Posted October 26, 2017
If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and sounds like a duck – then it’s probably a duck, right? With Arkansas’ annual duck hunting season drawing nigh, the old saying probably is on the minds of thousands of state duck hunters, looking to extend a treasured tradition in these parts. Energy will give them a hand.
Between November and January, millions of ducks traveling along the Mississippi Flyway descend on Arkansas’ rolling prairies, flooded timber and serene wetlands – to the delight of the state’s 87,000 duck hunters. They’ll be dressed in camo and waders. They’ll deploy floating duck decoys and arm themselves with shotgun shells. They’ll sit for hours in duck blinds, perhaps with their loyal retriever. Energy will help them make the most of the opportunity.
To the non-hunter, the sounds of an inbound flock of ducks are just so much random quacking and squawking. But there’s a lot more going on than meets the ear. Ducks communicate with each other through an intricate series of calls, which hunters try to imitate to bring the ducks in closer. For example:
- The Quack – Experts tell Ducks Unlimited.org that this one must include a clear, crisp ending, like: “quaCK.”
- Greeting Call – Series of five to seven notes in descending order at a steady rhythm, which apparently is “howdy” in duck.
- Feeding Call – This one may sound like, “tikkitukkatikka,” while raising and lowering the volume. Nothing says “dinner” to ducks like this one.
- Comeback Call – Used when ducks don’t respond to the greeting call. Expert Rod Haydel says it’s an urgent, fast call that sounds like “Kanckanc, Kanc, Kanc, Kanc Kanck.”
- Lonesome Hen – If ducks seem to be call-shy, there’s this one – a bunch of widely spaced, irregular, long quacks, like: “Quaaaaink.” It’s low and throaty, says expert Jim Olt.
You get the idea. Calls are part of the art and craft of hunting. Hunters once used their own voices to make the calls. Today, many use instruments. Traditionally made with wood, modern duck calls are often made from acrylic, a transparent thermoplastic derived from natural gas, or polycarbonate, a thermoplastic made from petroleum. Calls made from acrylic instruments are popular because of their ability to produce a sound that is both louder and more defined than those made from polycarbonate or wood.
Dressing for the Occasion
Because overcoming tough terrain and climate is part of the thrill of the hunt, the garb and gear—often made from petroleum products—can be as important to having a successful hunt as marksmanship. Duck hunters are accustomed to crawling through thick brush, wading through muddy terrain and crossing cool streams and lakes to keep up with the flock.
A pair of waders, or a full-body waterproof suit with attached boots, keeps the body warm and the feet dry so you can focus on the ducks. Waders typically are made from neoprene, a petrochemical that provides lightweight durability, buoyancy and thermal insulation.
Bait and Switch
Duck decoys, or man-made objects made to look like ducks, also help hunters by convincing the ducks they’re joining some feathered friends. These are made as either floating or field decoys. Floating decoys are used to attract ducks on water, while field decoys are anchored to the ground with a stake tp lure ducks on land.
To make floating decoys, blow molding is used to construct the floater – the buoyant component under the fake duck that allows it to float. The floater is made from granulated plastic pellets. To make the stakes for field ducks, injection molding is used to form plastic anchors. For both floating and field decoys, the duck’s body is made by pressing heated plastic sheets down into the mold of a duck and painting these plastic sheets with durable acrylic paint. The plastic is strong and pliable, allowing the decoy to withstand cold weather.
After hunters attract the ducks, it’s time to ready, aim, fire. Shotgun shells used for duck hunting are formed from a variety of different energy-derived thermoplastics such as polyethylene and nylon. These shells are manufactured by melting plastic pellets into a plastic tube.
All of the above have helped make duck hunting a principal industry for Arkansas, with migratory bird hunting expenditures reaching almost $288 million in 2011. In fact, in the town of Stuttgart – or what has been deemed “The Duck Capital of the World” – thousands of hunters come each year to celebrate the season with the Wings Over the Prairie Festival and the World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest. Energy brings it all together.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.