Early teal season here in Alabama has been a grind to say the least. In addition to triple-digit temperatures by 8 am, the Early Teal opener happened to coincide perfectly with the Thanksgiving Day celebration of the local hordes of mosquitoes. After a couple days of only killing two or three birds, we knew we were going to have to hit the water and burn some gas to figure out where these birds were and where they wanted to be if we were going to have any type of success in these three weeks.
Because of my work schedule, sometimes my buddy Russell ends up putting a few more miles on the boat by himself than I do, and luckily he doesn’t mind too much as long as I grab him a biscuit every now and then to make up for it. One afternoon, Russ went to one of our usual boat ramps to drop the boat in and check a new hole and upon arriving, noticed a beat-up, old Dodge van parked near the ramp. After he parked the truck, an older gentleman approached him and they started making conversation. The man’s thick British accent and dread locks made it apparent that he wasn’t a local of our Northwest Alabama stomping grounds and after a quick discussion, it was apparent that he also knew nothing about ducks.
He said his name was Nick and he was traveling the US in that van. He had boarded a one way flight from the UK to America, bought that van for $400, and took off to experience America. Nick and Russell talked for nearly half an hour about what we do, why we hunt, and how we hunt them and despite his lack of experience or knowledge about it, Nick was extremely interested. Eventually, Russell took off from the ramp and went to try to locate a few birds for the following morning.
Upon returning to the ramp, Russell realized Nick was still there and they once again struck up a conversation. Finally, Russell invited Nick to come hunt with us the next morning and surprisingly, he accepted right away. Russell told him to meet us right back there around 4:30 the following morning and Nick assured him that he’d be there.
When we arrived at the ramp the following morning, we realized that Nick was so serious about hunting with us that he actually slept in the van at the ramp to make sure he didn’t miss us. We gave him an extra pair of waders and some camouflage to wear and he hopped right in the boat like he’d done it countless times before.
All morning we answered questions about decoys and different species of ducks and how we hunted and in exchange, Nick answered questions about the UK and his life up until now. He was a career military man and spent much of his adult life in the British Special Forces. After the military, Nick worked all over the world caring for those who he felt needed it most. He spent time working with African conservationists to help save the White Rhino population from poachers in addition to working with West African rebels trying to gain their freedom from oppressive leaders. After all this, he decided to travel the world and experience all that it has to offer. In fact, he had just recently left meeting the guys from the TV show “Moonshiners” in Tennessee, and heading down to Louisiana to meet the “Swamp People” and, coincidentally, also the Duck Dynasty boys.
Although we didn’t fire a shot that morning, it was far from a waste of time because we got to meet a new friend and teach him about something we loved. All morning he was sending his friends back home pictures and videos of us and the boat and things we were doing. He absorbed information like a sponge and even though I’m not sure he knew what to think about a couple southern boys in camo with guns trying to shoot a few birds, I think Nick genuinely had a good time because this was a true American experience.
I say all of this to say, never judge a book by its cover. Don’t make judgements on people based on things you think you know. Anyone else that pulled up at the ramp that day would have probably written Nick off as a dirty drifter in an old van just loitering around a public place. Instead, because Russell took the time to have a conversation and get to know the guy, we were able to introduce him to our way of life and show him a small part of our culture while simultaneously learning about his. The outdoor community focuses a lot on taking kids hunting, which of course is a wonderful thing; however, sometimes adults just need to be introduced to the sport as well. Introducing people to our sport and teaching them how to hunt the right way is our job as sportsmen, regardless of their age, and its by far one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in the woods.
Give people a chance. Sometimes, they just might surprise you.