I have to resist the temptation sometimes to wish that I had started things earlier because that might imply that my life, to that point, may have been lacking.
I didn’t really start deer hunting until I was 33 years old. I didn’t start duck hunting until last year, though I owned a shot gun for over a decade. I intended to start duck hunting when I lived in California, but it was a chaotic hassle of too few public areas and too many people. The same thing went for deer hunting. I had a .270 but drew tags in small units with tens of thousands of tags and only rumors of deer.
Since I moved back to Alaska in 2013, hunting has become not only a means of freezer filling, but a main mode of exercise, source of productive frustration and bona fide happiness.
On Sunday, I shot my first wigeon and in doing so, escaped a little of the haunting I had from last year when there were a dozen and all managed to escape unscathed. That night, I prepared what has become a tradition with duck — poppers.
Before I put the pan-seared strips onto a waiting jalapeno boat filled with cream cheese, I popped one into my mouth. It was excellent. Not gamey or strong like a diver duck. In fact, it made me almost want to just eat the rest of the strips and abandoned my puddle duck poppers I had planned, but I am a sucker for a melted cream cheese, premium bacon and fresh bird meat on a jalapeno.
I suppose on some level the popper is a cop-out because it really could make anything taste good. Except maybe a tire. Anyway, I do have other recipes but the not-so heart friendly hors d’oeuvres ended up being my starting point because I was wary of the fishy, unappetizing reputation of diver ducks. It did make me wonder why people shot so many of them if they taste so bad, so I figured there had to be a good way to fix them. I found them good, too, maybe because I was so excited I had brought them home myself and haven’t shot enough of them to get sick of the taste.
I wasn’t sure how much I’d get into duck hunting because the people I know who are into duck hunting are really into duck hunting. I’m really into deer hunting and really into fly fishing, so I wasn’t sure how much really I had left in me. Apparently enough. Between my buddy D Jay, who got me started, and Dallin, who has answered all my questions, I’m getting really into this duck hunting thing. Maybe because it’s different than deer hunting. In my typical way of reflection to the point of near over analysis, I decided that to really enjoy hunting is to at least appreciate different modes. Specialization and limitation is simply missing out.
My dad used to say that you can’t say you love music if you only love one genre. To really love music, you have to at least appreciate different styles. Same goes with hunting.
I’m glad I didn’t just stick with the modes with which I was most familiar because Alaska always has something new and I’m always on the lookout for new variations of jalapeno poppers.
• Jeff Lund is a writer and teacher based in Ketchikan. “I Went To The Woods,” a reference to Henry David Thoreau, appears in Outdoors twice a month.