Canvasback Confrontation

Canvasback Confrontation

It is pretty fair to say that I’ve become extremely easy to shop for as I’ve gotten older. My wife usually comes home from the mall, hands me a pair of pants and says something along the lines of…

“Here’s a new pair of jeans, I threw the old, ratty ones away”

I’ve learned not to argue, as I have literally zero fashion sense, and I’ve determined that she is correct to treat me as such.

My birthday and Christmas gifts have pretty much become gift cards to the big outdoors stores, a bottle of bourbon or a dozen golf balls depending upon where I fall on someone’s gift buying hierarchy. That being said I am rarely surprised anymore when opening a gift. Truthfully I am one of those people that likes a routine so I kinda’ just like it that way.

My wife usually approaches my hunting addiction with an impressive level of apathy. To say that she couldn’t care less is spot on. Mathematically she could not possibly care less.

For my 30th birthday (quite some time ago at this point) my wife threw me a curveball. She snuck around behind my back, consulted with my friends and lined up a duck hunting trip to Rock Hall, MD.

She went above and beyond the call of duty and had taken care of everything. The guide was arranged, the rooms were booked and I was already scheduled for the time off from work. To say that I was surprised would be an understatement.

So me and three of my buddies headed to the little town of Rock Hall, MD to chase ducks.

We arrived the night before our scheduled hunt, checked into our hotel and contacted our guide. This hunt was booked specifically to afford me with an opportunity to bag a Canvasback. At that time Maryland was discussing placing a moratorium on the “King of Ducks” and I wanted an opportunity at one.

Unfortunately, our guide informed us that he hadn’t been seeing a lot of ducks, but he did have a hot field where we should be able to limit out on geese. I wasn’t too excited to hear this news, but heck I was with three of my best hunting buddies, we had two days to hunt and I am a perpetual optimist so I knew good things would happen for us.

Day One went pretty much according to plan. We woke up, met the guide and rather quickly shot our limits of Canada Geese. Now don’t get me wrong, I love goose hunting. It’s probably one of my favorite waterfowl hunting activities, but at that time I could shoot five birds a day at home and Maryland only allowed each hunter to shoot two so I was a little underwhelmed at the idea of paying a guide to take us out to shoot geese.

We had wrapped up rather quickly so we got showered up and started to explore the town in search of something to eat. What we quickly found out was that the town of Rock Hall was in the process of closing up for the season. Much of the commerce in this small town is based around tourism and many of those tourists come to town to sail.

We heard the same thing over and over again…

”Let me check to see what they have left in the kitchen”.

We were finally able to get something to eat and then went in search of a beverage distributor. We made a purchase of some age appropriate canned liquids and went back to the hotel to settle in, watch some television and kill a little time.

Being semi-adult, male members of the human species eventually we needed more food. So out we went to cure the hunger pangs. We found a nice little bar and the folks working inside told us they’d make whatever was left in the kitchen for our dinner. They brought out an interesting array of fried items and told us that they were closing up for the season in the morning so any open bottle behind the bar was fair game.

We stayed there far too long.

The next morning came early and, to be 100% truthful, I wasn’t in a great mood. We got in the truck and met our guide at the boat launch.

“Well fellas” he said overenthusiastically “Let’s head back over to that field and shoot some geese!”

“No thanks” was my response. “I’m here to shoot ducks.”

Long story short a very uncomfortable conversation ensued. The basic premise being our guide wanted to shoot some geese and call it a day by 9 a.m. I, however, didn’t have any interest in shooting geese and made him completely aware of that fact. My stance being that, I didn’t care if we sat in a blind from sun-up until sun-down without ever seeing a single bird, my wife had paid hard earned money for a DUCK hunt and dang it we were going on a DUCK hunt.

My buddies did exactly what I thought they’d do…one went to find a restroom, one went to double check that he had his license in his blind bag and the other one went over and stared out over the water at God only knows what.

Eventually we worked it out. He agreed to put us in a blind, but wasn’t taking any responsibility for the outcome. I agreed and assured him that was all I was asking for. And so the most uncomfortable guided hunt I’ve ever been on began.

The minutes turned into hours, the hours turned into days. To this day I don’t know what my buddies thought as they sat there joking and enjoying the day meanwhile I sat quietly in one corner of the blind and our guide sat stone-faced in the opposite corner. Morning turned into afternoon, afternoon started to turn into evening and it was becoming increasing apparent that my canvasback would elude me.

We got to the point in the day where I began to realize that we had less than an hour to hunt and then it happened. A small flock buzzed the decoys and we managed to drop a pair of mallards. A couple minutes later and we dumped a nice drake mallard.

Over the next twenty minutes we picked away at a nice string of birds and then suddenly the guide muttered his first word since leaving the boat ramp…

“Can”.

This bird did it the way it was supposed to happen. He ran the gauntlet coming in from our guides side of the blind passing my buddies, one-by-one, until he hit my shooting lane. Now I don’t claim to be a sniper by any means, but destiny is a real thing and this bird had tested his destiny for the last time.

We collected the Can, packed up the decoys and, to the joy of our guide, called it a day. At the boat ramp we shook hands and I thanked him for putting up with us. There was no reason for hard feelings. He had been compensated for his time and he was simply trying to make sure that our entire group had fun. I spend enough time in the field that a guided hunt is used more to target something specific that I don’t have an opportunity to pursue on my own. Two different takes on the situation, but you know what at the end of the day no harm, no foul.

If you like to travel guided hunts are a fantastic way to get out there and hunt new places. Most guides put in a ton of time making sure that you’ll be in the right place to succeed. They often lease land and spend the required amount of time to manage that property to increase your odds. They will be the one that lets you know what they are seeing and what the best chance to harvest game may be.

That said these guys aren’t mind readers and they don’t know you from the last group that they guided. Make sure that you clear up any and all expectations ahead of time. If you are someone that only hunts a couple times a year and you’re looking to pull the trigger they can most likely help you with that. If you are someone that hunts a lot on your own and you’re looking to do something a little more specific you may want to discuss this ahead of time to avoid any early morning boat ramp confrontations.

Pete Anstadt

Grateful son to two amazing parents, big brother to an awesome sister, husband to the woman of my dreams and proud father of the greatest son in the world. Mediocre waterfowl hunter, novice fisherman, aspiring cook and recently retired high school lacrosse coach. I'm looking to improve my physical health and to find a way to turn my "work brain" off through exploring my love of the outdoors, spending more time in the field or at the sporting clays course and expanding upon my admittedly limited cooking abilities. I look forward to the chance to share my successes and to poke fun at myself when I fail miserably with anyone crazy enough to read my posts.

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