Offseason downtime


Courtesy David Mullins

David Mullins poses with the results of a recent geese hunt.

Downtime: Everybody needs it to avoid getting burned out. Job burnout is real. Everyone lives for the weekend. From February through October I don’t have much downtime, especially on weekends. In my job we call downtime the offseason when the Bassmaster Elite Series takes a winter break.

My offseason lines up perfectly with my number one passion. That is duck hunting. I’d rather do it than go bass fishing. If you have a fulltime job then you should know what I mean.

The last thing you want to talk about on the weekends is work. The Elite Series is work, and it can be a grind when you add up all the travel, nights away from home and our hectic tournament schedule. Some are back-to-back and you are fishing against some of the best sticks in the sport. There is no downtime and very little time to think about anything else than work.

So it’s no wonder I don’t go fishing in the offseason, much less like having deep conversations about it. That’s why this column is all about duck hunting. There are similarities, but at least I can unplug from the grind of the competition.

I’ve been passionate about duck hunting since my teenage years. In East Tennessee I was introduced to the sport by floating the rivers and jump shooting. Later on I started decoy hunting and that hooked me for life. The best time to go is following a major cold front. When most people dread it, I say bring it on.

Preparation is a big part of hunting our rivers. Because they fluctuate we can’t leave anything behind like decoys or blinds when we are blind hunting. It’s all about the hustle and being the first on the good spots. It’s the same strategy as tournament fishing. Sometimes we get up at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning to get on the best spots at the river.

Soon as I finish this column I’m headed to Arkansas to meet up with my good buddy Rusty Creasy. He is caretaker and lead guide at Coca Cola Woods. There is nowhere else like it in the world for hunting ducks in timber. Just like jump shooting it’s the closest thing to the equivalent of topwater bass fishing. You set up inside an opening in the thick timber, call the ducks and they pour into the timber without any warning. It’s crazy shooting and happens all at once. Man, it fires me up just thinking about it.

Rusty and I talk a lot about the similarities between us. He grew up around the club, loves the outdoors and is thankful to make it his job. And then there is another crazy thing we both share.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” he always says when I want to satisfy my duck-crazed self to talk about it. Funny thing is without even realizing it I tell him the same thing when he wants to talk bass fishing. He is just as much a freak about bass fishing as I am about duck hunting.

Our jobs kind of cross over. Don’t get me wrong though, to get paid to go bass fishing and duck hunting is a dream job. But those are jobs too.

Rusty and I were just talking on the phone about it while I was packing for the trip.

“Sometimes there is a narrow-minded approach to what we do,” he told me.

I agree. For him that is the 100-degree days in the sweltering August heat that he spends prepping food plots. There is farm maintenance and other chores that begin at sunup and end after sunset. It’s a year-round job except for the brief time he also gets to call the offseason.

“Our jobs are both based on performance too,” he said on the phone call. “I get tipped well when I put hunters on a lot of ducks, not so much when we have an average day.”

Man, I know all too well how that goes. Performance. The higher I place in a tournament the more I get paid. Come up short, I go home empty handed.

But you know what? I wouldn’t trade my job for anything. I just need some downtime to keep from getting burned out. The duck hunting season recently opened in Tennessee. I think I’ll go duck hunting while Rusty daydreams about going bass fishing.