WILLISTON - It has been an amazing quest for a Williston man and the end is almost in sight. John Seil is attempting to become the first North Dakota resident to achieve the North American Grand Slam on ducks.
This past January, Seil came a step closer to making his duck fantasy come true. He harvested a Fulvous whistling duck in the swampland of Florida.
"I found the best option for a Fulvous, which is very difficult to get, was a guy in Florida," said Seil. "He turned out to be the real deal. It was not a slam dunk by any means, but I was in the right place at the right time."
John Seil, Williston, holds a Fulvous whistling duck that he bagged in Florida in January. Seil is attempting to become the first person in North Dakota to successfully harvest at least one of every huntable species of North American ducks.
So were alligators, razor sharp sawgrass and numerous other nasty surprises that the swamp can deliver. Seil was told by the guide that a recent pair of hunters refused to get into the water after learning about hungry and roaming alligators. Nevertheless, Seil eagerly stepped out of the airboat and into the swamp where he would bag species number 35 out of 36.
Why wade with alligators? Seil says his recent bout with prostate cancer changed his outlook on life.
"After all this I'm really not scared of anything," stated Seil. "Honestly, once you go through this you really have a different outlook. I think almost anybody would feel that way. I appreciate everything so much more. It looks like we're winning the battle right now. It's going to do what it is going to do."
And so is Seil, despite a three-year delay. First sidelined due to back surgery, then to prostate surgery and nine weeks of chemotherapy, the waterfowl hunter is more determined than ever to achieve the Grand Slam on North American ducks. To make certain he accomplishes the unique task, he's not cutting any corners.
"Most people recognize 32 species of huntable ducks, but that doesn't include any subspecies," explained Seil. "I put them in to accomplish. Eiders and mottled ducks are variables. The Mexican duck is a mottled duck. It is a pretty daunting task."
Seil recalls one of his early hunts in the quest for 36. It was in Mexico.
"That was 12 years ago. I booked a hunt with a guy and he came down to Mexico when I got my black-bellied whistling duck," said Seil. "He's a taxidermist from Alabama. I've done a lot of volume with him and he is, in my opinion, the absolute best with waterfowl."
A collection of mounted ducks graces an entire room in the Seil home. The Fulvous duck is at the taxidermist now. Come next January, Seil hopes to ship his favorite waterfowl taxidermist the last of the grand 36 - a red-breasted merganser.
"I've got to get this done. My health has returned. I can travel better," said Seil. "I haven't booked the hunt yet but I'm going to Cape Cod to close the deal. Kodiak Island in Alaska is a good spot and I've got a good friend there, but I would rather try to do it on Cape Cod if I can. The later in the season the better colored the bird will be."
The Cape Cod hunt would likely be from a boat rolling on ocean waves. The pitching of the boat makes shooting extremely challenging for shotgunners. Seil says he'll be relying on his Beretta Extrema, the shotgun he used to harvest the first duck in his quest for 36. He'll likely have company too.
"I've got several guys trying to get to come with me," said Seil. "I'm really looking forward to it. If I'm lucky enough, I'll be pretty emotional. I've met so many nice people, all the way down to Florida. It's just great. I really enjoy this little society. The other day I talked to a guy from Tennessee, we'd never met, and we learned from each other how to save a little time and money, and where to go and where not to go."
A 1974 graduate of Rugby High School, Seil says he wanted to do something nobody else would do. He developed his fascination for the variety and beauty of ducks while growing up, working and traveling in North Dakota.
"I thank God for this and his creations. They are all unique. Every one of these birds has a story," said Seil.
Seil is quick to credit his wife for being patient with him during his quest for the Grand Slam. He might be pressing his luck a bit, but he's already hinted at what his next goal might be.
"Peru. They've got a lot of different ducks in South America," said Seil.