I just received an e-mail from the fellow who owns the farmhouse I rented for my epic North Dakota snow-pocalyptic DIY duck trip last October. It was my son’s first prairie pothole freelance rodeo—the realization of a decades-long dream for both of us—and I re-upped the farmhouse for the same week this year. Jack and I have been scheming for months.
And then the world turned upside down. Nobody knows what travel will look like this fall. Schedules are in chaos. Will Jack even have a college fall break? Is this a smart time to commit to pay for such an adventure? I knew that e-mail was coming, and I’ve dreaded the note. Because it underscores all the things I do not know about the upcoming duck season.
I don’t know how comfortable I’ll feel about flying, especially most of the way across the country. I don’t know how I’ll feel about traveling in and out of airports and car rental offices and country diners with my kid.
I can’t know what the world will look like in terms of viral surges and spikes and case curves. I don’t know how I’ll feel about putting rural nurses, doctors, and hospitals at risk by traveling to hunt in their communities. Maybe that won’t be an issue in six months. Maybe they’ll all be welcoming the business.
I don’t know.
For a while, ticking off all the uncertainty about the upcoming duck season was depressing. I’m still not sure what to tell the owner of the farmhouse.
But as I worked through the unknowns, something interesting happened. I started pondering what I do know about the duck season to come. I began to think about what I know for sure about my world five months down the road. And I started to feel better.
I know for sure that the ducks will pour down from Canada and the prairies and the Boreal forest, for they can’t ignore the ineluctable promptings of migration.
I know for sure that my Saturdays will start too early. I know for sure I’ll be grouchy in the afternoons. I know for sure that my wife, Julie, will grow weary of decoys and canoes piled up in the driveway.
I know for sure that I’ll be hunting. Could be just down the road. Could be in that little sheetwater-flooded pea field where Jack and I witnessed what a prairie pothole duck hunt could be.
Come the sunrises of October and beyond, where my feet are planted won’t matter as much as what happens overhead. When the time is right, I’ll be back to NoDak. This year, next year. We shall see.
But come fall, come wet dogs and whistling wings and eastern skies on fire, somewhere and somehow, I will be hunting. Hard and often.
And that is a very happy fact.