Eight of Clubs

At Willow Break, we draw blinds at 5:30 AM.  Sharp.  High card gets first pick.  There’s always a crowd of anxious duck hunters on Opening Day.  There’s always friendly handshakes and back slapping between gulps of warm coffee.  There’s never mention of duck reports or favorite spots. You’d think we’d not seen each other in months and were just having a friendly reunion.  It then gets quietly serious as the dog-eared deck is shuffled and members pull chances from the scattered pile.

Eight of Clubs didn’t win the big prize,  for damned sure.  It was poor consolation that I out-drew Ian, my long-time friend and former college professor, with whom the blind is traditionally shared on opening morning.

Our chosen spot consisted of flooded coffeweeds.  There’d been enough ducks in preceding weeks that my oldest son broke from deer hunting and joined us - me, Duncan and Ian - in the blind. I’ve tried to raise him better and morning deer hunting during duck season is hopefully just a phase he’ll outgrow.

Ducks took flight as we walked into the darkness.  A few quacked from the shadows as we tossed decoys.  The morning held promise.

There was heavy cloud cover and no wind.  Knowing there’d be no shadows to hide in later, we situated ourselves further back into the coffeweeds, where we kicked water when working ducks.
The first pair ripped into the decoys from out of nowhere and splashed paddles-up on the water by the boy’s steel fusillade.  Redheads!

Next up were 3 mallards and I got in on the action, too.  With little to no wind, the morning's ducks decoyed randomly from all directions.   It was no barrel-burner, but mallards, wood ducks, green-winged teal, and ringnecks trickled in most of the morning. The rain held off, too, mostly.

During a similar duck hunt several years previously, Ian overheard Forrest and Duncan discussing a big buck they’d seen.  He struck the deal that for his not sharing the buck’s location with anyone else in camp, they’d agree to say, “Nice shot, Mr. Ian” every time he killed a duck in their presence.  The deal backfired during the very next volley.  It’s more fun to say it after misses, which happens as often as not.  The 2012 Mississippi duck hunting season opener was no exception, and we all abided the tradition of saying it on several occasions.

Cooper’s inexperience may have cost us a few birds on the strap were it not for the more experienced Asia, Ian’s pup out of Delta.  She marked and then recovered them handily from dense cover. 

We’ve shot more ducks together, and we’ve certainly shot fewer, but it felt good again to be in knee-deep water, duck hunting in Mississippi.  It felt good to be among a long-time friend, with both sons, and with a new retriever that was showing promise. Duck season and all that comes with it - including the occasional Eight of Clubs - had finally arrived.