Quack – Quack – BOOM – Quack – Quack – Quack

The winds blow heavily through the open fields. Tall grass dances like a tent revival of the 1930s. Water ripples across the small ponds that surround me and the cold chill of the wind rips through my layers of wool. I stand ready, clenching my 12 gauge shotgun with my eyes in the sky. Watching and listening. Another team of ducks circle overhead and patience consumes me as I wait for them to land in the pond. The tall grass moves all around me, as if to antagonize my patience. The bone-chilling cold weather cuts through me. Darkness begins to set in and the outline of Mt Rainier in the distance bleeds into the looming black sky. Colors of orange and pink quickly fade. In the distance I hear the faint quacking of ducks overhead. A flock circles from the north and makes a few laps before committing to a pond nearby. It’s growing dark and my stomach is growing hungry. My cold wet hands become frozen. I fight the thoughts of giving up, going home and finding a warm fire to fall asleep. Decoys bounce and bob softly in front of me on the small pond; their presence becoming faded by the fleeing sunlight. Halfway covered in water and mud, I blow on my homemade duck call with great fervor. QUACK QUACK QUACKQUACKQUACK. An offset rhythm. A call of the wild. Patiently waiting, the winds determine if I will eat tonight. Duck hunting teaches me patience in the most uncomfortable of situations. I blow on my handmade duck call. The team of ducks begin to circle back towards me. I firmly grip my 12 gauge Remington. Here they come. My heart beats steadily. Slow breaths as I place my finger on the trigger. Nature teaches me patience and blessings. I count them both.

For 3 years, this was the common theme in my backyard. 11 acres of land that touched the Puget Sound in Washington state. Each year when the days became shorter, the nights become cooler, and snow began to fall; I would trek out past my barn full of old Volkswagens, turn on my solar power for the evening and make my way through water, mud and chest high grass with a 12-gauge Remington shotgun. These were long winters of self-sustainment, patience and finding quiet spirituality within the wilderness.

Each night these beautiful birds would circle about and land in small ponds throughout my property. Over 300,000 ducks migrate from Canada through Washington each year. What most people don’t know is that these birds wreak havoc on crops, farmland and agriculture as they migrate in massive flocks to warmer weather.

Setting sun

As birds fly in, I would watch Mt Rainier in the distance. The sky would fill with colors of orange and pink and purple; outlining the massive mountain.

For 3 years I lived off of duck stew and vegetables every winter. It was a solemn and quiet experience. Duck hunting was about survival and literally living off the land. I glance up to my house from the Puget Sound waters. The barn glows with a single light. The Volkswagen bus sits quietly and the porch light has just come on. Another cold, dark and lonely night. I am hungry to eat