MY PERSONNAL JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE AS A WATERFOWLER
My journey in life as a waterfowler, a hobby that has encompassed who and what I am in this world, began 48 years ago. Did I say 48 years? Man, am I getting old and getting old truly ain’t for sissies
My Grandfather, (Giuseppi Basilo Giordano) instructing from his wheelchair, when I was a youngster of 11 years, showed me how to shoot a brand new double barrel 410 shotgun. He had bought the gun to be passed down to all of his grandchildren as their first gun to use and learn how to hunt. When you master using a 410 shotgun at a young age such as that, to shoot waterfowl and squirrel, then graduating up to a 12 gauge is cake. It was an honor to be the first grandchild to use the gun and I soon became pretty handy with it, or so I thought, it in the back yard. Shooting cans and bottles as my Grand Dad tossed them out over the Marshyhope Creek became a snap. After two weekends of practice, squirrel season opened on Oct. 5th, 1965 and my first day that school was not in session so I could hunt was Oct. 7th. My Grand Dad pointed to the corner of the woods and said be there in the morning at day break and be ready to light ‘em up.
Sure enough, he was right. At day break, on that frosty morning, I was set up in the corner of the woods and the squirrels started moving. Ol’ Dead Eye took aim on the first furry bugger and pulled the trigger. Then I watched in total amazement as the squirrel scampered off. I am pretty sure that I heard him laughing too as he made his exit. In the next two hours I used up all 25 shells shooting at squirrels, only to come home empty handed. My Grand Dad said “I heard you shooting dead eye. How many did you get?” Ashamed and embarrassed I whispered to him in my softest voice, I missed. My Grand Dad, detecting that I was really depressed about the whole thing and concerned that I might be discouraged about hunting , said to me “Don’t be too hard on yourself, we all have to start somewhere. Just practice a little more. You’ll get the hang of it.”
The next weekend I didn’t get to go huntin’ but I did get to see my Grand Dad that Sunday. I talked to him and we schemed, while watching our favorite TV show “My Favorite Martian”, on how I could break the ice and get my first squirrel. I was ready for next weekend now. I couldn’t wait. That evening though tragedy struck my family. My beloved Grand Dad left me for “Greater Huntin’ Pastures in the Sky”. Grand Pop hadn’t seen me shoot my first furry or feathered thing before he passed but he gave me some good tools to work with. The main tool he shared with me is that hunting isn’t all about the killing. The peacefulness and beauty of your surroundings when hunting are certainly first and the harvest of game is only secondary. Now, I needed to get busy.
The days drug by, and days became weeks. Finally about two months later I went duck hunting for the first time with my Uncle Jerry. He knew what I needed. I needed to harvest something to prove to myself that I could be the hunter my grandfather wanted me to be.
At the ripe old age of 11, my uncle and I left the dock before light on a bitterly cold morning and headed for the blind about a mile or so down the river. When we arrived to the blind, He placed the dozen or so decoys to what he thought was perfection. That means he got then out before the ducks started flying. That’s perfection in his book. I wonder if the 12 pack my Uncle had the night before had anything to do with sleeping through the alarm and the rush job with the decoys. Nah couldn’t be. All of our decoys back in the day were cork with cedar plank bottoms painted jet black with a little tan on the cheeks of the wooden heads (None of That Plastic Junk Like We See on the Market Today). He then got me situated in the blind. With sunrise came the first duck in with a splash. He whispered “Shoot Him” as I raised my 410 double barrel Stevens Model 311A Savage Arms shotgun and took aim on one of the prettiest ducks I had ever seen in my life. A beautiful Canadian Black Duck. You don’t see these babies at the zoo getting fed by the tourists with bread crumbs. My shotgun roared, well maybe a pop since it is a 410, and as I rose my head in excitement, much to my amazement, the Black Duck(They were Purebred Back Then), was belly up kicking those gorgeous deep orange feet. Our old Black Lab Queenie swam out and retrieved the gorgeous Black Duck to my Uncle standing on the bank.
Finally, I had become a hunter, a man, and I didn’t shoot my eye out in the process like my mom always said I would do with my trusty Daisy Air Rifle. I sat on the bench in the blind and stroked the Black Ducks feathers in total awe of the softness of his feathers and the beautiful purple hues in the wing spectrum. Hope my Grand Dad got to see that. I tallied up 4 ducks that year. I was happy with myself, I felt like pounding my chest to have accomplished such a feat. Not a lot of birds by any means, but a grand accomplishment for me at that age.
The following year, I went squirrel hunting again. I shot at 6 squirrels that year and never missed. I wanted my grand dad to see them so bad that I held every one of them up to the heavens to make sure that he got a good look at them. He did too.
In my third season as a “Veteran Waterfowler”, yeah right, I recall a fond moment with my uncle when 5 Green Wing Teal came in and touched down on the water in the same spot that I had shot my first duck two seasons ago. I had hunted two full seasons with my uncle and had learned to get busy with the gun when the birds came in, or my uncle would kill ‘em all with his humpback Belgium Browning 12 Gauge. I jumped up to shoot without hesitation. Good thing too. My uncle was already blasting away in his corner of the duck blind with his Browning when I took aim on my first bird. My uncle had three shots and my trusty double barrel 410 shotgun had two of course so they had to count. When the smoke cleared, 5 birds lay dead on the water. No cripples either. All stone dead except the usual kicking of feet in the air from the expiring birds floating on the water.
At the age of 14, my Dad, not a hunter, decided that he needed to take up hunting with my uncle and myself. He dove right in to the sport head first and learned all he could as quickly as he could; because he knew that it was important to me. He hunted with me until I got a drivers license and could get my own self to the marsh at those God awful hours of the morning and then he quit hunting. He always said that duck hunting required getting up way to early in the morning and normal, sane people just didn’t do things like that.
At the age of 55 now I think I get it. My Dad never really enjoyed hunting but he enjoyed being my Dad. So he took up hunting just to carry me around and hunt. What a father. And what a man.
Ever since those years of waterfowling, I have been addicted. As a young man I was addicted to the number of birds that I could kill. I needed bragging rights to feel good about myself and my abilities as a man. Then as I matured, it became obvious that I had missed the whole point of the hunt. The point was certainly to watch in awe as the birds came in with cupped wings, to hear the soft quack as they descended out of the golden sky and touch down gentle on the water. Look at that bird in the golden sunrise. What a masterpiece of nature. So many people live an entire life and never get to see such a beautiful sight. Wait a minute. What am I thinking? Shoot, Shoot. Oops, instincts kicked in again.
As the years have gone by I have raised and shown four sons, a nephew and a daughter the beauty and thrill of nature. We all have shared special moments in the woods. Memories that will be with us ‘till the end. I still yearn for the days again in the near future that we get to have our own personal hunting, fishing and camping adventures again. I can’t wait to gather memories with the grandchildren.
At my stage in life now, I have become a professional outfitter, taking people on all sorts of hunting adventures for all sorts of creatures. Wild Boar, Black Bear, Bobcat, Whitetail, Turkey, Ducks and of course, my personal favorite, Snow and Canada Geese. Lord knows I don’t do it for the money. I just do it to see the look in that next 11 year olds eyes when he kills his first duck, or his first snow goose, or that 22 year olds eyes when he sees his first flock of 5000 snow geese coming at us in the early morning golden sky landing in our decoy spread. Now that’s a sight to behold.
And let’s not forget the Old timer who has a Jack Nicholson “Bucket List” to fill before he breaths his last breath. In my opinion, those are the things that make a hunt as rewarding as it can ever be. On your next hunt, bring a camera and a family member . After all you haven’t really been on the hunt of a life time until you do it for someone else’s enjoyment in life and their memory of a lifetime.
PLEASE REMEMBER “It’s not the Wild Meat but the Heart Beat, That’s Why We Do It.”
We insist on it. Contact Joe Austin today at 410-603-1400 or 315-889-1790 ( Cell ) to book your next hunt.