Draw hunts bring together early bird hunters

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Avid hunter: "Wild Bill" McLaughlin, a pro staff huntre for Bass Pro Shops in Portage, said some of the best times of his life have been while waterfowling. | Supplied photo

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What pushes an individual to wake up in the early hours of the morning and pull a party together to draw for a possible duck blind? One can work afternoons, midnights or days and a 4:30 a.m. draw hunt will pull crazy duck hunters in like a moth to a light, no matter what is happening in his life at that moment in time.

The mad rush to throw some gear together — while hoping that the members of your party show up on time with their licenses and gear — adds to the excitement. Even if there are no birds, hunters show up religiously.

Maybe you’re wondering what a draw hunt is.

It comes down to a numbers game. There are only so many properties to hunt in Indiana, and only so many hunters can be using these areas to keep things safe. To decide who on any given day can hunt one of these sites, a draw is run, choosing badges with numbers that groups of hunters receive. Some get to hit the hunting trail, while others have to hit the road and hope for better luck next time.

The state of Indiana has fish and wildlife areas scattered around the state. They can be found online. These properties are funded through the state, hunting, fishing and trapping license money. Many properties offer waterfowl hunting, ones that have a draw open to the public to hunt. This is nice if an individual does not have any property to hunt. The draw is operated by the Department of Natural Resources and state workers. The draw offers individuals a chance to hunt areas or blinds on the given property. There is only one catch: you have to draw for a possible spot at 4:30 in the morning.

Blind luck

Back in the old days, a party of three hunters was required to draw. Now all you need is two. Your party checks in and gets a badge with a number on it. That will be your lottery ticket on a computer-drawn, sealed envelope that is pulled at 4:30 a.m. If there are 20 spots to hunt and there are 40 parties, some parties are not getting on the property.

Today’s method is fast and simple, but it takes away from the original way of sticking your hand into a can and drawing a disc with the No. 1 choice on it. If you are lucky enough to get a choice, you have to wait patiently in line to select the blind you want to hunt. The counter is crowded with hunters wanting to see your selection, hoping it is not the one they want, and stealing glimpses at the kill sheet for the blinds to help them with their spot to hunt. Sometimes you can get the blind you want with a bad pick if the scouting and homework is put in.

But the one thing about standing in line for the 4:30 a.m. draw is seeing the faces and people you have associated with for years, and how the generations of hunting families have grown up. Just standing around and talking to people whose names you never really knew, listening to stories about how many ducks they have shot — or how many wives they have gone through — is entertaining and all part of that 4:30 a.m. club that crazy duck hunters call the state property draw. If you have experienced this phenomenon, you know why the morning draw brings hunters in like a moth to a flame.

Thanks to the state workers who run the properties and God bless all the family members who have lost loved ones and friends who cannot make the draw. You will be missed and remembered always.

“Wild Bill” McLaughlin is pro staff hunter for Bass Pro Shops in Portage, Ind., and is on the staff of Gander Valley Custom Calls out of Colorado. He also runs the website, www.teamunstable.com.