The Experience & Passion
By Mike Huey | Photos by Buddy Hughes
Michael Huey, owner and trainer at AJ Kennels in Diana, TX, provides gun dog training and all-age obedience training and boarding. He is also the head duck guide at Broseco Ranch in Mount Pleasant, TX. To book a hunt or for more information on AJ Kennels services, visit www.AJ-Kennels.com
As I sit back and recall my first duck hunt, so many memories flood into my mind: The friendships I’ve made; the business I’ve started; the sights, smells, sounds and feelings I’ve had since being introduced to the great sport years ago.
As a college freshman, a good friend of mine asked if I wanted to go duck hunting on his grandfather’s land. I said yes but had my doubts, not knowing what to expect, but by the end of that day, I was hooked. Many people say duck hunters have to be crazy, and I would definitely agree with that statement. I can’t tell you how many sleepless road trips and all-nighters
I have pulled just to make it for shooting time in a far-off duck blind. Not to mention the spine-chilling temperatures often involved, but it’s definitely worth it. Other than spending time with my children and wife, there is nothing I would rather do than go duck hunting. I think of waterfowling in some way every day.
My first year of duck hunting was impressive. I was in college, and my friends and I went every weekend, rain or shine. I think our duck total that year was 18. Believe it or not—the days that we left the house at 2 a.m., drove an hour, walked a half-mile through the mud and muck and never got to fire a shot fueled my desire to go back even more. My humble first year made me a better duck hunter, because I honestly didn’t know any different.
Many people base their hunting experiences on how many ducks were harvested, and I say that if that’s what I was looking at my first year of hunting, I would have quit and never returned. If you’re basing success off numbers alone, you won’t last long. The greatest thing I received in my first year of duck hunting was my best friend, Buddy.
It’s so fun to see how far we have grown as friends and hunters. We were just two youth enjoying the time we got to spend outdoors together, and from that relationship, we have both been in each other’s weddings, seen children born, watched our offspring become friends and even become unspoken members of each other’s families. I thank God for bringing him into my life, and I know we will stay best friends for the rest of our lives.
Another memory is the first time I saw a trained retriever work. I was with a family friend, the same one that introduced me to duck hunting. We were headed out on opening morning to a local lake. I was excited, like always, with it being nine months since the last time I got to pull the trigger, but I was also excited to see my friend’s new yellow female dog in action for the first time.
I was blown away. From that moment, my love for retrievers and duck hunting would go hand-in-hand. Since then, I have owned and trained several gun dogs, started my own dog training business, competed in hunt test and field trials and made countless friends in the outdoor and dog training industry I have to thank my lifelong friend Clay Bridges who introduced me to both.
When I reflect back on my experiences and career in the outdoor industry, I’m not talking about duck hunts in which we reach our limits of mallards in 45 minutes. While I have been part of some amazing hunts, very blessed with many birds and good shooting, that’s not what I talk about when I’m asked about duck hunting.
To me the sport of waterfowling is about camaraderie and developing relationships with people — new and old. That is what I love about it, because without the friends, stories and experiences I have made through duck hunting, I wouldn’t be the same person I am today. It’s truly a passion that I hope to continue for many years to come.