Duck Diary

Dale HumburgSurveys show that about 1 in 5 waterfowl hunters keep track of their duck and goose hunting experiences. A friend of my dad’s, Frank “Bud” Meyers, used to keep a hunting journal and urged me to do so as well. That was in 1965, and I’ve kept a hunting log every year since.

The entries in my hunting journal have evolved over the years, perhaps as a reflection of maturity – although there are those who would argue! Regardless, the events notable enough to enter into my journal have changed significantly. Early on, the day’s recorded events were relatively cryptic and often included just the essential facts. For example, the entire entry for 8 October 1967 was:

…”took Larry along; a lot of geese flying. Got 8 blues and snows out of 3 bunches during the day.”

dhDiary3Two incomplete sentences were not at all sufficient to capture how special the day was. Yet, reading this short excerpt from the diary still prompts visual images of early snow goose hunting in North Iowa.

Now it takes a few pages rather than a couple of sentences to chronicle the day’s events! Who I hunt with and what they brought for us to eat has become at least as important as the ducks we shoot.

I still tally numbers of ducks shot and the times, how many decoys we put out – and when we moved them – and I keep track of when we were set up and when we picked up. These provide an interesting itemization of the aspects that can be quantified. Several thousand hours hunted and ten times that many decoys set over 40 plus years are measurable attributes of my duck hunts.

However, I’ve found that often it’s not what you can measure that is most important. A few years ago, we spent a slow morning in the duck boat trying to describe what makes for a memorable hunt. Although duck shooting certainly was part of the equation, most important criteria involved hunting partners, duck work, weather, food, the set, and expectations – both met and by surprise. An unexpected good day, with more birds than anticipated, better weather than predicted, and a hunting partner who was able to show up after all combine to make for a really memorable day on the marsh. Of course, there’s the other end of the spectrum as well – no ducks, fell in the marsh, dog fights, forgot coffee, motor quit, boat leaked, other hunters too close … Actually, the contrast and perspective provided by the unexpected extremes probably do most to define waterfowl hunting.


I’ve paid particular attention to the weather, and the most memorable duck days usually involved dramatic weather events. Among these are the “Halloween Storm” of 1991, the Midwest “hurricane” of 1998, and the most dramatic blue-winged teal migration I ever saw on 19 September 1983. Pioneering a spot in the flood waters, breaking a hole in the ice during late season, and temperatures dropping from the 60’s in the morning to freezing by sunset make other journal entries particularly notable.

Yet, it’s the people I’ve hunted with over the years that are the most important parts of my hunting record. Family and friends who also are infected with this waterfowl “bug,” have occupied the duck boats next to mine and also account for special notes in every journal entry. In recent years, as I’ve taken on a mentoring as opposed to apprentice role, opportunities to see a duck hunter evolution in my grandchildren have become a predominant part of the record. I suspect that a few decades from now, the written legacy of my hunting experience might become fairly important to them. Hopefully, they’ll have a record of their own as well.


1 Response to “Duck Diary”

  1. 1 John Roberts October 18, 2009 at 1:46 am

    I enjoyed your log comments. I’ve kept logs, albeit rough in alot of the early years, since 1965 also! I remember the lean years of the 60’s when we could only take one mallard in MN. Since then I’ve been blessed with incredible waterfowl hunting in AK for 12 years, 20 years in AZ where we had some great mallard and honker shoots, and now KS which is awesome. Our ducks and geese start in 2 weeks and tonight my wife & I located several thousand specs while I was archery deer hunting(I’ve taken 2 so far) so we’re excited. My wife Dona is my main hunting partner along with our 2 labs and GSP. Pheasants and turkey are abundant also. Good and safe hunting to you and yours!

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