Time flies in the duck blind

It now seems as long ago as my own childhood.  I started taking my sons hunting when they were practically babies.  Exposing them to hunting and camp life at an early enough age, I hoped, would moderate later distractions that seem inevitable in this technologically-addled and virtually-enabled world. 

There’s no wirelessly connecting youth to nature. They have to get their waders muddy in a swamp, get their hands bloody at a skinning rack, get their stomachs full around a camp dinner table.
Not just hunting but an entire experience:  mud wrestling while building duck blinds, catching snakes while spreading Japanese millet, netting crawdads while pulling boards from water control structures.  And always duck hunting.

Our first-ever night at duck camp, I laid out Forrest's clothing in a progression of layers, explained to start with his long handles and to finish with his coat.  He was up and dressed in record-time, well ahead of me, and we went hunting.  By 7 o’clock, he was cold.  By eight-thirty, his teeth were chattering even though it was only 50 degrees.  We’d neither seen a duck nor fired a shot, so we returned to camp.  There I learned he’d skipped all of the layers and jumped straight from his pajamas into waders wearing nothing but Spiderman briefs.

He started shooting with September blue-wings.   It took a several failed attempts. I cradled the weight of a Remington 1100 twenty-gauge in my left hand as he aimed - but 2 weeks preceding his 6th birthday Forrest killed his first duck.   A week later he swatted another unassisted.  Those two blue-wings were among Briar’s final retrieves.

The next season, Forrest swiped a few flying blue-wings and doves. I fast had myself a new hunting buddy.   His first-ever limit of anything flying was a fine limit of in-your-face decoying sandhills near Lubbock, Texas.

That was the year Willow Break flooded and we duck hunted the entire property from boats.  One morning I explained that he got first shot when ducks presented themselves, but that he’d better do it quickly before they made their last pass or we adults would shoot.  I remember holding a little boy that icy-cold morning, tears streaming down both his cheeks and frustrated because he’d not shot a duck.  In time, though, he quit wearing bulking clothing; learned to mount quickly, to shoot instinctively.

Then a blur of fun memories: a decoying drake bufflehead he sent skipping across the water after I missed twice, drake pintails laying belly-up in the decoys before I’d even shouldered my gun, first-species, first-limits, jump-shoots for snow geese, first band, the list goes on.  I left Forrest alone in a pitblind one morning and walked about 100 yards away with Delta.  At the report of his 20-gauge, I turned just in time to see both from the first pair of mallards he ever called in falling lifeless from the sky.

Soon enough, though, he was seduced by antlers.  Time in the duck blind became limited to opening days, youth weekends, and mornings when more ducks than waiting seemed likely.  Thanks to technology we stay connected when he’s in a deer stand and I’m in a duck blind.  I had just quit calling to another flock of hard-headed gadwalls this past season when I heard his .270 sound-off nearby.  “Got him,” read the message.   We picked up decoys and helped him load the big 9-point of which he’d been texting photos for over an hour.

On the afternoon preceding the last day of the 2012 Mississippi waterfowl season my youngest son, Duncan, and Ian hunted a backwater area at camp.  We returned the next morning and soon realized that the ducks had left with the south wind and full moon; that the brief window of opportunity had closed.  Forrest scored the only duck of the morning, a handsome little drake green-wing.  It was the last duck of his youth we shared.  Next season he’ll be an adult hunter.

Like a cell phone dropped in deep water - gone.  Looking forward to our future hunts together when one of my 2 favorite hunting buddies will have a driver's license.

Ramsey Russell‘s GetDucks.com is a full-time, full-service agency specializing in wing shooting with major emphasis on trophy duck species and trophy duck hunting experiences. It's duck season somewhere. Your trip of a lifetime deserves – and receives – our full attention.

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