The Opener: On Daycare for Duck Hunters and Family Affairs

The Opener is a new weekly blog by Senior Resource Policy Manager Amy Trotter discussing your favorite seasons; hunting, fishing, and trapping seasons that is, to start your week off right!
trotter-family-hunt-better Family Traditions
It was Opening Day for our family this Saturday, the Southern Zone Michigan Waterfowl Hunting Opener. I come from a hunting family, but I married into a duck-hunting family. This is not to say that they haven’t hunted nearly everything else under the sun (and under the moon, on other continents, etc.), but waterfowl is a serious business for my husband and his brother especially, but still relatively new to me.
This Opener was particularly special as it was the first time that there were five of us Trotter’s hunting together: myself, my husband Marc, his brother Mike, and their parents Jim and Mary. It was a bright and sunny day, perfectly calm and beautiful; in other words, a terrible day for duck hunting. If you can imagine Everybody Loves Raymond on Thanksgiving Day fused with a Midwestern version of Duck Dynasty, you can imagine the yelling and laughter we had to stifle while hunting this Opener.
may-mentored-youth May-pictured here at 3 weeks old with her first Mentored Youth licenses in 2012.
First thing’s first though, when you are a mom who likes to hunt—who’s going to watch your young child? Our two-year old daughter May is a three-season Mentored Youth license owner, but those licenses are safely tucked into her baby book—she’s not nearly ready to sit still or be quiet, let alone handle a gun (my mother-in-law is questionable too, but more on that later). Normally, Mimi (Grandma Mary) is our go-to babysitter, but when you have a family who hunts, Grandma hunts too. Thankfully, my sister-in-law Laura agreed to get up at the crack of dawn with us so that we could drop off our sleepy toddler at 6 a.m. I wonder if Ducks Unlimited or any national hunting organization has ever looked into investing in daycare options for moms who hunt, as a recruitment and retention tool?
Being a Mom does certainly add to the cost and complexity of a hunt when you add in childcare, women’s hunting clothes (because men’s rarely fit correctly) and a fitted firearm (a youth model) for  me to hunt with my husband. Not to mention even the retail stores are against me--there are rarely women's hunting clothes available (that don't have pink in them) and the big-box sporting good stores in Mid-Michigan ignore duck hunting completely! But as a Mom, I can make due with just about anything: my tall rubber hunting boots suffice since I can't seem to find new waders (which conveniently gets me out of placing the decoys), my youth-sized hunting jacket I got on clearance, and even my brown eye-shadow I used as camo makeup in a pinch. Overcoming the odds makes the memories even more priceless, since I don’t get to go nearly as much as I used to now that I have a little one. But soon enough, we will have May joining us in the blind to watch and then participate in the action. Then I will have the next Mommy hurdle, which is countering the HSUS and sometimes even Disney-led villianization of hunters and teaching my daughter and her friends about wildlife conservation.
amy-mary Amy and Mary, taking a break!
mike-decoys Mike moving decoys again
And as for those priceless memories, there were just too many from this hunt! Just at shooting time, Mary’s gun jammed, Mike conducted surgery on it with a Leatherman, and she was back in action as the sun rose. Jim hunted off to the side of us with the dogs in order to retrieve for us, he was lucky to not be sitting in the piles of raccoon scat on the duck blind benches that we started to smell as the air warmed up. There were thousands of birds flying and calling that morning, a symphony of sandhills, geese, ducks, red-winged blackbirds, and even a turkey as the wetlands and farmlands woke up around us. Of course, as luck would have it, few were on our pond.
mike-calling jim-smiling  marc-looking
Marc (pictured right/bottom) and Mike (left/top) are masterful callers, with assistance from their Dad (center) as well, harmonizing and echoing the calls of the birds and each other. Having learned to duck hunt from Mike and Marc, I knew to let them call the shots when it came time to shoot. Mary was eager though, so there was a regular “Mom, wait! Sit down! Get back!” from her two sons. When Jim turned his back to dispatch a goose he had taken down, there was screams of “Daaaad Stooop!!” just in time for that flock of ducks that was making its way toward us to turn a sharp right. To anyone that has been chided by their parents for sneaking a bite of turkey before Thanksgiving dinner and told “patience is a virtue,” it was clear the table had turned Saturday in the marsh.
oaty-retrieve Oaty retrieves the goose!
All in all, it was a great day in the marsh and some great family-bonding time. Only one duck and one goose in the bag, but a lot of memories and maybe a tradition was born this weekend. In a few years, we could have three generations in the duck blind, making memories together. That is the real duck dynasty.
amy-marc A date out on the marsh

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