Musing over hunts past as I prepare for another weekend of duck hunting I thought I would share another one of the articles I have written about my hunting adventures for you to enjoy!
Needles of ice were hitting my bedroom window, awakening me in darkness to the last day of the duck season 2004. The wind howled through the trees like some phantom hound on the trail of an unseen foe as I slowly extracted myself from the flannel warmth of my quilt piled bed. So simple it would have been to turn over and succumb to the warm beaconing fingers of slumber but this was it, the very last chance I had to redeem my season and savor one more day on the water that would have to last me the long months until the next opener.
By the time I was on the road, the world outside was covered in a sheet of ice. Old tires on fence posts reflected in my headlights like the sugar glazed donuts which fueled my early morning jaunts. The sky was dark and thick like the midnight coffee keeping me awake.
At the boat landing, fellow hunters were slip sliding down the ramp using kitty litter, sand, and old scraps of carpeting to obtain traction under bald tires. The water was churning ominous and black as I started the motor and braced myself against the onslaught.
I felt like Captain Ahab in a 14ft Jon Boat; my enemy not some leviathan of the deep but rather the petrified bodies of ancient trees laying just below the surface. Those who came before me had attempted to mark the watery Graves with driftwood and u-posts. Many a morning I would hear the steady whine of an engine cut short as an unwary boater hit those underwater threats.
Safe at my spot parked in a tattered frag, I battled waves that threatened to swamp my vessel as I attempted to produce some semblance of a line of diver decoys. A hodgepodge of repurpose and repainted decoys bobbed among rafts of slushy ice like some giant redneck Margarita. By the time I was finished setting up, my left hand was clamped frozen to the gunwale, my nose was left red and dripping like an old man eating chicken soup, and a layer of ice cloaked me from head to toe.
Settling in as best I could, the ice continued to pelt me, hitting the aluminum of the boat with a raspy beat. Then, right at shooting time it happened. At first I was frozen in place, not so much from the cold but from the pure shock one feels when bearing witness to a phenomenon never before experienced.
The sky suddenly darkened a shade, not from the storm but from countless dive bombing winged bodies. I sat transfixed as time stopped and everything seemed to move in slow motion like in those superhero movies where the character is not moving but all the things around him are circling minutely as the world explodes.
Divers were pouring out of the sky, landing on the uncertain water then lifting up to hover and land again. Snapping to attention, I regained my purpose and stood in awe as varieties of ducks I only dreamed of shooting were laying at my feet.
When the onslaught subsided, I was left in breathless wonder. I looked around me, pinched my arm to see if it was all just a dream then proceeded to knock the ice from my tangled decoys.
It was then that Mother Nature had her fun. As I was bending over trying to untangle some deaks, an especially large wave struck the boat with enough force to knock me into a frozen bath. Pulling myself out of the water I imagined that every duck in the sky was giving their version of the old high ball at seeing “The Mighty Hunter” do her imitation of the Swan dive.
Wrapped in a moth-eaten army blanket, I finished the day out and went home with my first full plumage shovler and bluebill. My limit was achieved that day in ducks and experience.
When I arrived at the landing I soon realized that I was not the only one who was glad that she got out of bed that morning. Fellow hunters were chattering and gesturing wildly about the fantastic morning we all had out in the storm.
In life and in hunting we have two choices: to either call off the fight due to rain or pick up our gear and soldier on. Life is not lived when we shy away from a challenge. Life is lived when we duck our heads into the storm regardless of the risks. Frozen feet, soggy waders, and tangled decoys are a small price to pay for a lifetime of memories such as this!