4:00 A.M. Sept 17, 2011
Yeah I’m pretty excited! Kinda up there with anticipation I’ve not felt in years. It has been a few years since I did the crack of dawn opener on a waterfowl season. Not sure why I’m doing it today other than I really want to be on the part of the pond where we saw all the geese yesterday. The earlier you are on our ponds ups your chance of being there semi alone.
I had it all planned out with a few minutes tossed in for motivating 14 year olds. Riley and I had spent most of Friday getting that way. Today, being the youth waterfowl hunt and knowing my companions dictated early movement. I made a mental run down of what we needed as I flipped pancakes. Getting the lads eating, I headed to the boat and pickup. Stopping by the kennel to fix the first problem; “which dog gets the call”? It was tough, but Cocoa my 9 year old Chocolate Lab was seasoned, and steady in the boat. Hope, the year and a half old Black Lab, would have many days to come and I just didn’t know if I could handle two rookies today.
Here is what was going through my mind as I drove up to the house: licenses, ammo, gun, warm clothing (looked like weather), waders, camo, face mask, battery back up for boat, running lights, lunch, kid, kid…..where is the kid! Pancake #3, check the time, behind a bit, the time cushion helped, still on time.
Finally we arrive at the dock and we are the first. Ten minutes later we are launching as the next boat arrives. Half way across the bay the lightning starts. It is off a ways but it sucked none the less. I pray, “Ok God I know your not in the habit of hearing from me, sorry for not calling home more. But really, I’m letting you catch a break. More people need your help than me so I have tried not to bother you, but hey how about turning off the electricity for this kid in the boat with us?”
We ease into the bay, we are alone. We set the boat best we can, knowing we should have tied more green to it Friday –oh well.
We toss out the decoys and are working on getting organized around the boat as the legal shooting time hits. There are few ducks, and decoying is the last thing they are doing. Several swing close enough to shoot but we pass not wanting to drop them into the tullies for a possible lost duck. If we are going to shoot it, we are going to get it and then eat it. Tullies, even with a good dog make for a tough recovery.
Finally we have an opportunity on a couple of teal. He’s flying behind the front one a bunch so we talk about those shooting adjustments. At 9:00 A.M. the geese start flying. Hoping that some will return to rest here, we wait. Across the bay in a field are some great callers set up, but the geese are having nothing of it. Finally they convince two in and shoot one. The other one chooses to fly our way and land just down the bay entrance from us. I told Mason to watch him because; he may swim our way. Ten minutes later I have forgotten about the goose but hear him leave the water and the next thing I see is Mr. Goose flying broad side at thirty yards just above the water. “Mason, shoot that goose I yell”. Boom! Three feet behind it! “Hey God”, how about a little help here too? And the bird turns straight away for an easier shot. A second boom! And the bird hits the water. A third shot finishes the bird and Mason is celebrating. I send Cocoa. The 9 year old dog that was a part of Riley’s waterfowl upbringing, looses 7 years off her age as she looks more like a diving dock dog, charging for the bird, and I’m again reminded why I feed her.
Mason just added a couple years to his age, with the experience. We examine the bird and snap a few photos. The lightning has stopped and so has anything flying. We returned to the dock for a tailgate lunch. The local Biologist is checking birds and we take a moment to discuss the importance of sport hunting’s role in conservation.
At home I park the truck and ask Riley to teach Mason how to clean the goose and to kennel the dog. Riley has already told Mason all the recipes he uses on the way home.
Riley age 14 (now 19)
Riley age 19 and Mason age 14
I walk past my wife, who is surprised to see me home so early. I mumbled something about a nap and fall into bed. Somewhere between the lightning worry, managing the gun barrel, working to recognize an ethical shot and call it, and the 4:00 am wake up, I lost the adrenaline that kept me up right!
…………..Thank goodness it is just a few more days till the general opener so we can do it again!