The lowly mud duck, aka the respected gadwall

As we drove down the gravel road looking for a likely spot to
hunt the next day, we saw a small flock of ducks circle into the
wind and sail behind a screen of trees.

“Did you see those?” I asked my hunting partners. “There must be
some sort of marsh back there. We turned at the next corner and
drove up a small incline. Just visible in the distance was a
beautiful looking marsh.

We pulled out binoculars and focused in on the wetland revealing
a number of waterfowl.

“Looks good to me,” I said. “Let’s head back around the corner
and see if we can get permission to hunt there.”

Finding a farmer at home around harvest time isn’t a sure thing
but we were lucky. With our canoes brimming with decoys trailing
behind the van and our camo clothes, it wasn’t hard to figure out
what we wanted, but when the farmer turned away from the tractor, I
introduced myself and came straight to the point.

“We stopped to see if you would mind if we hunted on that marsh
back there,” I said and pointed in the direction of the wetland
we’d discovered.

“Not many greenheads down there,” the farmer said. “Just a bunch
of mud ducks, but if you don’t mind those, it’s OK if you
hunt.”

A few minutes later we took a closer look at the marsh, deciding
the best places to access the water, to hide, and set our decoys
but most of all we wanted to get a good look at the “mud” ducks
swimming on the slough.

There are many different duck species in North America.
Mallards, the greenheads the farmer mentioned so named for the
distinct green feathers on head of male mallards are the most
numerous, but there are many other kinds. There are several species
of teal, wood ducks, pintails, bluebills, ringnecks, and many
others. But there’s really no such thing as a mud duck.

With so many kinds of ducks it’s no wonder people who don’t hunt
or make hobby out of recognizing the different species don’t learn
to identify each kind. In the farmer’s mind, there are only two
kinds of ducks mallards and mud ducks. On the marsh we found and
subsequently hunted there were pintails, wigeon, redheads and a
large population of gadwalls. So many gadwalls, in fact, we guessed
that was the species of duck the farmer called mud ducks; it didn’t
take long for my friends and I to jokingly start calling the
gadwalls we bagged mud ducks or simply “mudders.”

Hens of most duck species are usually quite drab in color a
method nature devised to camouflage them while they set on nests
and tend their broods. The males (drakes) are the gaudy ones with
red or green heads, elegant patterns of colors, and spectacular
plumage. Gadwall drakes, however, were short changed when it came
to bright colors.

They are handsome, but only feature muted browns, grays, and
rustnmud colors visible from a close distance. Perhaps the mud duck
name isn’t that inaccurate.

The mud duck name doesn’t affect the flavor of the meat. Not
quite in the class of a wood duck or corn-fed mallard, they are
quite good cooked in a variety of recipes. One of my favorites is
mud duck stew.

Cut about 2 pounds of gadwall breast filets into small chunks.
Saute along with coarse-chopped onions, carrots, celery, and fresh
mushrooms until the veggies start to lose their crispness.

Add a can of beefy mushroom soup and a can of vegetable soup.
Simmer as long as you can stand it, then enjoy.

Gadwall populations are currently at an all-time high. Perhaps
you can get a few mudders of your own this season.

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