A Pothole Proposal

ND DU members get engaged during waterfowl hunt 
By Chris Jennings

Executing a unique marriage proposal requires a significant amount of creativity and strategy. Tyler Carroll, Ducks Unlimited member in Minot, North Dakota, masterminded a plan to propose during an afternoon 
duck hunt that hinged on cooperative waterfowl, successful shooting, a kayak, and subzero temperatures. 

As far as 20-year-old Kelsey Weber knew, it was a normal afternoon in the blind with her boyfriend, Carroll, and a few of their friends. But this particular hunt on November 3, 2012, was anything but average, and while Carroll and his friends knew what was about to happen, Weber had no idea she was about to experience a life-changing hunt.

After scouting that morning, Carroll chose a small pothole where he knew ducks would be flying. The plan was set in motion and he recruited a couple of his hunting partners to join them, to shoot photos and video of the hunt. Carroll planned to place the ring on a duck that Weber shot, tell her it was banded, and propose when presenting her the duck. Doing all of this in minus-10-degree temperatures definitely added a layer of complexity, but Carroll was confident he could make it all work. 

"I wasn't too worried about there not being any ducks, but by 4:30, we hadn't seen any," Carroll said. "I had broken ice with the kayak and ducks weren't responding to our calls. Then a flock of ringnecks came in."

The flock of ring-necked ducks dove into the partially frozen pothole and, before landing, they were met with a volley of shots. As the flock ascended again, Weber fired the hunting party's final shot. 

"As they were flying away, Kelsey took the last shot and one of the ducks fell," Carroll said. 

Relieved he had a bird down, Carroll jumped into the kayak and paddled to make the retrieve.

"It was pretty cold and I didn't want to take a chance of keeping the ring in my hand while paddling, so I put it in my mouth," Carroll explained. "We had never shot a duck with a band on it and I knew that would get her excited. I yelled to her, ‘Honey, you got a band!' and she immediately started screaming and jumping up and down. She is just as competitive about hunting as we are."

Although he knew the duck was dead, in the back of Carroll's mind, he envisioned slipping the ring onto the duck's leg and having it come to and fly off with the ring in tow. Before the hunt, he stressed to his hunting partners that if for any reason the duck jumped up and tried to take off, be prepared to shoot, as much as possible. 
Carroll paddled back to an excited Weber and handed her the duck. She looked immediately for the band and found the ring – and Carroll was already down on one knee asking her to marry him. 

"When I first saw it, I thought it was duck band. Then I realized what it was and I started crying. I was so shocked," Weber explained. "It was funny because one of his friends was crying and I was crying. Then I asked, 'So, I really didn't get a band?' I was so happy that I didn't even shoot at the next flock that came in. Tyler did though." 

Caught up in this young couple's magical moment, Carroll's plan to have his hunting partners film the whole scene fell apart. "It was so cold, the guy with the video camera forgot to hit record," Carroll said. "I admit, I was a little nervous, but it worked out." 

In the end, the proposal was successful for two big reasons: she said yes, and the ring he'd saved for two years to purchase didn't fly away attached to the leg of that hardy diver. 

Happily engaged, the avid waterfowlers are in the process of planning a late-October wedding. As for the anniversary, Kelsey seems to think Tyler had this all planned out. 

"The duck hunting proposal is special for us because it's the one thing we have loved to do together since day one," Weber explained. "Being asked to marry my best friend while doing something we love most in life is amazing. And yes, he planned it perfect so every year on that date we can celebrate our relationship while duck hunting."

Related: Waterfowl Bands: Do You Know Where Your Ducks Come From?

More on waterfowl banding.