It's 5 a.m. and I've already been up for an hour. I've already downed a large Stanley flask of coffee and I pull into a 7-Eleven to meet my guide for the day and refill on coffee. Not far enough out of the Metro Denver area to not be out of place in full camo, the cashier makes a point of asking if he can help me with anything as my pacing through the isles likely caused him to worry about my intentions. I try to cut a large cup of shitty gas station coffee with a bit of hot chocolate from the machine, but water apparently siphoned from a nearby puddle comes streaming out, devoid of any taste-bud-saving chocolate-y goodness. I give the cashier a few dollars for the watered down coffee and toss it in the nearest trash can as a F-250 pulling a large trailer pulls up.
As an avid do-it-yourself-er, my forays into guided anything are few and far between. There's a lot that can be gained by getting into the field or stepping into a river on your own, but in a lot of instances there's a lot that can also be missed. For me, waterfowl hunting is one of those situations where I currently find getting out with a guide to be worth the hard-earned money. For one thing, my German Shorthair has a notable distaste for jumping repeatedly into freezing cold water. For another, waterfowl within a day's driving range from my house is a difficult course to navigate. Throw in the fact that I have yet to shell out for a decoy spread and hiring a guide is (for now) my best option and best chance to learn something new about hunting ducks in Colorado.
But today I don't learn anything new. Instead, I've treated to a refresher course in The Art of Getting Skunked. Now, I've been on the receiving end of plenty of ass kickings dished out by Mother Nature. Chasing wild critters with rod and gun is at its core an unpredictable pursuit. I harbor no disillusion about the fact that every day I step into the field to fish or hunt is just another chance to come up empty handed, and I know having a guide is no guaranty of success. But some skunkings hurt more than others. This one, marked by hours in a blind with temperatures well below freezing without seeing a single waterfowl (not counting two strings of geese flying high, fast, and far away) was particularly unpleasant. Maybe it was the frozen toes. Or maybe it was the disappointment resulting from having made tasty plans for things that used to fly but coming home with an empty bag. Or maybe it was calling it quits after 5 hours in the blind, driving to the nearby lake, and seeing thousands of birds on the water all give me the middle feather at once. Yeah, it was probably that.