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Oh What A Beautiful Morning

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3:00 a.m. came extremely early, and as I woke my 12 year old son Bryan his first words were, "I am to tired to go", but I knew he would not miss the day we had ahead of us. Waking so early was a must as it was Saturday, September 19, and was the opener of the 2009 youth waterfowl hunting weekend and I was sure all Bryan needed was to wake up a bit and clear the cob webs out of his head. I had loaded all of our gear the night before so all that was needed was to get dressed and drive to Jays Sporting Goods in Clare, where we would be meeting my friend and co-worker Matt Miller and his niece Jordyn. Jordyn was just 10 years old and, from talking to Matt, she was quite excited about the days hunt. With the short drive from our home in Beaverton, Bryan and I arrived at Jays where we chatted briefly with Jordyn and Matt then headed out for our 45 minute drive north to my favorite early season waterfowl hole.

We arrived at the lake around 4:45, and as Bryan, Jordyn and Matt unloaded our vehicles, I set up the grill and started cooking breakfast burritos. The grill was a welcome sight to us all as we were hungry and the kids were a bit chilly with the temperature holding around 40 degrees. As we all dished up a burrito and warmed by the fire, Jordyn and Bryan loosened up a bit and began to chat. Jordyn had said she really did not care if she shot a duck, she would be happy to just see one. I think she was a bit doubtful when I told her that not only would she see a duck, she would probably see a couple hundred ducks, and I was sure she would get her first duck. She just smiled and finished her breakfast. Bryan was a bit more confident as this was his second trip to this particular spot and he knew we would see plenty of waterfowl. Once we finished eating breakfast, Matt let his dog Sage out of the truck and told her to load up in their canoe while Bryan and I got into our 14.5 foot tandem kayak and were ready to lead the way across the lake to hunting spot in a small point of cattails on the west shore.

As we pushed off shore and into the lake we were greeted with fog, thick, dense, white fog. It was like our paddles were cutting through the center of a 3 Musketeers candy bar. I can normally make the trip across the lake in 5 - 10 minutes but the fog was worse than I had ever seen on the lake. Using lights to try to stay in the main river channel and avoid the flooded stump fields, we eased our way toward the west shore. We did get off track and into the stumps for a couple minutes but were lucky enough not to get hung up and were able to make our way back into the river channel. Once we entered the open water of the river, and it was heading west, I knew we were not far from our destination, and when the river made a sharp bend to the south, that was my clue to head due west for a 50 yard shot through the weeds and stumps to our hideout in the small point of cattails between a small bay to our north and another to our south. Just prior to the cattail point Matt placed decoys to the north and Bryan and I placed decoys to the south. Keeping all the decoys within 20 yards would allow for some close range shooting for the kids once the sun started to come up and the morning flights took to the sky.

Tucked into the cattails, we all sat quietly, just waiting for that first lonely hen to quack, or the soft whistle of a wood duck waking to the rays of the morning sun. With daylight starting to appear over the tree line across the lake, it was as if someone reached into the center of the lake and pushed the fog away just for us. As dark gave way to the pale grey morning sky we were suddenly able to see a half mile in any direction. The first hen of the morning sounded her lonely just as a wood duck gave a subtle whistle. Shortly thereafter the first ducks of the morning took to the air.

"Get ready" whispered Matt to Jordyn as a couple wood ducks made there way through the brisk morning air and headed in our direction. Before Jordan could even think about a shot the little feather covered lightning bolts zipped by. Just as fast as those appeared and disappeared a few more were in the air.

"Off to the right",

"10:00 oclock high"

"Here they come'

In and out flew the speedy little ducks, some times only one, other times 4 or five at a time. Once or twice they would drop into our decoys just briefly before jumping back into the air and heading to another part of the lake. I was finally able to warm Bryan early enough when the next couple wood ducks approached and his little pump 20 gauge shattered the silence of the morning. That was all it took to get him going. Although he did not connect, he was now ready to roll and not shy about shooting. When I said "take em" , he fired. Shot after shot came unsuccessfully but he was not about to give up. Jordyn had yet to fire a shot when a nice little woody approached from the left and Matt told her to take it. One quick shot and she had her first duck. The little wood duck was able to make its' way into the cattails before Matt released his dog into the water, but Sage is a wonderful hunting dog and was able to retrieve the bird from deep into the tangle of cattails. As Matt and Jordyn came around the point of cattails from retrieveing her duck, the smile on Jordyns' face was almost to big to fit on her face. A moment I will never forget.

We were barely able to enjoy Jordyns success when Bryan spotted a duck coming in from our right and he put it down real quick. A second shot to finish it off, and Bryan now had a wood duck for himself. What a day already and it had been barely a half hour since we tucked ourselves into our hiding spot. We were obviously well concealed as the morning flight continued right in front of us and offered many opportunities for shots. A small group of wood ducks came rocketing in from the right and with a quick mount of his pump 20 gauge and a squeeze of the trigger one of the flock tumbled to the water. The bird immediately uprighted itself and headed for some tall weeds. I told Bryan to take another shot but it was to late as the duck disappeared. Matt sent out Sage for a recovery but she was unsuccessful. Even with our help the duck was not to be found. Bryan was a little bummed but I explained to him that it will happen to every waterfowl hunter at some point in time and not to get to bummed about it. With that said we made our way back to our spot for a few more minutes before Bryan and I took off for some jump shooting and hopefully to push some birds toward Jordan and Matt who would remain on the decoy sets.

With Bryan in the front seat of my tandem kayak and his gun at the ready, we made our way through the many bays and canals around the lake shore. Wood ducks and mallards flushed from just about every little nook and cranny offering Bryan a few shots and sending ducks in every direction. From time to time we could hear a shot or two coming from the area of Matt and Jordyn. As we crossed the main lake and started heading north on the shoreline where our partners were waiting over the decoys, a nice drake wood duck bolted from the cattails straight in front of Bryan and he dropped it immediately.

A couple shots from Jordyns area followed as a couple dozen wood ducks took flight along the shoreline in front of us.

When rounded the point of cattails we could see Matt and Jordyn were picking up there decoys. Bryan said that he had taken another nice drake giving him 2 ducks for the morning and with another big smile Jordan announced that she had taken her 3 wood duck limit.

I can honestly say there are very few moments in my life that have or will rival that.

My drawing of Jordyn with her ducks.

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  1. Fatman's Avatar
    Congrats on a great day!!! and even better for getting the kids hooked on the outdoors!!!!!
  2. Fatman's Avatar
    Congrats on a great day!!! and even better for getting the kids hooked on the outdoors!!!!! Picture didn't come up though.