Jeff Morris lives with his wife and children in a modest home on a corner lot in Bloomington. The grass is green and cut nicely, and there’s a basketball hoop set in concrete across from the neatly paved entry. The peaceful suburban setting obscures his true passion hidden in the garage: The guy is an absolute duck-hunting nut.
The evidence is clear. There is a nice fishing boat in there, but you hardly notice it on account of the drab duck blind material draped across it. There are several bags stuffed full of decoys, and a shelf contains old wooden ones he can’t part with. Look in another spot and you’ll see an array of camouflage clothes, boots and waders. It’s like a duck-hunting dream world.
Now 39 years old with two boys of his own (Will, 7, and Sam, 6, both of whom love to hunt), Morris is conscious of creating for them the experiences he had as a youth. This year, for the first time, both boys will join their father — and tens of thousands of other Minnesotans — when the season opens Saturday. The Morrises will head southeast and get out on the Mississippi River.
“It was my dad who started it with me, and his dad started it with him. I’ve sat in the duck boat with my grandpa, and in many boats with my dad,” said Morris, a concrete contractor who started duck hunting at 8 years old. “Every fall we went duck hunting, and that’s just how I was raised. Everybody duck hunted, I thought. I figured it was just normal. We didn’t miss a weekend.”
Ask him the one thing he likes best about duck hunting and he’ll list a dozen. Maybe more. Watching the dogs retrieving downed birds. Ducks flying in unison. The sound of their wing beats. Spending time with friends. Using calls to “talk” to ducks. Sunrises, sunsets, finding birds, practicing calls … .
“Man, you get me talking about duck hunting — I’m excited,” Morris said. “God gave us ducks. They’re the ultimate creation. There is a great rush of a buck coming through the woods, or a turkey gobbling. I love it all. But duck hunting — there’s just so many things that are so cool about it. I love it. Just love it.”
What’s in his kit?
Gun: Lots of shotguns will do, but Morris’ gun of choice for waterfowl hunting is a Benelli M2 (benelliusa.com).
Gun case: The Browning floating gun protects Morris’ shotgun from getting banged around, but more importantly, it prevents the gun from sinking should it go overboard (browning.com).
The blind bag: The Avery blind bag stores those little pieces of equipment — binoculars, flashlight, shells and water bottle among them — that otherwise would be easy to lose. It keeps water out and helps Morris stay organized during the hunt (averyoutdoors.com).
Waterproof jacket: Morris prefers a lightweight, waterproof camouflage jacket made by Beretta (berettausa.com). “It’s an all-season jacket, and I can wear everything from a T-shirt to a bunch of layers underneath it and still be camouflaged.”
Floating mallard decoys: Most puddle ducks associate mallards with friends, so even if mallards aren’t the target species, Morris advises hunters to use them. He likes the super magnum size for increased visibility (ghdecoys.com).
Waterproof boots: Muck boots keep Morris’ feet dry and warm. They’re so warm, he wears them for deer hunting and ice fishing, too (muckbootcompany.com).
Goose and duck calls: You never know when a goose will fly overhead, so Morris carries a Paul’s Calls Pit Boss goose call (paulscalls.com). For ducks, Morris favors a C&S Justifier single-reed call (right). With a little practice, you can make any duck sound you want (cscustomcalls.com).
Ammo belt: Keeps shells organized for easy access — and clean. That’s important because hunters don’t want to run muddy shells through their firearms (averyoutdoors.com).
Lanyard: Wear a thick lanyard around your neck to hold your calls and bands from birds you shoot. A thick lanyard doesn’t cut into your skin the way a thin one can.
Insect repellent: Mosquitoes can be ferocious for the first month or so of the season. Morris packs a can of Repel Sportsman Max insect repellent (repel.com).
Flashlight: Morris recommends an LED flashlight (and headlamp and spotlight) to help in the marsh in the predawn darkness (nebotools.com). “If you do it right, it’s still dark when you’re all set up.”
Folding saw: Use to cut or freshen blind material. The blade of the Gerber saw, which slides in and out easily, cuts through everything from corn stalks to cattails (gerbergear.com).
Joe Albert is a freelance writer from Bloomington. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.