Crosswinds: Spring Cleanup

Sheltering in place gives waterfowlers time to sort through gear and relive memories from last season


By T. Edward Nickens, contributing editor, Ducks Unlimited magazine (IG: @enickens)

To be honest, I’ve been trying to social distance myself from the back of my basement since the last day of duck season. That’s where a mountain of still-wet, still-muddy, long-ignored gear sprawls across a 20-foot by 20-foot chunk of the floor. It’s an annual accretion that begins in October and grows, week by week and hunt by hunt, into a monstrous pile my son and I call the “humpocrap.”

It’s practically summer, and blind bags and dog stands are still heaped waist high. Slime-matted camo netting clings like kudzu to the adjacent weight bench. Disembodied goose decoy heads eyeball me from a distance. Underwear, outerwear, socks, hopelessly tangled jerk cords, empty snack bags, paddles, swamp seats. There’s a canoe under there, somewhere.

It starts innocently enough. We trudge into the basement burdened with sopping wet decoy packs and gear bags and dump it all on the floor. Exhausted, we figure we’ll sort and organize after a nap. And the humpocrap is born.

It grows like a monster, consuming everything.

Hey, do you have my flashlight? I might ask as we pack up the night before an early-morning hunt.

“Don’t think so. Have you tried the humpocrap?”

We’re missing a spinner wing. Any ideas?

“Bet it’s in the humpocrap.”

What’d you do with Minnie’s vest?

“I dunno. Check the humpocrap.”

Yep. There it is. A neoprene dog vest slimed with duckweed and beaver poop now nearly three months old.

Sheltering at home, though, I have no more excuses. I dive in to sort, clean, toss, and organize. And once I’m past the stench and fear of a tetanus infection, the chore is a bit like flipping through baby pictures—memory after memory comes to mind. There’s the wigeon decoy Mike rocked with #5s when the woodies landed in the decoys. The spotlight I tore the truck apart trying to find. Uh-oh. There’s my favorite headlamp. Months ago, I had accused Jack of losing it, and he had insisted that he hadn’t touched it.

Whoops. Maybe I should apologize.

Instead, I burrow deeper into the pile. My wader pants with the little stirrup thingees! I thought they’d vanished about mid-December. My missing hand pruners!

An hour later and I call it a success. I’ve managed to separate the entire humpocrap into four smaller humpocraps. Now it’s even more difficult to move around in the basement, and I can forget about trying to use the weight bench. I climb back up the stairs, bursting with pride. There’s nothing like the feeling of a job well done.