Reflections of a First-Time Duck Hunter

Laura Coppola // January 14

As I sit here and reflect on my first waterfowl season, I’m filled with gratitude, heartache, and excitement.

duck hunting

How it Started

Last year, the year of 2020, I threw myself full speed into all things hunting. I’ve hunted in previous years but never so frequently, which seems a bit opposite considering I am a new mom. This season, I started off with a goose hunt and was immediately hooked by the adrenaline that builds up as the birds started flying my way. Since then I have been out duck hunting too many times to count.

Aside from the adrenaline, I don’t know why I kept going out. I am a lousy shot. Like really lousy. The majority of my hunts ended in personal disappointment as I would miss so many birds. I would always tell myself that I was going to take a break because my confidence was really suffering. Yet the next day, I found myself wanting to get right back out there.

This year, I only shot one bird. When my dog, Beau, went out to retrieve it, it dove on him and never resurfaced. It is always heartbreaking to lose an animal but this one was especially tough since it was my first time making contact with a duck. I can still picture the mallards coming in, my shot, and the duck disappearing. Such a cool moment ending with even more heartbreak than my other hunts. I was disappointed in myself for not making a better shot, embarrassed that I failed again, and saddened that I couldn’t show my daughter Amelia the bird.

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My goal this season, literally my only goal, was to get one duck. One duck that I could be proud of while cooking for the family. One duck that I could tell my daughter about. One duck that would make me feel like a true duck hunter.

How it's Going

As I reflect on the hours I put in I realize that just because I didn’t get a duck this season doesn’t mean I’m not a duck hunter. The people who don’t even try are the ones who aren’t duck hunters. So even though I am not good (yet), I’m going to continue hunting waterfowl. I think back on all the experiences and memories it has given me and I can’t help but be grateful, even with all the heartache.

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For me, the most memorable hunt was when my husband and I took our daughter out on her first duck hunt at 7 months old. She LOVED it. Hunting with a baby was quite the experience and seeing her take it all in was priceless. I look forward to telling Amelia about her first duck hunting trips. I will admit that Daddy shot all the birds but Mommy gave it her best effort. I’ll let her know about her naps on the marsh, her excitement in the boat, and of course, her inevitable meltdowns. Hunting is a great activity for the family, regardless of age. As long as you go into it with an open mind and understand that it might not go as planned, you will be fine. Some of our best memories of the year are from an island in the middle of the Mississippi. I’m already thinking about our family trips for next year!

We aren’t all great, or even good for that matter, at everything. That doesn’t mean we can’t do it and make some memories in the process. Regardless of your skill level or the equipment you have, get out there and do what you love.

I wish you all the best of luck in the rest of your seasons and want to remind you that you are a badass for getting out there. In the meantime, I’ll be over here practicing my duck calls and shooting some clays!

You don’t need to be good at it, you don’t need all the fancy equipment or gear, you just need your passion and enthusiasm.

Want a free printable checklist to have on hand before your next waterfowl hunt? Download it now.

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About the Author

Laura Coppola

As an avid outdoorswoman, I am always up for new adventures. When my husband introduced me to hunting, I was hooked! After six years and hundreds of hours spent hunting, I am now able to introduce our young daughter to all nature has to offer. My family is based on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi so we have the luxury of adventuring through four seasons and the opportunity to hunt an abundance of wild game. I’m excited to be here to take with me through the struggles and triumphs of motherhood and the outdoors.