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The Duck Hunter's Contract

Updated: Sep 23, 2023

Understand, there are two certainties when it comes to duck hunting – sunrise and sunset with thirty minutes on either side. Everything in-between is variable, unpredictable and inexplicably connected to hope.

“You’re going hunting on Christmas Eve?” asked Olaf’s wife.

Every man needs an understanding spouse, but if the man is a duck hunter, he needs more than understanding. He needs a contract. An amendable contract. A fluid contract where the terms of agreement are understood in a general yet undebatable way.

“Christmas Eve is tonight. We’re just hunting the morning. We’ll probably pick-up by 11:00,” Olaf replied.

Translation: Hunt until 11:00, pick-up and be back at camp by 12:00. Unload and stash gear, drink a beer and recount the hunt with friends for at least 30 minutes. Reluctantly load the truck, glancing back at the sky over the marsh to see what’s flying. Leave camp by 1:30 for the drive home. Assuming no stops, but there’s always a stop, hit the driveway by 2:00. This implausible best-case scenario if perfectly executed leaves four hours of daylight for familial duties before evening. Assuming no birds to clean.

The Colonel grinned, “Hope you got her a nice Christmas present. What did you get her?”

The contract does have some explicit or at least implied obligations.

Olaf slathered his warm biscuit with hot sausage gravy and replied, “Nothing really. She gets whatever she wants. I think she bought herself a necklace.”

It’s rare when a relatively young man recognizes the value of having the Whatever Your Wife Wants clause in the contract. It’s risky language and it’s not iron-clad. Not all wives will allow it, but it speaks volumes about trust.

I sipped my coffee as I watched the first bit of daylight cast into the eastern sky. No waterfowl flying yet.

“You might want to stray from that understanding from time to time and surprise her,” I said. “Show her you’re paying attention.” Olaf’s expression indicated he understood but seemed unconvinced.

This was valuable advice. It keeps the contract fresh and makes litigation less likely. Sometimes it’s better to be ahead of the curve, or at least even with it. The Whatever Your Wife Wants clause is best held in reserve, activated only when extenuating circumstances arise.

“Funny how things go. You need to ask your wife for permission to hunt,” I said. “I need permission from my wife to hunt without her.”

Not all contracts are equal. Mine has fine print - To have and to hold, to do as you’re told. I surprised my wife with a box of four new speckle belly decoys. I hoped four was enough. It wasn’t. She wanted a dozen.

Originally Published, CFM, November 2021

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