Jim McConville doesn't work ducks he works for ducks.
On a crisp September morning, McConville, the National Sales Manager for WILDFOWL, sped down the Lake St. Clair shoreline on an ATV, racing for a coveted public spot to set up the decoy spread and lure in some birds.
With the water down more than two feet from normal levels, the former Ohio State linebacker splish-splashed his way through the sandy bottoms of St. Clair. At last, he arrived and breathed a sigh of relief there was no one else in sight.
"I hung a couple of flashlights on pieces of driftwood to let other hunters know we were out there, and on this most desirable peninsula of grass that was 400 to 500 yards offshore," McConville said. "This is light your hair on fire (public hunting) he who sits on the couch, owns the couch. I knew that was the spot I wanted to get to."
It was vital to the hunt that he did so, as Joe Thomas, Alex Mack and Colt McCoy of the Cleveland Browns wouldn't be far behind. The two Pro Bowl lineman and backup quarterback were just 48 hours removed from a tough loss to the Baltimore Ravens, and with the weekend free after a Thursday night game, they were ready to pile up the ducks.
The three pros would soon be transposed from the gridiron to the shallows of St. Clair, calling in mallards, teal, pintails, and bluebills with the EZ Debutante by Knight & Hale and shooting Federal Black Cloud over Hard Core decoys and Mojo spinners.
"I was really impressed by the number of ducks we shot and the amount of fish we caught," Thomas said.
"During the season, it's all business, and anytime I have the chance to get away from football, just for a little bit...it's worth it."
Not long after the boys settled in and shooting light came, a couple mallards dipped into the massive spread McConville had laid out in the morning darkness. Guns roared and a single bird fell from the sky. The other two birds sailed, the first of which fell 150 yards away. The second was even further out. Taking it upon himself to act as Lab retriever, Josh Brown, son of MKS Supply owner Charlie Brown, went to finish off the cripples.
"By the time I got back, my waders were so full of water it felt like I was carrying an extra 25 pounds," Josh said. "I didn't realize how far I had gone out there. I was caught up in fetching the bird."
He grabbed the first mallard, but the other had been lung-shot and continued to dive. By the time he finally reached the still-alive greenhead, the high school senior found himself about 11 football fields away from the group.
"He kept sloshing through and kept on going, and we were like 'my god, the kid's going to walk back to Ohio,'" Charlie said. "It got to the point where I started worrying about him stepping in a hole. But it was a fairly hard bottom up there even though the water was down a bit."
The morning ended with a good amount of birds on the strap, not a limit, but enough to satisfy any public-land hunter. The boys finished off the two days in Ontario with 25 birds, though the highlight of the trip (other than Josh's long retrieve) was the 40 small-mouth bass Thomas, Mack and McCoy caught the first afternoon.
"I'll be honest with you," McConville said. "To go somewhere and shoot 25 ducks and catch 40 bass in a day-and-a-half that's pretty incredible.
"That's 'Wizard of Oz,' jumping behind the curtain and pulling some major levers to make that happen. I can't take credit for it though. I was just the spark, but those guys were the actual flame, and they made it happen."