This Happened to Me: I Nearly Drowned for a Bufflehead

IT WAS GETTING LATE in the season here in Minnesota, and most of the potholes and swamps I hunt were frozen over. I should have stopped earlier than I did, but I wasn’t ready to quit hunting. So I went looking for open ponds to jump shoot. When I saw one crowded with more than 60 buffleheads—my favorite duck—I couldn’t help myself.

I parked and snuck around the pond, but the ducks flew off without presenting a shot. Then they circled back. I killed a mallard and a nice bufflehead. The greenhead landed with a thump on shore, but the buff had dropped in the water. I was wading in 3 feet of water when I stepped off a ledge and plunged into the lake!

My flooded waders started to pull me down to the bottom. I’m a lifeguard and a strong swimmer, but it was all I could do to catch my breath. I honestly thought I was going to die.

Luckily, I had held onto my gun. As I sank, I shoved the shotgun barrel into the soft mud and pushed myself to shallower water. Gasping, I crawled ashore and stripped down before climbing into my car and speeding home for a hot shower.

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This story originally ran in the Diehards issue of Outdoor Life. Read more OL+ stories.