Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Adventures of a Boy and His Mind

The following story was written by my oldest child after a duck hunting trip last fall.  I wanted to share it last year, but somehow it never happened.  So here it is now, with pictures from a recent expedition that included both of my sons, a neighbor and the now healed and hunting Dad.  aka Bloodhound

It’s the time of the year when the Sweetgum leaves are falling, the wind in the evening has a bit of a cool nip to it and it seems you can almost smell the scent of winter in the air. For years my father had entertained me down at my childhood vacation home, located deep in the woods, with stories of duck hunts he had been on in years past. Naturally as a boy my mind raced with glorious ideas of what it would be like. Everything from the preparation, setting up the decoys, anticipation of the ducks flying in, and leaving the outdoors with a bag and great memories. 

My father, after a bad fall from a deer stand in the early fall, was not able to accompany me into the duck pond but he had recovered enough to sit on the road with a walkie talkie and talk to me. It was such a blessing to have my father with me after such a close call. It was extremely important to me to have him there since this would be my first duck hunting expedition on my own. I was very nervous and full of questions. At times I could sense my father’s patience was wearing thin with my constant nagging of questions, but not once was he ever short with me. In fact he took all the time needed to explain all that I needed to do. That night I was like a kid on Christmas Eve. There was no chance of sleep because I had worked myself up so much with anticipation and hopes and desires. 

Finally the morning arrived and at a horribly early time my alarm clock went off and like a spring that had been compressed and was suddenly release the sheets were flung from the bed and up I rose as if the bed itself had propelled me from its warm comfort. Quickly I threw on my cold clothes that I had so neatly set out the night before. Eagerly I made my way to my father’s room to wake him. After cooking a warm meal for the two of us and brewing coffee we set out on a cold overcast night. For anyone else the sight of the towering grove of gum trees, barren and lifeless, this would have been a horrid sight. For me though it was my last check point. To say that I was not afraid that morning would be silly. I am a victim of my mind and I was scared, but not of the trees or of snakes, it was a fear of a gator.  After much reassurance from my father I began to make the trek. 

I will never forget the smell of that morning. The sulfur water pouring from the well that kept the pond wet, the smell of the leaves and sticks decaying in the water, I was sincerely aware of everything around me. As I made my way, ever so often I would talk to my father on the road over the radio. His voice was such a comfort to such a scared young man in the woods. That morning was beautiful but it was not near as cold as predicted and after a short time of horsing myself through the water and avoiding stumps I was quickly overheating, but just as this happened I realized that I was very quickly approaching my hunting spot. Almost instantly my awareness of my temperature was erased from mind. Just as I got to my location legal shooting light reached me and within moments you could hear the sounds of wings overhead. Soon it was like the sky above me was flooded with birds coming in to land. Now you must remember I was still under the influence of the adrenaline rush from the fear of gators in the water, further add more adrenaline to my bloodstream as I realize that there are birds overhead nearly in shooting range. Shaking from cold and anticipation, I waited there as they circled overhead. Finally some flew in on an arcing pattern in front of me dipping just into range, I let off the trigger and fired and not so much as a feather dropped. I shook off the disappointment of missing my first ducks and got ready once more. Again the ducks swooped in and again I shot this time twice and nothing happened. If you have ever hunted wood ducks you know that they fly early and the time span you can shoot them is very limited. With this is mind I began to feel ill. I knew I was rapidly running out of chances. It was about this time that the ducks caught me off guard and flew in super low and out of reflex and not concentration I threw the gun to my shoulder and as I passed the bird with the bead of the gun I pulled the trigger and down came a bird. 

Almost as if I didn’t believe what had happened I stood there in shock but this was brief. I very quickly forgot about all the other birds flying around and made my way to my bird. It was a beautiful sized drake Wood Duck. Never before had I harvested a duck but now I held my first in my hand. Its green head and crown that no other duck holds so well, its neck with purple feathers that merge into a blue green shade on its wings. Even though most men would count one duck as a failed trip I felt like a seasoned duck hunter, and in my mind I felt like I had accomplished all I could have. 

I looked around me and the sun had risen just high enough to color the sky orange and pink, the birds were singing around me and squirrels were chattering in the trees. As I made my way back to the truck I realized how special and lucky I was to not only have my father there but to have a father that would provide me with a place, experience, materials, and moral support on my first duck hunt. 

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