunter blazed silently in the heavens above, heavy breathing from the seats around me let me know that I was suddenly alone.

At least in my thoughts, that is.

As I listened to the occupants of my truck gathering a few more winks of late night shuteye, I smiled at the irony.

Because the funny thing is that when I started hunting ducks as a high school teenager more than 30 years ago, I relished hunting alone.

Now as a father of three teenagers — including two boys who love to hunt and fish as much as I do — I shudder at the thought.

These days, I’d just as soon not go hunting or fishing at all if I can’t go with my kids.

Such are the musings of a man more middle aged than he cares to admit as the monotonous drone of big tires whine their way across the worn pavement of a forgotten northeast Texas road.

A short while later, all paternal thoughts and teenage slumber suddenly vanished as we reached our destination.

As yawns were stifled, a series of open and shut gates led to a secluded timber hole and a three-man duck blind that would be our spot for the day.

As flashlight beams swept across the small body of water — a glorified pond, if you will — the promise of a few gadwalls, a mallard or two, and with a little luck, some wood ducks hung on the gathering southerly breeze.

At least that was the hope as the curtain prepared to fall on another Texas duck season.

The only fly in the late season ointment was that the Lone Star State landscape had become a bit thin in recent weeks, at least in terms of wintering waterfowl numbers.

But dwindling duck numbers or not, the season was waning and I eagerly accepted an invite to visit this new duck hole with my sons, all with the hope of ending the season with a bang.

Or two. Or three. Or…well, you get the picture.

After parking the truck a safe distance away, I climbed into the blind with my oldest son Zach, my youngest son Will and the Lab as our clan began that glorious wait to see what the day might bring.

Is there any other place in the entire world where more optimism abounds than a pre-dawn duck blind?

Perhaps not, but this was already a bit of a strange hunt — we had set no decoys out, solely on the advice of my duck hunting pal J.J. Kent.

"They should come on in — it’s the kind of spot where they feel safe," said Kent. "And if they see decoys, they’ll flare right out of that little hole."

In a similar fashion, while acrylic and wooden duck calls hung around our necks, there would be little to no calling out of our hide this morning.

"These are late season birds looking for the seclusion of a timber hole," said Kent. "If they sense the littlest thing out of the ordinary — like a mallard hen giving a highball — they’re gone."

After years of hunting ducks, geese, deer and turkeys across Texas and other parts of our great land, I’ve learned the hard way that it pays to listen to the advice of a guide.

So we sat back to wait, to watch, and to listen as the wind picked up a bit and dawn begrudgingly arrived.

For the first few minutes of legal shooting time, a game of tug-a-war took place in my mind as one minute I was sure the ducks would come, only to despair and lose all hope the next that the skies would remain empty all morning long.

Ten minutes into legal, such thoughts were interrupted by the rush of wings, a haunting cry piercing its way through the timber, and the sudden appearance of wood ducks dropping into the center of the hole.

"Get ‘em boys!" I cried as shots echoed through the woods.

Soon the first duck of the day was coming to hand as the steady breathing of a Lab moving through frigid water was heard.

Moments later, the scene repeated itself as another few wood ducks cried out, dropped through the trees, and reached for the water of the pond with their boots on.

Shotguns roared yet again and the dog was soon back to work.

Off and on for the next forty five minutes, empty skies would suddenly be broken by the sound of backpedaling wings as more ducks — primarily gray ducks, or gadwalls — sought refuge in our small timber hole.

Little by little, the heft of the duck strap grew as a few more flocks came to visit our spot.

After a while, the action slowed to a grinding halt as the sun rose higher in the sky and burned through the early morning’s scattered veil of high, thin clouds.

Soon it was evident that father and sons would fall shy of a three-man limit of late season ducks.

But so what?

With a smile, it dawned on me that our trio would leave with more than we came with, specifically the makings of a great duck dinner using a favored recipe given by Chef Keem in Alaska several years ago.

Aside from collecting a duck dinner, we enjoyed the camaraderie that only a duck blind can bring as father and sons smiled, laughed out loud, told jokes on one another, occasionally dozed and simply enjoyed the best company on earth.

The company that only a father, his sons, and a Labrador retriever can discover in the confines of a late season duck blind, a tiny sheltered spot sitting on the edge of a northeast Texas timber hole.

All the while as a gathering breeze sings a song of the laughter and memories of a season soon to be departed.

And the promise of many others still yet to come.