Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Deer Season was over, and I was so looking forward to focusing on some Wood Duck hunting in the cypress swamps of the Lowcountry. I am not a “big water” duck hunter, but enjoy wading through the backwaters and swamps looking for the “honey hole” where Wood Ducks like to drop into at dawn. I had prepped my gear the night before, and had gotten to bed a little early, as that confounded alarm clock would sound off earlier than normal.
I headed into the kitchen to fix a quick cup of coffee before heading out to meet my brother and his son for the morning’s hunt. We had an hour’s drive to our club, and I was going to need a little caffeine for the road. I walked back into the bedroom to gather some remaining gear, and stood in the doorway in stunned silence. My beautiful, 7-month old English Springer Spaniel, Sadie, was curled up on our bed (which is off-limits) next to my snoozing wife, using my duck call lanyard as a chew toy. Before I could stop her, she had completely devoured my favorite Wood Duck call.
This was Sadie’s way of saying: “See what you get for leaving me behind, Daddy!” Sadie, once again, proved that she was not quite ready for a morning in the swamp. Apparently, neither was I, now that one of the tools of the trade was reduced to sawdust.
That morning was a bust – no birds. The next couple of weeks would prove more of the same. My hunting is normally limited to Saturdays, so time in the field is precious. Some of the club members were going to hunt on a Monday, which was a holiday, but I had to pass due to my work schedule. I remember pulling up to work about the time that the ducks should have been flying. I sent a text to my brother, who quickly replied back with a message that he and his son had both shot their first Wood Ducks.
The weather had turned cold, and they were in the right spot at the right time. What a joy it is to bag your first duck, but how special it is to be there and experience it with your son. My brother has helped create a memory and a bond that will last a lifetime.
The following weekend we attended another hunt with the same crowd. This weekend turned out to be another special day. One of the young hunters and his dad have been faithfully coming out year after year. He started out with just a broken BB gun and an eager desire to be “one of the boys.” We watched him grow and move from a non-working BB gun to a working one, then to a borrowed .410 from his grandfather and finally a 20 gauge pump shotgun of his own this past Christmas. Dad and son showed up again, struck out to their spot in the swamp, and awaited legal shooting time with great anticipation. The sun rose, and the birds began to fly. They heard shooting nearby. Edward told Gavin to shoulder his gun, and get ready. They stayed focused in the direction of the shooting. There they were. Two birds were flying straight toward their position. The area had been recently clearcut so there was good visibility. Guns ready, they waited until the birds were in range. Dad took the first shot, and without any prompting, young Gavid Parker squeezed the trigger on his new Remington, and two birds dropped to the ground. Victory at last. Years of patience and practice had paid- off.
Duck season is over, and I have a few less shells in my bag, and am in search of a new call. Two families however, ended their seasons strong and will relive those hunts over, and over until next season.
(Michael M. Cochran is a hunter and avid outdoorsman.)