I have talked in previous post about duck hunting with my buddy Eric Passe. Eric and I have been duck hunting together for 13 or 14 years now and in that time we have had some pretty phenomenal hunts. We have also sat in a swamp all day freezing and come home with one duck. Either way it never seems to matter, we always find a way to get back out there and chase some ducks. Eric lives in Wabasha, MN and has lived there all of his life. He knows the Mississippi river as well as anybody and considers himself a duck hunter. He hunts other things as well but thinks of himself mostly as a duck hunter. Earlier this week I got down to Wabasha to hunt with Eric and saw something I have never seen before. You would think that after hunting with Eric for as long as I have nothing would be new but I saw Eric in a different light than I usually do. Eric isn't a hunter or even a duck hunter, he is a craftsmen.
Monday morning we hit the swamp early and took our time finding the right spot to set up. On our way out to the swamp we passed several other hunters all set up and ready for their hunts. These hunters had decoy spreads with 60 or 70 decoys set out all sorts of spinning wing decoys and confidence decoys and goose decoys and as soon as it was light enough they were hitting their duck calls pretty hard and shooting at a lot of ducks. I say shooting at a lot of ducks because if they were hitting a lot of duck they would have been way over their limit.
Eric's approach is different, for Eric it isn't about how many ducks he can shoot but rather how many ducks he can get to set their wings and circle right down into his decoy spread. He has become a master at using his duck call and most importantly not using his duck call. He can tell by the way ducks are flying whether or not he will be able to turn them or if he should just let them fly by. He never sets out elaborate decoy spreads usually setting out about a dozen and sometimes none at all. When he can work a group of ducks to circle around his decoys and then cup their wings and land right into his decoys that is pretty much the pinnacle of his hunt. On Monday of this week Eric was able to bring every duck we shot right into the decoy spread, every shot we took was about 15 yards away and minus one hen that I shot we managed to pick out all drake mallards and shoot our daily limit of mallards. It was a perfect hunt orchestrated by a master craftsman.
Eric doesn't need elaborate decoy spreads or fancy duck calls or spinning wing decoys to get ducks. His approach is simple but perfect and he has spent his life perfecting what he does. His ability to eliminate all the extra gadgets and gimmicks and just focus on the essentials of duck hunting is what I believe makes him a craftsman. Mondays hunt inspired me to cook and following Eric's example I decided not to try and add anything more than necessary. A lot of the time we try to mask the flavor of wild game by adding sauces or fancy cooking techniques.
This is just a duck breast seasoned with salt and pepper and seared in a little butter. I left the skin on and cooked it over medium high heat for 4-5 minutes per side. The skin formed a perfect crust and in the end I would be willing to bet that most people wouldn't have been able to tell the difference between this duck and a nice rib eye. Simple but cooked to perfection.