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As I stare down at my father's weathered lanyard and as my eyes lock onto one specific brand, I find myself wondering if this might be the first band I ever saw him take. As I look to another, I wonder if this might be the one he took on a hunt after we broke the ice for two hours fighting our way to "The Big Hole", our favorite duck hole. I see another and wonder if this might be the one from the last day of the season one year when we were about to pick up the decoys and he said, "Let's give it 10 more minutes." And sure enough, his last duck that year was banded. With each band, there is a special memory, but these bands only represent a small number of memories that were made. They go on and on.
Now, as I read the definition of the band, I am suddenly overwhelmed by what this is really all about for me. It's not just about the love of duck hunting and making a living at something I truly enjoy. It's much, much deeper than that. It's about the memory of my father and the times he shared hunting with my grandfather and his friends. It's about the treasured memories of the many hunts my father and I shared together. It's about the many hunts I have shared with friends and the many hunts I so look forward to enjoying with my son. Only a very small portion of these hunts are commemorated by a small piece of metal wrapped around a weathered lanyard, but the band formed during these hunts is much stronger and lasts much longer.
Too many people get caught up in the idea that a good hunt is measured by a limit of birds, and I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a time when I was guilty of this logic myself. But nowadays, when I think back over the 30 some odd years I've enjoyed this pursuit, I sometimes find myself asking what it is I enjoy most about it. You see, the fondest memories of my father are the times spent talking when the birds weren't flying. The countless hours spent before shooting time just sitting and waiting in the dark. The hours spent looking up at the stars, then hearing a beaver slap its tail right next to our boat just to let us know he knows we're there. Sounds, like the familiar crackle of a bag of Oreo cookies being rustled through. The sight's smell and sounds continue to be a real treat and a constant reminder of him. You could take these few written words, multiply them by 1000, and it doesn't even come close to properly describing these memories that put a nice pleasant smile on my face. And best of all, these are the kind of bands I hunt for today.
Whatever dreams and aspirations you may have while duck hunting, may they bring you many bands.