Waterfowling has inspired some of the greatest sayings in sporting literature. Many are spoken to friends in a blind; others to a dog that doesn’t understand the words but knows their meaning. Others are just for our hearts to meditate on.

A few are so beautifully written in private that they have to be shared in public. Here are some of those waterfowl quotes from Sporting Classics‘ book, Passages.


“A goose represents the rebel in all of us and because they’re wild and free, they have a certain quality that shines out and makes us wish that we were not bound to labor in life, but rather that we could drift as they do with the seasons.”

– Paul S. Bernsen, The North American Waterfowler, 1972

“Long live the bleak bitterness of such a morning, of the churlish dawn … The duck hunter, probing the secrets of a new day, sees the night retreat, as nothing is so fine as daylight coming and night departing while wings overhead whisper the old and unresolved mystery of migration.”

– Gordon MacQuarrie, The Last Stories of the Old Duck Hunters, 1985

“When you have shot one bird flying you have shot all birds flying, they are all different and they fly different ways but the sensation is the same and the last one is as good as the first.”

– Ernest Hemingway, Fathers and Sons, 1933

“A wild duck is not to be valued in terms of food along with chickens and pork chops. It means day breaking over the marshes and the whistle of fast wings in the gray light. Who can put a price on the sight of black ducks climbing over the willows or pintails setting their wings to decoy?”

– David M. Newell, The Fishing and Hunting Answer Book, 1948

“Against the bright, luminous sky one sees just after sunset on clear, cold days the geese were etched, flock upon following flock. Those farthest away bore on with steadily beating pinions, the nearer birds beginning their glide, great wings cupped. It was beautiful beyond speech, almost heartaching to behold, and suddenly Carl was aware of the gun slanted back across his curved arm, and without reason (but with a certain knowing), he saw that the gun gave the sight a greater beauty, for it was his hunter’s soul that transfixed him at the sight of the living splendor overhead.”

– Kenneth Otterson, Last Casts & Stolen Hunts, 1993

“As long as there is such a thing as a wild goose, I leave them the meaning of freedom.”

– Gene Hill, A Hunter’s Fireside Book, 1972

“There is no feeling in the world like that of seeing ducks dropping out of a winter sky coming to decoys that you have made with your own hands. Sometimes I can’t even shoot, the sight is so beautiful. Carving decoys lets a man understand in a very personal way that there is so much more to hunting ducks than shooting them.”

Charles Frank, Southern Living Magazine, 1985

“Who shall say that the hunting spirit, the desire to match one’s wits against the wariest of wildfowl, is a lower motive than the softer attractions of a young May moon and a fair companion. At least a safer pursuit.”

– Aymer Maxwell, “A Fowler’s Day in the Herbrides,” Field & Stream, 1970

“What better, indeed, can life offer than a duck shooter’s happy dreams! Dreaming, we shoot our ducks over and over; good days and bad, they come back to us out of the joyous past.”

– Roland Clark, Stray Shots, 1931

“I never wrote a poem in my life. But if I ever do, it will be about ducks.”

– Gordon MacQuarrie, The Last Stories of the Old Duck Hunters, 1985


Pick up a copy of Passages in the Sporting Classics store today to read these and more hunting, fishing, and nature quotes.


Cover image: Thinkstock