While most college students are fast asleep at 4:30 am on a Wednesday, UMD junior Alex Culp is getting into his boat and heading out for a duck hunt before class.“It’s a way of life,” Culp said. “I’m what you’d call a ‘hardcore waterfowl hunter’.”
Culp began duck hunting with his dad at age 11, the legal age to hunt small game with an adult in Minn., and has been addicted ever since. This year, Culp has decided to share his love of duck hunting with Duluth residents, and UMD students in particular, by starting the North Shore Divers Guide Service, leading them on duck hunts around Duluth.
“I’ve been hunting ever since I became of age,” Culp said. “I don’t think a lot of students at UMD have had that chance, and that’s a huge reason why I wanted to start guiding up here-to expose them to the sport.”
When Culp first began hunting, he says success didn’t come easily. To him, this played a big role in his love for the sport.
“You’ve got to have bad days to make the good ones feel special,” he says. “Duck hunting isn’t easy, and that’s one of the things I love about it-the challenge. I love working hard, going out early to set up decoys, working the birds to you with calls, and having them fly right by you with their wings cupped. All of this is what keeps me going out every year.”
As he got older, Culp continued to hunt and success came more frequently for him in the field. He learned a lot about hunting through the years, and is now using it all through his guiding.
Culp started his guiding career two years ago in his hometown of Lakeville, Minn., helping a local landowner out with his charity, “Life Rebuilders”. According to Culp, the charity helps people who have just got out of jail, recovering alcoholics, and others who need to get their lives back on track.
“It’s a great charity, and it’s made over $300,000 in each of the last two years,” he said. “The guy who runs it asked me to take some of the donators out hunting on his land, and I was glad to help. They get some really good hunting, and I get access to the private property, it works out great.”
According to Culp, the duck population in Duluth is significantly smaller than other areas he’s hunted around the state. With no advantages like private property access or large cornfields full of ducks, the preparation for a successful hunt becomes key. Sophomore Jake Hintze is the president of the Duluth chapter of Ducks Unlimited, and has hunted with Culp over 30 this year. Hintze says that Culp goes above and beyond to prepare for his hunts and make them successful.
“He spends countless hours scouting the day before the hunt,” he said. “In Duluth, you don’t have the opportunity for hunting fields and are forced to hunt the water. A lot of preparation is needed for success, and a lot of talent for finding the right spot, setting decoys, and bringing the ducks to you, all of which (Culp) does greatly. It just speaks even more to how good he is at what he does.”
Culp’s talents have landed him a sponsorship with Lynch Mob Calls, a goose and duck call producing company that he is a Pro-Staff member for. With this, he is able to get discounts on their merchandise, and in return he uses their calls out in the field, promoting them to others while using them effectively-something that Hintze says Culp does with ease.
“It’s no wonder why they sponsor him, I’ve seen him work birds like no one else I’ve seen in my life,” he said. “Huge flocks of ducks or geese have flown past us, and he can work them back into a little hole we’re in with hardly any decoys out. It’s amazing.”
With all of the time Culp puts into preparing for hunts as well as the hunting itself, his time for his schoolwork and social life becomes very limited. But Culp’s girlfriend of just over a year, Jaimee Naddy, says that he doesn’t let it affect him.
“He goes out three to five times per week, and hasn’t missed a Wednesday yet this season,” she said. “There are nights where he has to do homework, but he’s also sacrificed pulling an all-nighter so that he can still go hunting in the morning.”
As far as the effects of his hunting on her, Naddy says that she’s adapted to the lifestyle of dating a “hardcore waterfowl hunter”.
“It doesn’t really bother me, I’m just happy he’s out doing what he loves,” she said. “The space that we get is actually good for our relationship, and I don’t want to be selfish. I’ve gone hunting with him a few times, so I know firsthand how happy he is when he’s hunting. The guide service is great for him.”
Culp says he loves just being out hunting with friends and family, but being successful is a huge plus, which for him and whom he’s hunting with is nearly always.
“We pride ourselves on getting birds every time we go out,” he said. “It takes a lot of extra work with the scouting and all the preparation, but being consistent is big to me, and that consistency is what I like to give to my clients.”
BY: Lance Boedigheimer firstname.lastname@example.org