Hunting ducks is somewhat of a misnomer. Sitting and waiting is a better description. Sitting and waiting in the middle of winter, in bad weather, and in the dark of night is even more descriptive. So why do it?
Cooper is my primary reason.
The typical protocol is to make your way to the duck blind well before the sun comes up. Trudge through the muck, the ponds, the farm fields in total darkness. Then set out a bunch of decoys in knee-high frigid water (with maybe a hint of glow on the east horizon if it is not raining too hard). Wade back to the blind and then wait for the sun to come up with your loyal Irish Water Spaniel.
But while it is dark, it is not quiet.
Migrating birds by the hundreds (thousands?) fly all night long immediately overhead. Ducks create a chorus of whistling wings in full surround-sound as they make their way to points south. Geese talk to each other non-stop while cruising the night sky. Sandhill cranes plan their day while flying in flocks of a dozen or so. Then, as the sun starts to come up, all goes quiet.
Unless weather, birds, and your horoscope are all lined up, there is good chance that one can sit and wait even longer. But the sights are wonderful. Thousands of Canadian geese rise or land in unison, swirling like feathered tornadoes. The occasional group of ducks fly low and fast, avoiding predators, including Cooper and me. Sandhill cranes converge in nearby pastures. And Marsh harriers mix hunting and romance as they tack back and forth past the blind, ignoring us as we sit in our front row seats.
As the sun pops over the horizon, but before it slips behind a sky of overcast and rain, there is a brief moment of less than a minute, when picture postcards can be seen in every direction.
For two hours, Cooper sat quietly in the blind, scanning the flooded corn fields and ponds, wondering why I didn’t call for the bird. To date, in every hunt test he has competed, there has been a retrieve within moments of his entering the blind. So what gives this time?
Patrice’s obedience training with Cooper is now paying off in spades. For logistical reasons, there are not 2 hour sit-stays in obedience competition, but if there were, today Cooper would have qualified.
No ducks today. But having spent several hours listening to and watching our amazing world with Cooper is why we sit in a duck blind, in the cold and dark.
While not considered appropriate behavior in some circles, Cooper did get a retrieve or so. Not ducks, but I did let him help retrieve the decoys before we headed back home for a hot breakfast (and a dog bath).