“Lock, Stock, and Two Screamin’ Cutdowns” A Terrorist Hunter's Waterfowl Pursuit Story
By: Taylor Cassat
Some folks talk about a passion for hunting, or a love for the sport. Just like any respectable central Arkansas fella’ I’ve got a strong love for the pursuit of waterfowl, but for the last two years it’s been more than that for me. Hunting has become my identity, my drive, and my motivation that gets me up and moving every day.
Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter”, but I don’t think I can agree with that. I spent nearly ten years of my life hunting terrorists as an intelligence analyst with Navy SEAL teams. Through three combat deployments across Africa and Afghanistan, I had a taste of that hunting. I thought that hunting would define me for the rest of my life, and while it molded and shaped me into the hunter I am today, I say “to hell with armed men, give me some greenheads.” I think Mr. Hemingway just missed out on finding the right pursuit.
I did come away with a few helpful tactics when it comes to my waterfowl hunt, one of which is my favorite intellectual tool I use to this day. It’s called the F3EA process, and it stands for “Find, Fix, Analyze, Exploit, and Finish.” This concept is the most fundamentally sound way to hunt.
"When you hit that finish phase you should be waking up every morning, driving to your blind, and hitting 45-50 days out of the 60 day duck season with birds in hand."
“Find” – Give your entire area (public or private) a solid scouting trip both from a map study and a boots on ground perspective. Walk until you find the game trail or honey hole that looks like a group of stud mallards is going to dive bomb in a duck tornado on opening day.
“Fix” – Watch and wait. Fix a game camera, or travel to your spot during shooting hours and watch to see what kind of activity is going on. If wood ducks are nesting, it’s probably a good sign.
“Analyze” – Check your findings, denote the times you have activity, where you should set up each morning or evening, what the wind patterns look like, and how they’re sitting when they’re in your spot.
“Exploit” – Take advantage of those findings, build your blind, set your decoys in the fashion that the ducks are holding the spot down, and wait for the magical sound of wings and quacks.
“Finish” – Self-explanatory, but boy I can’t think of a sweeter sound than my RNT DC Mondo singing a seven-note tune before my buddy Michael yells “KILL EM!”.
When you hit that finish phase you should be waking up every morning, driving to your blind, and hitting 45-50 days out of the 60 day duck season with birds in hand. Migratory patterns, weather, and state conservationists heating bodies of water to hold birds will continue to inhibit the hunt, but you should always work to control what you can. With that method, you’ll have success each season.
Some other factors I think are worth noting for beginners:
While people on forums will tell you that calling doesn’t have a place in duck hunting, someone who knows how to make a cutdown sing can make all the difference in a hunt. Grab a cheap call, sling it around your rear-view mirror, and pick it up every time you’re at a stoplight to practice your quacks and feed chatter.
The use of the right species of decoy is important in your area. If you’re hunting in the middle of the Mississippi flyway, you probably shouldn’t throw out King Eiders. Get a nice bundle of teal, mallards, pintail, and maybe a goose or two.
Speaking of decoys, the right setup is important too. Having a horseshoe of decoys generally works to push ducks to land right into your spot, but wind plays a factor and you always want it at your back. Set up accordingly.
Solo hunts are fun, but a great mentor and a group of friends is what makes memories. I’m all for feeding your family with the wild game you take, and if that’s why you hunt then I respect you more than most anyone else in the world, but hunting memories will last a lifetime and that’s why I’m out there
My gear list from head to toe:
Head: Sitka Cap or Boreal Beanie depening on weather
Base Layer: Sitka Merino Heavyweight
Torso: Sitka Lightweight Crew, Sitka Gradient Jacket, Delta Wading Jacket Legs: Sitka Dakota Pants
Feet: Cabelas Northern Flight Waders or Lacrosse Alphaburly Pro Boots Calls: RNT DC Mondo Cutdown, Singleton Game Calls Cutdown
Shotgun: Benelli Super Black Eagle 3 with a Rob Roberts T2 Choke Shells: Rio Super Steel Magnum 3.5” No. 2
About Taylor Cassat:
Taylor enlisted in the U.S. Navy at 17 years old. After qualifying as an operational intelligence analyst, he worked with the National Security Agency and USCYBERCOM as a cyber intelligence analyst in support of defensive cyber operations, ultimately becoming one of the first fully qualified in his job and a pioneer within the DoD “threat hunting” realm. After finishing his tour as a cyber intelligence analyst, he cross-trained into special operations intelligence in support of counter-terrorism operations. Taylor has developed numerous targeting strategies and collection capabilities supporting various interagency parties and has combat deployments with East Coast Navy SEAL Teams in various locations worldwide. Feeling compelled to give back to the communities that set him up for success, Taylor volunteers with Hire Heroes USA to mentor veterans through their transition process into the private or public sectors as civilians.
Born in Florida, raised in northwest Arkansas, and after almost 10 years in the Navy, Taylor moved back to Arkansas with his dog, Beaux in 2021.