To set a lofty goal, particularly one considered unreachable by many, and then attain it, is a stunning achievement. John Seil, duck hunter, did exactly that.
Seil recently completed a 14-year mission of harvesting at least one of every species of huntable North American ducks - 35 of them. The Williston duck hunter's journey was filled with remarkable moments and unforgettable memories.
I've followed Seil's exploits almost from the outset. I was privileged enough to see his growing collection of waterfowl mounts. He had several ducks to add at the time. The taxidermy was incredible. The birds were in the most beautiful plumage possible. That didn't happen without knowledgeable planning and dedication.
When cancer was detected in Seil's body and he was forced to put a halt to his unusual quest, I was wrongly assumed that physical limitations would prevent him from fulfilling his goal. It did for more than two years, but Seil recovered from his medical troubles and never lost his burning ambition to complete a duck-hunting marvel.
When I learned he was back in the hunt, it was great news. It meant his physical status was much improved and there were no leftover dents in his desire to hunt ducks. The quest was on again!
Still, I wondered if Seil could really accomplish his unique task. I knew when he had just one more bird to go. I admit to being a little startled when he told me he'd have to make a trip to the East Coast to bag the bird that had become his nemesis, a red-breasted merganser.
Red-breasted mergansers can be found in North Dakota but they winter in much larger numbers along the East Coast. That's also when they reach their most colorful plumage, something that Seil cherished for his collection. Imagine his feelings when that last bird was down and then in his hand! Wow!
Seil didn't cut any corners on his hunts, which took him from North Dakota to the desolate Bering Sea to the Rio Grande to Boston Harbor. He learned the proven methods of hunting sea ducks and the nearly lost art of sculling. He learned more about ducks, weather conditions, shotguns and ammunition than most of us will in an entire lifetime.
Seil did it all without ever losing a very real appreciation for each and every species hunted. It all began in North Dakota with values learned while observing ducks on prairie potholes while growing up in Rugby. He has achieved what few hunters ever have or ever will and overcame myriad obstacles to do it.
Well done and congratulations!