What is the North American Waterfowl Slam? To people that aren’t involved in waterfowl hunting, the only “slam” they might know of is a Grand Slam in reference to a baseball game. However, to waterfowlers, the word “slam” means something entirely different. The North American Waterfowl Slam consists of 41-47 birds and subspecies. It’s a varying number because some hunters count color-phase birds, and others do not. Mike Bard, one of the lucky individuals who can say they have achieved the “slam,” shot all 47 birds. Hailing from New York, Mike can be found guiding on the Finger Lakes and the surrounding areas during the waterfowl season. It’s safe to say waterfowl hunting has become an obsession for him. In my recent interview with Mike, we talked everything from how he got into hunting and favorite memories to future goals.
Heidi: How long have you been hunting? Bard: I have been hunting for 30 years H: What do you do when you’re not hunting? Bard: When I’m not hunting... I have a real job that I put a lot of hours into, I’m married to my high school sweetheart, Christina Bard and we have 4 children who we do our best to support in all of their interests... luckily for me a couple do like to hunt.
H: What got you into hunting? Bard: I started going deer hunting with my grandfather when I was 10, although I couldn’t actually hunt until I was 12. We would go on Saturday’s and he would bring hot cocoa and cookies. My grandfather and my father told stories about hunting when I was young and I just wanted to go from as far back as I can remember. I started duck hunting with friends my own age with 3 beat up decoys we bought at a garage sale. From the beginning it’s been all about friends and family.
H: What is your favorite species/ or places to hunt, and why? Bard: I’ve been very fortunate to get to hunt a lot of places. My favorite state to hunt is Alaska, specifically Cold Bay, as it offers a great deal of diversity for a waterfowler.
H: How long did it take you to complete the North American Waterfowl Slam? Bard: It took me 28 years to complete the slam.
H: When did you want to start pursuing the slam, or know that it was within reach? Bard: I honestly didn’t know much about the ‘slam’ until I made my first trip to Alaska with good friend, David Rearick. He told me about it and during that trip we started going back through my hunts and checking things off. Luckily I have kept a hunting journal/log for the past 20 years, so I had records and photos. After that trip, I was determined to complete the slam—and within 5 years I completed it.
H: Do you have any travel advice for someone wanting to start their quest? Bard: Travel advice - well travel is necessary, so prepare for it and don’t be afraid to use a guide. Even though I spend 80-120 days afield each year, a good guide with the knowledge and right equipment is money well spent. Invest in a good gun case and travel bags that can survive the abuse the airlines will put it through.
H: What was your favorite hunt during your quest to complete the slam? Bard: My favorite hunt... that’s a tough one because there have been so many rewarding hunts over the years that led up to completing the slam. However Cold Bay, Alaska was an amazing place where we hiked through tundra to hunt a hole in the morning and then went out in big water to chase sea ducks in the afternoon. The diversity and beauty of Alaska, along with some good friends, made it my favorite trip to date.
H: What goes through your head when you first wake up in the morning before a hunt? Bard: What goes through my head in the morning... Everything! I typically wake up well before the alarm goes off worried I’ll oversleep and excited. Maybe I’m crazy, but I visualize the potential shots we’ll get, the decoy spread, all the things that could go wrong and what we’d do/change if those things happen. And... Where can I get coffee, preferably Dunkin Donuts.
H: What’s something you haven’t accomplished that you aspire to do in your lifetime? Bard: A few aspirations... (1) pass my passion on to my kids... I’m hopeful that at least one of them loves waterfowling half as much as I do. (2) to own my own small farm that we can manage for hunting and (3) since completing my slam, Alaska has opened a draw hunt for Emperor geese and I hope to be able to draw a tag and take one
Interested in learning more about the North American Waterfowl Slam? Visit ultimatewaterfowlerschallenge.com.
Follow Heidi on Instagram at @heidi_614.