This weekend it's finally here ..... It’s the season of all seasons... It's Duck Season! As that iconic Christmas song goes, "it's the most wonderful time of the year". It's getting cold outside, the steam is rising off the water with the hit of the first sunlight making it magically glow and, the ducks, the ducks are here, we hope. For the first time in several years, I am actually looking forward to getting out on the water for a change. In high school and college and our first few years of marriage I never missed an opening morning - 14 years in a row. I did have to miss some school, but of course it was for a good cause. I caught hell from my professors for missing class, but they were obviously not duck hunters. In high school we would go straight from the blind to class, yes still with the shotgun clearly in sight in the truck and it was all good. No one worried, and there was not a care in the world of that being a questionable thing. We were hunters and those were our hunting guns. Oh, how times have changed. Those were also the days when for weeks prior to opening day we would build and stuff our blinds and spray paint our names on a piece of plywood to lay claim to our little slice of duck fennel heaven in the middle of a lake. Again, not a care in the world.
Unfortunately, we had a bad drought down here in the panhandle and lost our lakes and our ducks, hence the end of that stellar opening day personal record. Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, the ring-neck hunting was as good as anywhere in world. We used to watch them in amazement fly in by the thousands over the pine forest to land roost on our lakes. They sounded like jets as they pitched in over our heads while the deafening wing beats of the thousands above waited their turn.
Back then, I had a fun core group of die hard duck hunting friends that were always dependable, and most importantly… on time. To say life was simple in those days is an understatement. Our leaky Jon boat and 3 hp Johnson got there and back without a hitch...most of the time. Our decoys had parachute cord tied to old pipe fittings, bolts and anything we could find that would act as an anchor. We could find our way through the fog and the darkness like we had night vision goggles, navigating thru grass islands and trails that meandered thru the lily pads to find our way. The memories and stories will never die and I am so blessed to have them. It's stories like those that get you called "Hemingway" when sitting around the fire at night. What a fun time to live.
We have never really recovered from our drought where we lost an entire generation of ducks, but not duck hunters. The days of old outboard motors, jon boats and old spray painted decoys have resigned; and given way to robo decoys that fly and swim, and custom duck boats and motors that cost more than my truck, and blinds, blinds these days dont even require a machette in the woods.
Yes, I still go duck hunting, but not like I used to. Now its “country club” hunts on plantation ponds and private invitations. Don’t get me wrong, I love the camaraderie of my hunting partner and hot coffee in the blind early in morning. Yes, there is beauty in that, but I do miss those simple carefree days of sitting in the boat, surrounded by a hodgepodge of random decoys, watching the skyline and listening for that jet to fly over head....all the while bailing the water out of the bottom of boat with an empty beer can.
Fortunately, it looks like Will has picked up where I left off. Ah…to be young again.