I Love Ducks

 I learned a lot of things from my grandfathers, one of the greatest things I learned from them was a love and appreciation for the outdoors.  When I was five or six years old my father and grandfather would take me out in the duck boat and we would sit in the bitter cold and drizzling rain for hours upon hours hoping that ducks would swing within our gun range and we could take a few ducks home for my grandmother to cook up for us.  Dad would let me bring my BB gun and when I started to get impatient or cold he would say "why don't you check your sights and see if you can hit that old decoy out there". I would take my BB gun and rattle off ten or fifteen shots and that would keep me occupied and distracted from the boredom or the cold or what ever was bothering me.  Those duck hunts are some of my fondest memories as a child.

When I was about 12 or 13 years old my grandpa and I were out in duck blind on Leech Lake and had been shooting mallards and bluebills.  We didn't have a dog at the time so we were both in waders, me in chest waders and my grandfather in his hip boots.  As we were out in the water picking up some of the ducks we had just shot I looked back at my grandpa to see a dozen or so mallards cupped up and coming down behind him.  I whispered "grandpa ducks"  he heard "grandpa duck"  and did exactly that, squatting down into the frigid November water of Leech lake.  That made him jump straight up out of the water and let out a loud "wooohoo" the ducks flared and he and I both laughed.  I started to pack things up because it was around 25 degrees out and Grandpa was now soaked from the waste down.  Grandpa told me not to bother he would be fine and we proceeded to sit out in the freezing cold until we got or 12 ducks and then went home.  It might be times like that, that have made me love ducks and duck hunting the way I do.

About 12 years ago I met Eric Passe, Eric has lived in Wabasha, MN Most of his life and has hunted and fished the Mississippi river all his life.  When Eric and I first started duck hunting together we were both working nights at a hospital and had lots of free time between early October and late November.  Whenever I want to kill ducks Eric is the man I go to.  I have spent a ton of time duck hunting and have spent days in the cold and wet conditions of the fall and have been skunked several times, but never when I go with Eric.  Other than a few years when I was out of the country, I have spent the last 12 duck hunting openers hunting with Eric.  This year was no different, except that Minnesota changed a few things around and let us go out a week earlier than usual and let us start a half hour before sunrise which was different, we had always had to wait until 9am or noon back in the good old days.

Eric and I don't get out as much as we used to, we both have had kids and life just has a way of slowing us down.  This year was a good year for us Eric's son Jake is now big enough to come out in the boat with us and enjoy the tradition we have both enjoyed for so many years.  We only got 9 ducks, all wood duck and teal, we would have had more but Eric has a tendency to let me do  a lot of the shooting and sadly my shooting was poor on opening day, otherwise we may have gotten a few more.

I have really enjoyed all of the duck hunting I get to do, seeing birds cup up and turn to call or watching them set in over decoys or just the time spent with friends and relatives doing something we love.  It all makes duck hunting by far my favorite hunt, as an added bonus I also love eating duck and cooking duck.  It is hands down my favorite wild game.  I have spent almost as much time learning how to cook it as I have trying to get it.  Teal and wood duck are perfectly delicious but they are on the smaller side so I decided to grind all the meat and add some pork to give it a little fat, and make duck sliders for a party I was having.   

Duck is one of the most versatile meats around and holds up to many different styles of cooking and flavors.  For my duck sliders I used 2 pounds ground duck to one pound of pork with one tablespoon of kosher salt and 1 teaspoon of chinese five spice powder.  I cooked the patties in fry pan and topped them with smoked cheddar and an onion and maple conserve.  On the buns I put a small smear of honey and port jelly and  they were delicious.  The batch made 22 sliders and they didn't last ten minutes they were a big hit and may have even converted one very skeptical eater into believing that duck can be tasty.  I love ducks and I'm not afraid to admit it.