I can recall several distinct times in my hunting career that I look back and say, “Wow! That was crazy!”  Not only crazy but a person looking down on the experience from afar would likely call us insane.  Make no mistake, most hunting escapades would likely be labeled as insane by a large percentage of the general public. But if I can place the label, it is well deserved.  You see, we aren’t normal at all! We aren’t even close.  We thrive on discomfort and inaccessibility… we desperately search for situations that are not just obscure and questionable but downright dangerous.  It isn’t because we like the danger, but when you chase ducks as a passion, the danger and discomfort just seem to come as a byproduct.  

   Most hunting scenarios for any species involve some probable level of danger.  I mean, after all, you are carrying firearms and likely using some form of equipment, be it boats, ATV’s or some other form of transportation.  Add to that, most hunting is done during the winter when the weather is less than favorable for any outdoor activity.  I guess what makes the duck hunter a bit more susceptible to danger and adventure is the combination of factors that make for the best hunting: water, wind, cold, and precipitation. All of that combined with the nastiest, most inaccessible habitat; this is where you always find the ducks and makes for the insanity I speak of.  

   So let’s take a look at just a couple of examples of when I declared myself crazy, and chalk the others up to normal. First of all, understand that I like to duck hunt.  No, I mean I REALLY like to duck hunt!  So much that I have for the most part given up hunting any other species so as to focus my efforts on hunting waterfowl.  

Lake O’ the Pines (many years ago):

   One of my hunting compadres and I got a tip from another friend that there were an unusual amount of ducks in an unusual spot on Lake O’ the Pines several years back. Being pretty familiar with the lake, I questioned his information, but nonetheless agreed to meet up with him early one Saturday morning to try our luck.  The spot was not easily accessible but not for the usual reasons.  It wasn’t a terribly swampy area, but it was a bit of a haul over open water from any boat ramp.  This isn’t usually an issue, but it does require some planning around the wind in order to avoid a dangerous boat ride across the vast expanse of the dark open lake.  

   The conditions were good so we launched my Pro Drive mud boat and headed across the lake for the hunt.  The forecast called for a chance of storms, but we decided that they would probably show up long after we had come back from the hunt.  The water was deeper than our normal areas, so we used decoys with long lines and set them with the boat vs. wading. This slowed us down considerably and likely took our attention away from the flashes of lightning that were occurring behind the tree line.  As the sun came up, we had a bit of success shooting some wood ducks, but we weren’t overly impressed with the action.  

   As we were discussing the options for breakfast, I noticed the wind changed, and we started hearing the rumble of thunder from behind the trees.  It became obvious real quick that we might be in trouble.  From behind the tree line, at our backs came a steady roar of thunder growing louder and more frequent with each passing minute.  Quickly we realized we were trapped. Standing on the shoreline we were faced with several options, and none of them were good ones! We could run for the trees (aka big green lightning rods), or we could get in the boat and head across the lake for the ramp (metal boat), or we could hunker down on the bank and hope it passed without killing us.  As we crouched on the bank as low profile as we could get, the rain and wind came with a vengeance.  Lightning struck trees behind us, and several stumps in the water in front of us, but somehow we remained unharmed.  

   As soon as we felt somewhat safe, we gathered our things, grabbed the boat and headed for the open water.  This took a little time since we had to get the decoys with the boat (once again diverting our attention from the danger looming beyond the trees).  As we came out of the cove and opened up the throttle through the stump field, out into the open water, we noticed that there was another storm coming up fast.  The lightning rapidly got our attention, and we were trapped out in the middle of the lake with no cover.  My two horrified passengers laid flat in the boat, and I did the same with only my one hand up to run the throttle on the Pro Drive motor.  We kept the boat moving as fast as possible while lightning struck the water and several standing stumps close by, but once again, in spite of our stupidity, we were spared.  I have never been so happy to get back to the truck!

 Cooper Lake (3 years ago):

   This lake is always low.  And by low, I mean 10 feet or more low.  This makes for a different set of challenges for the average duck hunter.  As the water drops, previously productive spots dry up and the ducks move on to other spots to feed or loaf.  To stay on the ducks here, you have to be able to scout, and you better have the right gear to do so.  To start with, you’re going to have to get a good boat with a powerful mud motor to get you shallow and keep you from pushing all day in waist deep mud. For me personally, a Pro Drive boat with a Pro Drive mud motor is the perfect package.  It also helps to have a good GPS as well. A lake that is low with a lot of standing timber looks the same from one area to another, so a GPS is a must if you’re going to navigate and/or return to an area multiple times.  

   We were on some good numbers in an area of the lake that is highly inaccessible. This area not only involves a very long dangerous boat ride but an even longer walk through knee deep mud to get to where the ducks wanted to be. We headed out in the wee hours of the morning, the boat loaded with gear, ready to draw a gun on the ducks we spotted the day before.  It seemed hard to get to but well worth it for the fowl returned that morning.  We rode in the boat bouncing through stumps and sliding over mud flats with the Pro Drive mud motor until we could go no further.  We had marked that spot on the GPS and knew it was a long walk from there over dry ground at first and then the dreaded trek across a log-riddled mud flat to reach our final destination.  The three of us and my dog loaded up all of our gear (3 decoy bundles, backpacks, guns, seats, shells, snacks, camo material, numerous other spinning/shaking duck devices etc., etc.). We looked like Tibetan travelers headed for the holy city!  Across the swamp we go with only headlamps and a GPS being held by one of my hunting buddies who, at the time, was a rookie duck hunter. Now for those of you who have never carried half of your body weight in gear as you walk in waders through a swamp littered with logs every two feet, this may seem pretty easy.  Well it isn’t, and when you add in the fact that it is 28 degrees, pitch black, and you are knee deep mud, it becomes literally insane!  

   We walked for what seemed like forever, until the guy holding the GPS seemed to disappear. That’s right; lights out! Where in the heck did he go?  Well, a quick backtrack revealed our GPS operator was partially submerged in mud.  By partially, I mean head first in knee deep mud, pinned down by his gear, with no sign of recovery!  He had been watching the GPS and forgot to step over a log which caused him to gracefully plant a perfect 10 Olympic dive into the Lake Cooper mud pie.  He was covered from head to toe, and we had to unbuckle him from all of his gear just to get him out.  We finally made it to the spot and it paid off BIG!  We had one of the best hunts of the year, and a lot of laughs at his expense! 

 Now, you be the judge…crazy, insane? Probably!