Monday, April 1, 2019

Be Prepared for the Unexpected and Enjoy the Ride -- Ed Moxley

Ed Moxley
2/2/47 - 3/22/19
Another dear friend and local champion of wetland conservation passed -- almost fittingly -- while I was on my recent adventure to Manitoba (ice fishing). Ed Moxley was not only proud of his northern Ohio roots, he was also more than happy to pursue his #1 passion (duck hunting) both near and far-afield.

For more than six decades, Ed pursued ducks and geese across the U.S. and Canada, in Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, and even Botswana -- just to name the regions he specifically spoke of to me. To say he was avid would be a woeful understatement. Ed beamed over ducks. And, especially over recent decades, he tirelessly advocated for their well-being and conservation.

How could someone who prided himself in being such a student of the sport (the sport of harvesting birds) love these animals, arguably to the point of an obsession? Ducks and duck hunting were not just a past-time to Ed, they were a way of life.

For more than four decades, Ed and his family owned and operated Moxley's Marsh, immediately to the east of Standing Rush. Ed lived and breathed his quiet corner of Sandusky Bay. He knew where the birds would be and when they would be there. He knew where they would fly and where to be to be in best position for the shot -- either with a shotgun, with a video camera, or with both. Sometimes "marsh management" took the form of single-elimination varmint control, as Ed crept along familiar two-tracks craftily wielding his .22 -- he was a dead-eye to put it mildly.

Ed and Roy initiated a long and lasting friendship -- and mutual respect -- back in the 1970s when Roy was formulating his duck nesting studies as a Master's student. Ed not only supported the work in principle, he offered his family's marsh as the epicenter for the research. I caught up with Ed a couple decades later, when he and his long-time shooting partner Dave Brunkhorst invited me out to test a product I was developing that held potential in remedying holes caused by problematic muskrats and groundhogs (at least those that somehow eluded Ed's crosshairs).

Six shots = six ducks for Ed
(photo from A Waterfowler's Scrapbook II, by Edward J. Moxley)
Roy and I have recently reminisced about how we were both instantly drawn to Ed's infectious enthusiasm and broad smile. We have fond memories of Ed's proclivity to scout for our vehicles, so he could catch up with us in the marsh to "chew the fat." Whether it was duck behavior, the controversies surrounding land conversion, or the next invasive species, Ed was always game to talk shop.

I'll have at least two lasting memories regarding Ed Moxley (and Dave Brunkhorst). The first is that if I was ever in a blind across the marsh from those two seasoned veterans and heard a quick volley of six shots, I knew they were already half-way to a two-man limit. These guys were "wetland assassins," and took modest pride in the fact that they dispatched their pursuits efficiently and humanely -- leaving time to sip coffee, watch the steam rise from the marsh, swap war stories, and then watch ensuing pods of birds land warily into shooting holes before the hunters called it a day.

Beyond Ed's marksmanship, I'll also never forget a bit of unsolicited advice he offered just a few weeks after I closed on the transaction to buy Standing Rush. He (and Dave) were visibly excited about Roy and me as new neighbors. The early spring air outside and the concrete on the floor of their makeshift duck shack were both cold and raw, but the radiator heat and the conversation in the room were both warm and inviting. "Marsh management is a marathon, Eric, not a sprint. Some people will think you're nuts. But it's magical. Be prepared for the unexpected, and enjoy the ride."

Thank you, Ed, for your optimism, your enthusiasm, your friendship, your wisdom, and your loyalty to conservation. You, like your longtime buddy in the blind, will be sorely missed.

Thanks, Ed Moxley, for helping to keep me from wading too long in the "Dark swamp of despair"
when this whole project seems too big, too crazy, too unorthodox
(click to enlarge)