Kill a Duck, Buy a Gun

By on October 6, 2010

Cattails everywhere, but not a duck in sight. - photo by BENJAMIN R. BOMBARD

Cattails everywhere, but not a duck in sight. – photo by BENJAMIN R. BOMBARD


Jackson Hole, Wyo.-It’s 12:24 in the afternoon on the first day of duck hunting season. I’m sipping on a bloody mary. I rarely drink bloody marys. I’m dressed in full camo. I’ve never before worn camo. I’m at a gun show at The Virginian. There are vintage side-by-side shotguns with ornate engraving. There are straight up man-killer handguns, used military firearms and rifles of every caliber a shooter’s heart could desire. I don’t own a gun – yet – and I’ve never been to a gun show.
Taking all this in, I wonder to myself: What f-ing world am I in? Then I realize: Oh, yeah, this is Wyoming.

Stepping back a bit, I’ve been eager to learn how to hunt since relocating to Wyoming this past summer, and my new roommate, Kevin, drunkenly assured me from day one that he’d show me the sportsman’s ropes. A couple weekends ago, Kev made good on that promise and took me duck hunting on opening day.
Before dawn’s asscrack could even peek over the mountains, Kev, his friend Jeff and I were stumbling through the moonlit South Park woods to find an old duck blind Kev knew about. By 6:36 a.m., we already heard shots booming like Fourth of July fireworks in the distance. No sooner had legal hunting time arrived than I spotted a duck flying low overhead. Jeff brought it down with one powerful 3-half-inch-shell shot. The few ducks that flew overhead in the dim light evaded my own well-sighted shots – that’s my story – which leads me to believe they were unaware that I was wearing Kev’s lucky bib pants.

The luck must have rinsed out in the washer, because my borrowed shotgun’s action mysteriously shattered before I could shoot anything with it. Without a gun to wield, I fell into a support role, pocketing shells for Jeff, bushwhacking (unsuccessfully) through a mess of cattails for his first bird, and watching with a mix of envy and enthusiasm as he and Kev brought down a handful of ducks between them.

From what we could hear, every hunter in earshot had bagged his or her limit by 9 a.m. Meanwhile, I was empty-handed of both ducks and a gun, and as the day warmed up the duck action cooled down. Kev, being the congenial, generous redneck he is, let me borrow his shotgun as he set about gathering up the decoys. Soon afterwards, a hen and drake cupped over my unwitting head and landed on nearby waters. This would be my last chance.

Jeff and I stalked behind cattails and willows to get within range and jump-shoot the ducks. Suddenly, they were spooked and flying. I shot. Missed. I shot again and watched my target drop into the reeds.

After finding the wounded bird and breaking its neck, I learned I’d brought down a trophy duck – a mature green-headed mallard drake with beautiful tail curls, the kind of duck that normally goes to the taxidermist.

Afterwards, we headed to The Virg for celebratory drinks and to look at guns. Thrilled by the success of my first hunt and surrounded by guns and the men who love them, I decided it was time to assemble my own arsenal. A man, I observed to Kevin, ought to own a gun. “At least one,” Kev insisted, eyes wide for emphasis. Two hundred bucks cash on the barrelhead bought me my first gun, a vintage Ithaca 12-gauge, from a salty dog salesman. Yeah, it’s not much of an arsenal at this point, but then again, I’m new to Wyoming.

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