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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Q and A: DU Magazine Field Editor and "Closing Time" columnist E. Donnall Thomas Jr. 

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Could you describe to me an ideal day of waterfowl hunting?

There are a whole lot of ways you can have an ideal day waterfowl hunting, but I like a lot of variety when I'm hunting ducks. Here in central Montana, this is a dry area. We don't have a lot of wetlands because we're right on the cusp between the Central and Pacific flyways. Early-season duck hunting isn't much, but we have some really good late-season hunting over spring creeks. It's about 99 percent mallards though. A mallard is a great bird and I know hunters who would be happy if they never shot anything but a drake mallard for as long as they live. I'm the exact opposite; I love variety. A great day of duck hunting for me is when I'm seeing teal and wood ducks and a diver or two. Of course, like a lot of us, I probably wouldn't walk across the street to shoot a limit of ducks if I didn't have one of my dogs with me. So one of the Labs has to be there.

Duck hunting is one of the few kinds of hunting that's a social affair. You get to talk to people in the blind, as opposed to bowhunting, which is extremely solitary. I really enjoy good company. Often it's Lori, but for years it was my father, who is still alive at age 91 but hasn't hunted the last few seasons due to health issues.

A variety of ducks, some good dog work and one of my favorite hunting partners with me—particularly my wife or my father—that's my ideal day of waterfowl hunting.

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