If you take a scroll through MLF pro Zack Birge’s social media pages, you’ll notice that the posts start to take a turn around late October from photos of largemouth and smallmouth to his other passion: duck hunting.
Birge has been duck hunting since he was 6 years old, a hobby he picked up from his father. When the temperature starts to take a dip in the fall and ducks and geese begin migrating south, Birge throws on some camo and warm layers and begins a daily quest for waterfowl.
“As long as there’s someone who can stay home and watch my daughter Emma, I’m out duck hunting every day during the season,” Birge said.
While he may be a professional angler, MLF might have to share the young angler if “Major League Duck Hunting” ever comes around.
“If there was a professional duck hunting league I would split my time between MLF and that league, no doubt,” Birge said with a chuckle. “I would be the Kevin VanDam of that duck hunting league.”
Birge admits that he has spent countless hours in a duck blind throughout his life, but that the time he spends on his Bass Cat with a rod in his hands far outweighs his time with a shotgun. That might be a good thing, considering how much tougher Birge finds fishing than hunting.
“Fishing is harder than duck hunting because there’s just so many variables,” Birge said when comparing the two. “With fishing, you have to worry about colors, baits, line size, rod sensitivity, and other things, all while trying to be in the right place at the right time. Duck hunting helps me with fishing because it helps me develop a sixth sense for the outdoors. Based on the conditions, you can figure out how the birds are supposed to act, and it’s the same way with fishing.”
The Oklahoma pro enjoys duck hunting so much that he founded a clothing brand along with some friends called Fowl Militia. The brand has an online shop that sells hats, shirts and sweatshirts. It’s a creative side project for Birge and it gives him a way to stay in touch with his hunting buddies.
And Birge and his Fowl Militia cohorts don’t just hunt in Oklahoma, it’s a nation-wide adventure for the crew.
“My buddies and I usually go to North Dakota every year for a hunt up there before the season opens in Oklahoma,” Birge explained. “We’ve done that for about four years. Come December 5, we’re all going to the northwest part of the country to hunt in Washington and Idaho before working our way back down towards Colorado and Kansas for a few days.”
Luckily for Birge, duck season will end before the 2020 Bass Pro Tour season begins February 7 in Alabama. Hunting is a way for Birge to relax with his friends and have a good time once the grueling fishing season schedule ends. Every year from late October to January, Birge can count on duck hunting to be there to give him just the relaxation and rejuvenation he needs.
“Duck season gives me enough time to kind of recharge my batteries and get fired up for fishing once the new season rolls around,” Birge said. “Very seldom do I fish during duck season, and I think that helps me unwind and prepare for next year. By the time February gets here, I’ll be ready to go.”