by Chris Jennings
Waterfowl hunting is all about camaraderie in the blind. While many hunt with friends, there are those who are lucky enough to share a blind with their significant other. What more could a waterfowl hunter want? While Cupid better be careful trying to fling arrows at camouflaged people gripping Benellis, this is the story of two waterfowl hunters who found love, and the unique proposal that joined them forever – both in and out of the blind.
Arcadia, Okla., native Ric Stoner and his girlfriend Kayci, both Ducks Unlimited members, headed out for a morning hunt on Dec. 23, 2007, a morning that would turn out to be unlike any other. To Kayci, it was just an average morning in the blind for the couple, but Ric's nerves were a little shaky – and it didn't have anything to do with the ducks.
The couple met through Kayci's father, who hunted and fished with Ric. They were introduced and dated for more than two and a half years. Ric and Kayci shared the waterfowl blind and the fishing boat throughout that period and enjoyed spending time outdoors with one another.
This particular morning, Kayci noticed Ric was a little quiet. "I remember that it was a really cold morning and I was a little grouchy, so I thought Ric was just being quiet because of the weather," Kayci explained. "It was only a couple minutes into legal shooting time and we saw this lone goose."
Kayci's excitement over the Canada helped calm Ric's nerves, and as the bird approached, Ric replayed the plan in his head.
"When the goose came within range, I told her to take it," Ric said. "I remember every moment of that morning."
Kayci made a clean shot and the goose crumpled and fell. Ric sent the dog, then stepped out of the blind to the back side of the island. Ric pulled the ring box from his parka, opened it and waited for the dog to return.
"I grabbed the goose and slipped the diamond ring onto [its] leg as quickly as possible," he said.
Kayci, still inside the blind, thought the goose had gotten away from the dog and Ric was back there chasing a cripple.
Kayci Stoner with her goose and her engagement ring
"I did remember it took him a long time to get that goose, but I didn't think anything of it," she said.
With a diamond engagement ring on the goose's leg, Ric remembered gripping that Canada with what he referred to as a 'death grip' – and understandably so.
"As I walked back into the blind, Kayci was just sitting there, and I told her, 'It's banded. Looks like you got your first band.' And then I held it out to her so she could see the ring. At first she just looked at it, and when I could see she recognized what it was, I dropped to one knee and asked her to marry me."
Freezing cold, dressed head to toe in camo (including a face mask), Kayci repeated, "Yes, yes..." in absolute shock.
"I immediately called my dad, who already knew because Ric had told him the plan," Kayci said. "Even one of my friends knew, and she had set her cell-phone alarm to go off at 7 a.m. because she knew I would be calling. It was very special."
Ric is convinced that lone Canada goose was heaven sent, not just because Kayci shot it so cleanly, or even because it flew into range at just the right moment, but because that was the only bird the couple saw all day.
"We continued to hunt for a few more hours and didn't see one more bird," Ric explained. "I had come up with this big plan and I didn't have a back up. If that goose hadn't flown over, I don't know what I would have done."
While Kayci had to explain the "band" idea to all her non-hunting friends, Ric's friends and family loved the uniqueness of the engagement. Ric and Kayci were married the following summer and continue to hunt and fish together.
Nestled into their makeshift blind on an island in the middle of a 300-acre lake in Oklahoma, Cupid managed to slip an arrow through the Avery Grass and layered camouflage clothing. The duck blind is a place where all waterfowl hunters make memories, but for the Stoners, their waterfowl-hunting memories will be truly lasting.