The Freelance Hunter

For a little less than 10 years, I have been following Chris’ boots around, listening to him blow his call and chase his waterfowl addiction or what I see as his soul’s stress relief. Waterfowl hunting has become a natural antidote for the both of us to travel, see the country and experience God’s creation and it allows us act out the soul purpose of why he made us; to hunt and harvest.

Chris and I have been on hundreds of hunts together. Hunts that include watching over 3,000 mallards tornado down at our feet in which every single bird landed and we never fired a shot, to hunts where the two of us put out 15 dozen full bodies to kill two geese. It’s hunting. The facts are you’re going to get your ass roasted sometimes and sometimes you will be the one holding the winning trophy after the battle. Everyone wants to be on the winning team but like anything in life what you put into waterfowl hunting, especially freelancing, is what you will get out of it. Allow me to elaborate.

Over the past ten years, half of those have been spent learning how to freelance out west and following the flocks from North Dakota all the way down to Arkansas and Mississippi. Meeting people along the way has been a huge part of our experiences and education. Some good, some bad but every single one, I see as a blessing or a lesson. Social media portrays a tunnel vision insight hole almost like holding a paper towel roll up to your eye like you did as a kid and pretended it was a telescope. Social media typically shows you the glamor or dreamy side of waterfowl hunting. What you didn’t see is the dedication, drive, persistency and hard work that goes into setting up a successful hunt as a true Freelance Hunter. Some people have it and most people don’t. It takes a special breed of outdoors-men to organize a trailer filled with enough gear to cover every situation presented, nonstop-continuously scout no matter if you are running on fumes, find a flock worth hunting, gain permission, and then act on the plan to fool them that was most likely drawn up the evening prior or even day of; all while finding a place to stay, making time to eat because you know you should, feeding/watering dogs, cleaning birds from prior hunts, attempting to keep guns clean, and maybe washing your clothes so you don’t run out on this month long binder. Not to mention the set back you will face if you get stuck in a wet field, blow a tire, lose your keys and you can’t call Mom to fix it. Fight or flight situations will be inevitable when you are freelancing.

It begins with the Scout. I get a lot of messages asking about how to get started or where Chris and I are hunting specifically. Word of advice, loose lips, sink ships. In other words, if you are scouting an area, find birds, put in the time to get permission and have a successful hunt the last thing you want to do is tell every Tom, Dick, and Harry. Because if you do, guess who you will find burning up the duck pond you shot your limit out of on the days you wanted to let it rest. I have sat in the passenger seat and drove 28 hours straight from Florida to North Dakota to pull into our camp drop the trailer and turn right out of the driveway and get to scouting. Freelance hunting is not for the weak minded or the lazy. If you would rather sit on the couch and rest while settling for the 20 ducks you saw trickling into a slew or field the day prior then expect your hunt the following morning to reflect as so. Don’t settle or force a hunt because you are tired. Get up, drive a little further and find a few hundred ducks or geese or maybe even a few thousand and even then don’t settle. Study them. Watch them. Put them to bed. Plan out where you will enter the field or pond to set up and live by which way the wind blows.

For Chris and I both, hunting is not just shooting a limit and taking a pile picture. Hunting is putting effort into something to reach the ultimate reward and experience the outdoors full heartily with a complete open soul. Freelancing is a choice. Sure, anyone can book a hunt and be guided by any of the great guide services all over the country or even the world and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! Chris and I choose to do it ourselves. When you scout, find birds, gain access, and fool nature in their natural habitat in unfamiliar territory, it is high unlike any else. Adrenaline doesn’t just come from pulling the trigger, as there are times when we just watch them dance and that is enough. Being a Freelance Hunter makes you feel Alive.

I have been blessed and humbled beyond measure to share the blind along side some of the greatest outdoors-men of all time (in my opinion) and some of those include other freelance hunters we have met on the side of the road or even social media. I have also sat along side some who are just there to leach onto these great outdoors-men and women for the next Instagram story for their followers and watch as they claim to be apart or the reason of the success story and fail to give credit where credit is due. Chris and I try to surround ourselves with like-minded hunters who are not afraid to work hard and show just as much passion as we do. As Nick Saban says, mediocre people do not like high achievers and high achievers don’t like mediocre people. If you want to be successful chasing birds yourself, you must set a high standard.

Actions will always speak louder than words and while I am also guilty of being sucked into social status sometimes, I want to stress how it is much more important to be able to learn something new on every hunt, in every state or country we travel to and during every situation the birds present to us. Whether you are a first timer in the blind or a well-seasoned fowler, take in what you see and hear around you. It will make you a better hunter and human. God gave you two ears, two eyes and only one mouth for a reason. Put your phone down, fill up that truck with gas and don’t settle for an ok feed. Go out and find the feed that will make you high five your buddy and stand on top of you truck to get a better view. And remember scout, scout, scout, and most of all in the words straight out of Chris Kirby’s mouth, “Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.” Words every freelance waterfowl hunter should live by.


Thank you for reading,

Shelby Lynn Kirby

~The Captains Life~

Sandhill Crane Stew

*A simple prep and forget recipe that will impress your friends and family. This concoction will light up taste buds you didn’t even know you had. A one pot, minimal mess, soul food recipe that is even better the following day. Enjoy~


Feeds 4-6 people~ Prep Time: 15 Mins~ Cook Time: 2.5 Hours


You will need:

1.5lbs Crane Meat (Approx. 4 Breast), Cubed

3 Bay Leaves

3 Tbsps. Olive Oil

3 Garlic Cloves, Minced

1 Large Onion, Quartered

4 Stalks of Celery, Chopped

4 Large Carrots, Chopped

2 Large Baking Potatoes, Chopped

4-5 Cups Beef Broth (Enough to Cover)

2 Tsps. Rubbed Sage

2 Tsps. Crushed Rosemary

2 Tsps. Cheyenne Pepper

2 Tsps. Chili Powder

2 Tsps. Cavenders Greek Seasoning

Salt and Pepper to Taste


  1. Over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven, throw in olive oil, garlic, and cubed crane. Continue tossing until meat is brown.
  2. Add Celery, Carrots, Onions, Potatoes, seasonings, and beef broth.
  3. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat and cover.
  4. Cook for two hours on low heat.
  5. Serve with a loaf of fresh bread and a glass of homemade sweet tea!



Sandhill Crane Kabobs

*Feel free to jazz this recipe up by adding bell peppers, onions, whole garlic, mushrooms, etc. to the kabobs. Cubed up more meat and marinate if you have a larger party. This recipe is simple and will impress your guest…even the guest that don’t like wild game. Be sure to wait to tell them it’s Sandhill Crane until they are tonsil deep. Cheers!

Feeds 4-6 people~ Prep Time: 1 Hour~ Cook Time: 15 Minutes


You will need:

1.5lbs Crane Meat (Approx. 4 Breast), Cubed

5 Ounces Worcestershire Sauce

5 Ounces A1 Steak Sauce

2 Garlic Cloves, Minced

4 Tbsps. Italian Dressing

3 Tbsps. McCormick GrillMates Montreal Steak Seasoning

1 Gallon Ziplock Bag

4 to 6 Wood or Metal Kabobs


  1. Combine all ingredients except meat in gallon bag. Shake it UP.
  2. Add meat. Marinate in fridge for 1 Hour.
  3. Remove your masterpiece and set on bag on counter until room temp.
  4. Stick the marinated meat cubes on Kabobs. (Don’t forget to soak your Kabob sticks in the sink if you are using wooden ones)
  5. Grill on high heat until Medium Rare. About 10-15 Minutes.


  1. Serve with green beans and fresh cut French fries.


Duck Man Teaching Duck Boy

Thanksgiving Break would be our first road trip out west of 2018. Carson would accompany us on the 20 hour drive to the middle of no where in search of the ultimate waterfowl mecca. I watched Chris prepare Carson all summer long for these exact moments to come. All those late afternoons shooting skeet off the dock would collide in an emotional moment I relive every time I see the pictures.

From day one walking in the woods with my own Dad, I found my purpose.I believe full-heartedly that God created us, gave us thumbs and put us at the top of the food chain for a reason.Hunting is release and place where I feel like I belong. Out here where there is more waterfowl, whitetails and cows than humans allow you to witness and appreciate the world for exactly how God created it. The great outdoors is a place where traditions and beliefs can be passed down in the realist, purest fashion.

It’s November 15th and we had just rolled into parts unknown the afternoon prior. We gained access to a goose feed that had a little over eight hundred birds feeding in a wheat field. The feed was a mix of mostly lessers and specks. A few adult snows were milling around too. Today, we arrived a few hours prior to the time we had seen them here the yesterday. We decided to lie in whites and mix in honkers and speck full bodies around the outside edges. Carson helped carry decoy bags and set out snow socks all while cracking jokes and making us laugh. Once set up, we laid awaiting the first flight to make their appearance. About 45 minutes later, a single Canada lesser circled in from behind us. The goose landed to the left side of the spread. Carson’s side. With a single shot from his .410 pump, Carson sat up from the middle of snow socks and smoked his first goose. This would be his first waterfowl he had taken solo. Immediately, after he shot he yelled “I got it!”.  The excitement in his tone was as real as it gets. Chris told him to go get him. Nine-year-old, Carson ran over and picked up his prize. His smile was as contagious and my heart was beyond full. Proud is a complete understatement.

November 16th, it’s late and we have been scouting all day. We finally stumbled on a group of ducks going down in what we thought was a cut milo field. We parked the truck at the edge of the field and decided to creep over a little hill that blocked the full view of the feed. With Chris leading the way and Carson right on his boot heels we stalked up on an unexpected pond full of ducks. Chris pointed out all the waterfowl to Carson and made sure he got a front row seat at such an incredible sight. We sat and watched those ducks dip and dive as the sky turned purple. Carson sat in awe, pointing out every new group of birds that came to join the party. The following morning hunt would be one for the books.

November 17th, the sun was still asleep. The truck was put in park and it was time for the set up to begin. Myself and Carson along with 5 other guys set up a few A-frames while Chris set the spread. It didn’t take long to get ready with that amount of hands, which was something were not use to. With the blinds brushed and everyone in position it was time. Shooting time came and it wasn’t long before we had close to a limit. A single, hen pintail came soaring in the spread and stalled out at about 20 yards. Chris sounded out and told all the guys this was Carson’s duck. Chris then said to Carson, “whenever your ready.” Carson stood up over the A-frame and shot. BOOM. The pintail fell out of the sky and hit the water. The whole crowd instantaneously let out cheers and my heart was screaming with pride. Chris grabbed Carson and embarrassed him in a bear hug. Carson’s first duck! A morning and a hunt I will never forget.

Children are a reflection of you as a parent. Although they are not always on their best behavior and will test the limits whenever they can, they are the greatest responsibility you will have in your entire life. Your time is the greatest gift you can give to them. All those late afternoons, watching Chris throw clay after clay to help Carson learn to lead and aim, couldn’t have been illustrated better when seeing him shoot his first goose and duck. This was the first year Carson was able to handle his gun solo and to witness his own passion unfold was the ultimate pay off. The youth are a reflection of their surroundings. God creates our children and it is up to us to illustrate right from wrong, the golden rule, and pass on traditions. Now hunting means even more to me knowing I’m able to pass it on to future generations. It will be in Carson’s hands to do the same for his children and I am thankful to be apart of such an honorable gift.