Duck hunting expedition teaches many lessons


I admit it — my feathers were ruffled. I wasn’t able to fall asleep at night due to a parenting decision I had to make.

My husband and I were trying to decide how much of the rope of freedom to cast out with our oldest son. Recently, he has been demonstrating maturity and wisdom.

However, this is the child whose trip to summer camp ended with a tour of three different emergency rooms and two ambulance rides. Trauma has a way of shadowing future decisions.

What could he possibly want to do that would inflict such drawn-out deliberation and hesitation? Two words are to blame: duck and hunting.

That makes it sound too harmless and simple. Let me try it again. He wanted to ride in a small boat on frigid waters along the Ohio River with strangers wielding loaded weapons to hunt ducks.

Also noted, he needed a ride from mom or dad at 4 in the morning in order for it to happen.

Limited experiences

My experiences with duck hunting are very limited. In 1984, my older brother had a brand new Nintendo that came with the game Duck Hunter. We took turns sharpshooting with the orange plastic gun. I think it was the original first-person shooter game.

Sometimes I was able to shoot a duck. Most of the time, a dog materialized on the screen and laughed at me. Thankfully, we never really became hooked on video games.

Duck Hunter only came out of the entertainment stand one day of the year on Thanksgiving. Ritualistically, we watched that dog laugh at us for the next 20 years right after eating pumpkin pie.

My other lasting impression about duck hunting was a result of my love of reading. Thanks to the written word, coupled with my vivid imagination, I’ve travelled the world, experienced catastrophic forces of nature and lived in different eras. My first choice of reading material is captivating stories about history.

When my son mentioned duck hunting, all I could think about was the great Armistice Day storm of 1940. Duck hunters in the midwest flocked to the Mississippi River dressed for the unseasonably warm and mild autumn weather in short-sleeved shirts.

By lunchtime, the weather changed drastically. The temperature plummeted, and the winds increased. The weather phenomenon seemed to affect the wildlife, bringing thousands of ducks down into the river valley.

Jubilation in the hunters as a result of perfect hunting conditions quickly turned to despair when outboard motors wouldn’t turn over and waves increased in size to 5 feet. Many hunters tried to reach the nearest shore for shelter when they realized they were stranded in a blizzard. The tragic ending of the storm was 146 deaths, over 50 of them being duck hunters.

When my son asked to go duck hunting in January, all I could picture was the black and white photos of the Armistice Day blizzard along the Mississippi River.

Rational argument

My rather dramatic response was extinguished by my husband’s rational thinking. He was confident in the training and experiences leading up to this moment. He talked to the family that was leading the great duck hunting expedition and trusted their judgment.

It was decided that with a rope of trust tied around his waist and a life jacket strapped on his chest, the mighty Waterfowl Warrior would get to ride the waters of the frosty Ohio River.

After two geese and two ducks were harvested, the Waterfowl Warrior was hooked. His free time is now spent reading Ohio Department of Natural Resources charts and researching migratory birds.

I am predicting many more very early mornings of him adorned with head to toe grass blade camouflage and face paint.

He learned invaluable lessons about river safety and duck calls. I learned about big faith, even bigger trust, and the benefit of a small village raising my kids right alongside me.


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Julie Geiss lives with her husband and four children in Unity Township, Ohio. Faith and family are first in her life, but she also loves hiking, biking and camping. You can contact Julie at



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