The phone rang at just before 5am. To most people, that is never a good thing. The rings were soon followed by the sound of my wife’s voice saying “YES!”. The call was from work wondering if she would like to have the morning off. Being a parent of two young children, the temptation to stay home and sleep in was too great for my wife and she promptly accepted the caller’s offer. Now, I would typically just roll back over and go back to bed myself except for one small problem…It was hunting season. With a little sweet talking, I was out of bed to embark on a morning duck hunt. I am very lucky that I have a public marsh just a few miles down the road from my house. This makes the possibility of getting out for a morning hunt and still being home in time to help finish breakfast with the kids a reality, and that’s just what I intended to do.
After a little scrambling and frantic packing, I had a four or five decoys in my bag along with a box of shells in the back of the car and I was off down the road. It was mid-October and the waterfowl season had already been open a few weeks, so I was expecting to avoid the crowds of opening week. Plus, with cooler temps hopefully some new ducks would be moving into the area. I was happy to find that no other cars parked at my entrance location, so I shouldered my decoy bag and shotgun and made the short walk to a small creek that meandered through the marsh before making its way to one of the local lakes. Two woodcock thundered to life beneath my feet and then disappeared against the dark sky as I made my way through some thick alders. No need for coffee, that got my heart pumping on this early frosty morning. Arriving at my desired location, I set my decoy bag and gun down to catch my breath and survey my surroundings with my headlamp. I could make out the unmistakable sound of a wood ducks only a few bends upstream, maybe 60 or 80 yards away. I clicked off my headlamp as a smile came to my face. “This is going to be a good morning”, I told myself as I tossed decoys into the dark water in front of me.
As the eastern sky grew lighter, I waited with the anticipation of a sprinter at a track meet waiting for the crack of the starter’s gun to send the racers into motion. I watched my clock, willing the minutes to hurry along. A short time later I heard a few shots from a group of hunters farther up the marsh. I watched the horizon with great intensity trying to catch any movement in the dimly lit sky. The spot I had chosen was positioned in between a big marsh to my west and a large lake to my east. My hope was that hunters on the marsh and lake would move ducks back and forth where I would be patiently waiting. Then more shots from the lake so I shifted my attention to eastern sky. Nearly 20 minutes passed with more shots from both locations but no fowl would make their presence known to me. Resting the butt of my shotgun on the ground I focused my attention once again to the sky. I took in a spectacular display of red, yellow, and pink of this crisp fall sunrise, I was reminded that this morning was success no matter the outcome. A pair of sandhill cranes proclaimed the arrival of the morning light as they passed overhead, approving of the day to come.
Before the text came letting me know that my presence would soon be requested at the breakfast table, I was able to connect with a fine mallard and wood duck, capping off short but memorable morning on the marsh.