Columns,  Conservation,  Hunting,  Personal,  Waterfowl

Taking Pictures

It’s the most endearing question I get on every trip.

To put that in context, I get asked roughly 1 billion questions a day. I love them all, but that’s the closest number I can put on it . . . “how many ducks do you think we’ll shoot?”. . . “How can you tell which birds are which?” . . . “Is that a duck (744 times)?”

There are some I love (“Have you ever had this much fun?”) and some I dread (“Do you think they’re done flying?”), but there’s one that’s just so special and unique and I’m gonna tell you why . . .

“Would you take our picture?”

Dads and sons. Moms and sons. Moms and daughters. 3 generations of hunters. People on their first hunt.

Long time friends. Bosses and employees. Clients and business folks. Girlfriend and boyfriend.

Cousins who see each other on the rarest of occasions. A Christmas present from a wife to her husband. Brothers who have never hunted together before, one experienced, one having never spent a morning in the blind.

Teachers. Ranchers. Officers. Public Servants. IT Professionals and Account Reps and Salesmen and Accountants. Even a lawyer or two.

The reason it matters is twofold . . .

First, they usually take this picture right before shooting light . . . not a bird has been seen, the day is still being laid out. It’s unspoken, but the picture is a memory of togetherness that’s still full of hope . . . Hope for bands and piles and taxidermy bills.  This isn’t always the case – sometimes it’s a pic of the ducks, or some other pose, but there’s always the ask.

But the other reason it matters is that it is vulnerable . . . A 65 year old dad with his late-thirties sons . . . in that question is encapsulated the memory of this morning, perhaps a throwback to trips they took so many years ago, or making up for trips missed . . . It’s without guile – it’s not taken to brag about . . . it’s taken to look at, to remember . . . it’s the simplest of asks, but if you listen, you can hear their voice crack just a little as they realize what they’re trying to capture . . . Sometimes, they won’t ask, but you’ll see them trying to get everyone into the frame and I’ll offer . . . and their eyes will light up, behind camo facemasks . . .

Within minutes, they’re back to teasing each other and sipping coffee and asking about snail kites and bald eagles and moorhens and grackles . . . And they don’t even realize how much I appreciate that moment they just shared, and that I get to be the one holding the camera, flashing to memories with my family and friends, the seats on the boat the same but the faces different.

It’s one of my favorite parts of every trip.

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