Gordon McQuarrie isn’t a household name among duck hunters any more, but he should be. The Wisconsin outdoor writer and founder of the Old Duck Hunters Association, a semi-fictional organization where he shared his duck hunting stories, remains a high point in American outdoor journalism.
Following his writing and waterfowl stories helped make me who I am today, whoever that is. If you’ve never read any of his works, you should give it a try. Perhaps his best work was “Stories of Old Duck Hunters and Other Drivel.”
“I never wrote a poem in my life. But if I ever do, it will be about ducks,” McQuarrie wrote in one of his other books, “The Bluebills Died at Dawn.” That inspired me to one-up him a bit, and since he has long since passed on, he doesn’t have a chance to one-up me back.
So, I once wrote a poem after a duck hunt.
Ode to Dacket
“There was once a dog named Dacket,
but one misty morning,
he just couldn’t hack it.”
There it is. My poem, based on the real life trials and tribulations of duck hunters, and in this case, what turned out to be a well-trained part-time duck dog. I’m not sure if McQuarrie would have been proud or if he would have just rolled his eyes.
Everybody knows about having to get up early, wade through water and ice, hide in the blind calling ducks ‘till you are blue in the face, but perhaps the hardest thing of all is when man’s best friend balks and turns against him.
Such was the case one cold Monday following opening weekend. There had been many ducks, but now, the many ducks had gone elsewhere. Three of us, myself, Johnny Boy and Clintard, had waded 200 yards to the blind in the moonless dark along with Dacket, the trusty black lab. We got all set up, but suddenly we realized there was no Dacket. With my huffing and puffing and splashing and mud-cussing, who would have noticed a dog. We figured maybe he had wandered off on a potty break. A well trained duck retriever knows not to go potty right beside the blind.
A few minutes later, a big mallard flew by and boom, he was down. But still no Dacket. The dog, you see, had not only run back to where we parked the three-wheelers for the wade in; he had gone all the way back to the camp and was laid up by the remnants of the campfire.
Meanwhile, the duck had not expired and had flapped his way a half mile across the mucky field, a half-day wade for an old duck hunter. So the younger John Boy retrieved Dacket first. Then Dacket unwillingly retrieved the duck.
Another lone duck soon made the same mistake, went down with a single shot and landed just outside the decoys. Dacket wasn’t looking and was apparently offended that someone woke him with the blast of a shotgun.
“Fetch up, Dacket!” John Boy commanded.
Dacket looked around, almost as if to see if there was somebody else named Dacket in or near the blind. John Boy grabbed his rather bulky leather collar, pulled him from the dog’s perch and thrust him toward the decoys. Dacket went, wandering around like he had a stopped up nose and could no longer smell a duck. Then, he wandered more as if he had forgotten where the blind was. He finally found the duck after numerous voice commands that were not in his original training and brought him back in. All this in the same five minutes that the largest group of ducks we saw all day flew over and quack-laughed at the show going on below.
It was the way the day would go. We did put three hefty mallards on the lanyard, which was just right for a late lunch. Even a hunt with three birds can be enjoyable, especially with a hunting partner like Clintard, who could turn the make-shift front porch of an old travel trailer into an atmosphere like a fine New York restaurant. No better way to end a bad morning hunting than with a great late camp fresh duck lunch.
We plucked and cleaned the big birds. Clint took the three large ducks, marinated them in a bottle of Lea & Perrins (because I’m not sure how to spell Worcestershire sauce), a cup of soy sauce and lemon pepper. Two hours later, he stuffed them with some chopped up potatoes, bell pepper, garlic and onion, put each one on a big sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil, then tossed in the remaining taters and onions, added more lemon pepper, sealed them up good and set them on the back of the big charcoal grill.
Chef Clint did all this in typical TV Cooking Show fashion, explaining each and every move. The key is making sure the foil is tightly sealed. The mixture will create steam and make the ducks very tender and tasty, he said, looking into the imaginary Food Network camera.
In an hour or so when they were deemed done, he removed the ducks, placed them directly over a really hot spot on the grill, rolled them around and browned them up for several minutes. He served them with the remaining ingredients from the aluminum foil pouches and a couple of heels from a loaf of white bread.
All of a sudden, nothing else mattered. We had a good laugh over the odd behavior of the usually dependable Dacket. But Dacket wasn’t off the hook just yet. Normally Dacket would have gotten a shot at some of the leftovers, but there were none.
On this day, Dacket’s late lunch came from a pouch, too, one with a first name – O.S.C.A.R. A meal deserving of his performance — weenies.
“Here you go. Fetch up, Dacket!”
The post “The part-time retriever that inspired my only duck hunting poem” first appeared on LouisianaSportsman.com.