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The Law of Honk and Quack

Watching your news feed, you’ve probably noticed a significant uptick in the number of archeological finds across the planet. Technology and the use of detection imagery like LiDAR has greatly enhanced our ability to discover humanity’s secrets and fragments of long hidden societies.

Recent images of a seemingly silent field in North Missouri near and around Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge revealed curious subterranean anomalies prompting Dr. Gustav Zickuhr, renowned bull coprologist and retired braumeister, to dig a little deeper. Using historic records, old fashion field work, and the stories of a crusty old duck hunter still able to mutter a few complete sentences, Dr. Zickuhr organized an exploratory investigation.

During a late-night expedition near the town of Sumner, an exploratory tunnel was dug under Maxie, one of the two Wonders of Chariton County. At the bottom of a shaft, a mass grave of an estimated 5,000 Canada geese was found along with a rotting wooden duck boat filled with spent shotgun shells, and the barrel of an old 10 gauge. Some of the relics were removed, and in his basement laboratory in Potosi, Wisconsin, Dr. Zickuhr discovered and extracted scrolls of papyrus from the old shotgun barrel.

Carefully unrolled, the scrolls, now known as the Dead Geese Scrolls, were in a stage of advanced decay. Efforts to date them has been difficult, but Dr. Zickhur said, “They’re really old.”

Writing on one scroll clearly revealed a meticulously composed ancient script. Initial attempts in rough translation revealed a decree entitled: The Law of Honk and Quack. Study continues but the prevailing theory is the scrolls are the original source of rules used by duck and goose hunters past and present.

And therein lies a conundrum. How did an ancient decree evolve (or devolve) into a diversified set of nearly universal encrypted rules governing duck hunters in North America? A cabal? A secret society? A complot of convenience?

Research to examine the relationship between ancient and contemporary rules was immediately initiated by Dr. Zickuhr as an attempt to determine correlational occurrences using dysfunctional analysis and pre-determined randomness. To help back-trace the relationship, a nearby Missouri duck club was chosen for additional study.

Located somewhere within Missouri’s Golden Triangle, its whereabouts known only by a select few, exists Boca-Chobee Flats (BCF), a not-to-legendary duck club. You’ll eat dust for a few miles getting there, then the challenge begins.

“Stay in the ruts and you should be okay, and check your skid plate, boys. The low-water crossing is real, real rough but doable,” said the Colonel, a founding member and club manager.

Like many duck clubs, the Flats began as one man’s dream. Hitting his head after slipping on a walnut in his yard, the Colonel had a vision - to buy a bean field and turn it into a wetland. In zombie-like fashion, a group of desperate hunters joined the Colonel’s death march. The land was altered, the duck boats arrived, and soon after, so did the rules.

When interviewed by researchers, club members spoke mostly about etiquette, although none could spell the word, and reluctantly acknowledged the existence of a few formal rules. Speaking from behind a curtain of cordgrass, a current member who requested his name not be used for this story, confirmed the rumor of a secret ritualistic gathering of club founders during the Leonid meteor shower in 2000. An outcome of the ceremony was the creation and approval of The Rules.

Olaf, the youngest club member downplayed the idea of rules saying, “First, there are no rules unless we need rules, and like another set of well-known rules, they’re not really rules but more like guidelines.”

Other interviewees explained the rules are enforced by the President, mostly by explicit group shaming. They are expected to be followed by all members, and subject to change only by a majority vote at a special meeting deemed necessary by the President, or whatever meeting occurred during a late-night card game when four or fewer members were present.

Most importantly we learned, rules matter only when they matter, and do not matter when they do not, and its every member’s responsibility to know the difference. A leaked, partial version of the BCF rules was obtained from an anonymous source. An alphabetized unredacted portion follows:

The Rules of Boca-Chobee Flats

Club Motto: The first liar doesn’t stand a chance.

Alcohol – Alcohol may not be consumed during hunts; however, wine-in-a-box may be consumed during hunts when temperatures are above 70 degrees and there is no possibility of shooting birds, and no beer is available. Wine should be paired with peppered duck and cheese. Officially sanctioned beverages are available at the club store.

Birds on the Water – Shooting birds on the water (i.e., to Arkansas a bird) is not allowed unless you are actually from Arkansas.

Boats – Only boats powered by pole or paddle are allowed. Motors are prohibited. Falling behind in the wind, you’re on your own. Falling off your boat, you’re on your own, unless drowning. If drowning, you’re on your own. Note: You may hold another hunter under water only by using your pole (pole minimum length 12 feet); length of time a member may be held under is discretionary.

Calling Birds – There are no rules or guidelines on calling birds as they are unenforceable. Ridiculing is allowed. Squashing a member’s call into the mud is allowed if no witnesses are present.

Canada Geese – If you must. Dogs gotta eat.

Coots, Mergansers, Cormorants – No. Just no.

Decoys – Names should be written on the bottom of personal decoys; however, ownership is established by possession.

Dogs – Of course.

Emergencies – You have no obligation to assist another member in a moment of peril; voting may be used but not required, especially if the desired outcome is clear, or if an epic story is in the making.

Hens – Shooting hens should be avoided unless unavoidable, or if no birds have been shot during the previous four hours of hunting, or the sun is in your eyes. Hens may shoot hens at any time.

Motion-winged decoys – Robo gadgets may not be used. If found, they shall be confiscated and destroyed using steel #2s. The club store will reimburse you for your shells. Pulsators, splashers, squirters and other similar abominations may be used by the wretched and pathetic.

Politics – Politics may not be discussed when two or more people are hunting together, or during breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Politics may be discussed during the morning constitutional.

Preparations – The hunt shall be planned the evening before. Analysis will include weather, migration patterns, social media, hunter preferences, and other available data. The plan shall be re-discussed in the morning darkness without eye contact. The plan will then be abandoned for no particularly good reason.

Profanity – Cursing is allowed, except when children are present. Points are awarded for uniqueness of terms and combinations thereof. Points may be redeemed at the club store.

Pronouns – A member’s pronouns should be acknowledged but adjectives are preferred.

Recollections – Remembering when is required. Not remembering when is expected. Deliberately forgetting is not allowed. Stories will be re-told; pretending you never heard the stories before is mandatory.

Sky Busting – Forbidden. Go hunt public land.

Wading – If a member gets stuck in the gumbo or a muskrat hole, they shall be given jerky, cold coffee, two peanut butter crackers, and threes shells to be used in whatever order or way important to them.

Penalty Clause: Failure to abide by these or any rules may result in loss of hunting privileges for the remainder of a season or expulsion from the club.

The Right of Parley – Any member who feels they have been treated unjustly may request a meeting with club officers prior to expulsion.

Footnote: There is no club store.

After extensive analysis and interviews with club members, Dr. Zickuhr was disappointed to find no correlation between the Scrolls and the BCF rules.

“We may have completely misinterpreted the scrolls,” said Dr. Zickuhr. “But we will continue on this trajectory until we are completely discouraged. It may be Boca-Chobee Flats is simply too primitive in its development to ascertain a relationship.”

In the meantime, Dr. Zickhur has accepted an invitation to join the club as an out-of-state, dues paying member.

“We prefer members who pay their dues but live too far away to actually hunt,” explained the Colonel.

“I am excited to become part of this notorious duck club,” added Dr. Zickuhr. This way I can immerse into the culture to see what our research is missing, and maybe learn the Colonel’s recipe for peppered duck.”

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