Bye bye birdie

Senior gets country with love of duck hunting


Senior Garrett McDonald poses from a day’s hunt. Photo taken by McDonald family.

Story by Molly Crouch, feature editor

When the temperatures drop below freezing, most stay bundled up inside by the fireplace, but for senior Garrett McDonald, it means getting to his duck blind before most are awake. He is decked out with layers of camo and face paint, and duck calls hang from his neck. His well-trained duck dog is obediently waiting for his commands, and his gun is loaded and ready to shoot at the first sign of flapping wings.

“Before season, I take apart my gun and clean my gun. Make sure all my hunting clothes fit, get shells and check decoys to make sure they have weights. Make sure my dog has everything she needs,” McDonald said. “Opening morning we get out in the hole about 4:30-5 to set up decoys, get the spread right, check the wind, just wait 30 minutes before sunrise and start shooting ducks.”

Just like there are many different breeds of ducks, there are also various sites to hunt them.

“There’s different spots to duck hunt. We have little pond holes that we can use to duck hunt which is one little pond with trees all around, kind of secluded where we hunt. There’s flooded soybean fields, flooded rice that we can get in and hunt,” McDonald said. “My favorite is flooded timber. It’s just like you’re standing in the woods with water, and the ducks come floating in on the water, and you shoot ‘em.”

Although McDonald is an avid hunter of more than just ducks, he prefers the freedoms he has while duck hunting.

“Well, with deer hunting, you have to sit still and can’t talk and can’t really eat and make noises,” McDonald said. “Me being the person I am and loving to talk, you can get out there and make noises and eat food, talk with your buddies until the ducks start coming, then it’s time to get serious.”

Most people enjoy the warm weather of the summer, but McDonald craves the frigid temperatures of the winter because it draws the ducks he hunts out.

“I prefer it cold. It makes the ducks get up and fly to try to stay warm, and then it’s easier. If it’s hot outside, then the birds just want to sit down and not get up and overheat,” McDonald said. “I like it to be about 28 to 32 degrees outside. I have plenty of warm clothing and toboggans and gloves that I wear to keep me warm. When the ducks come in, my adrenaline starts pumping, so it keeps me pretty warm.”

Mcdonald has experienced a couple bizarre moments while in the blind.

“A few years ago, we killed a real rare duck on Millwood [Lake.] It was a canvas back,” McDonald said. “Over Thanksgiving break, we had four ducks come in, and I shot one time and killed three birds. The birds were just real close together, and I aimed right in the middle of them. Right when I shot, three of them fell.”

One of the few things that outweighs McDonald’s  love for ducks is his duck dog, Caney. She is a Boykin Spaniel, which is an all-around hunting dog according to the American Kennel Club.

“I just love her. She’s one of my best friends. We get out in the front yard, and I work with her a lot,” McDonald said. “What’s important [about having a dog] is that it makes it easier for me, you know, not having to get out and get birds every time they fall. I can just point to her where the birds are and get her lined up, and she can go retrieve them for me. In deep waters where it’s too deep for me to walk across, it’s real nice. She can swim a lot better than I can, so it’s real helpful to have a dog.”

Hunting has become more than a pastime for McDonald. He hunts most weekends between November and January.

“I hunt because it’s fun, and I enjoy it,” McDonald said. “It’s just what I like to do.”