With almost three years and several hundred waterfowl pieces in the cybersphere, the Duck Blog has covered a lot of ground. Along the way, we’ve met loads of great folks and shared experiences with loyal readers.
In the spirit of reflection — and because, as you’ve guessed, I have nothing of substance to contribute this week — I thought we’d share some of the best reader feedback and comments from the past season. (Note: This does not include the note I received with that package of frozen shovelers. I appreciate the donation, but you could have at least cleaned them.) On to the letters and emails.
“Ur shooting is a joak. Maybee try poynting ur gunn in frunt of dux next yeer. Or practus more.” — B.D., Wisconsin
Ahem. I see that Birdie, my retriever and the official Duck Blog dog, got into my laptop again. Sorry folks. For the record, I have no idea what she’s talking about. And no, I didn’t teach her how to spell.
“You wrote years ago about your tongue-in-cheek quest for a smew, which you dubbed the legendary fourth merganser. Any progress on that front?” — J.S. Duluth, Minnesota
I’m afraid not. The smew, of course, is the only member of the genus Mergellus. It’s closely related to the genus Mergus (mergansers) but might be more closely related to genus Bucephala (goldeneyes and buffleheads) and has hybridized with common goldeneyes. It’s a Eurasian bird that only rarely appears in North America. I’d love to see one someday, and shooting a drake would be pretty cool. But until that occurs, I’ll have to settle for the regular old common, hooded and red-breasted mergansers.
Incidentally, I’ve not shot a mergie intentionally for many years.
"What about allegations that a hooded merganser found its way into your boat this past October? — J.S.
I can neither confirm nor deny that. Moving on ... .
“What’s the coolest thing you saw this waterfowl season?” — F.G., Memphis, Tennessee
That’s a wide-open topic. I could tell you it was scads of bluewings and wood ducks over warm September marshes, sloughs full of gaddies and mallards on the prairies, massive big-water rafts of bluebills and cans here at home, snows and white-fronts waking up on Arkansas impoundments or streams of big eiders zooming past the scenic backdrop of a Maine coastline.
But really, the best thing I encountered was the unquenchable passion and infallible commitment of waterfowlers across the country. Whether on the plains, down South, out East or here in the North, duck and goose hunters share a deep love of wild birds and the environs that hold them. Further, they are seriously committed to seeing that grand waterfowling tradition continue.
I sometimes gripe about selfish attitudes in the marsh, potential trouble when drought returns to the prairies and seemingly inexorable decline in waterfowl hunter numbers. Yet when I share a pit or timber with like-minded folks, I sense that we’ll somehow figure things out and sustain the waterfowling and conservation lifestyle. So I guess you might say the coolest thing I saw was abundant hope for the future of duck and goose hunting.
“Mor foode, mor foode! Ur shooting sux! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!” — Anonymous.
Sigh. Great. Now Birdie has hacked my Realtree.com account. And I think she's posting pictures of the merganser from October. I’d better nip this in the bud. Until next time, keep those letters and emails coming. And a smew hunting invite wouldn’t hurt, either.
Click here for more Realtree waterfowl hunting content. And check us out on Facebook.
Realtree waterfowl editor Brian Lovett has been an obsessive duck and goose hunter for more than 30 years, chasing his passion on the Dakota prairies and the marshes and open water of his home state of Wisconsin. He's been a writer and editor in the outdoors industry since 1991.