A Day To Remember by Shane Hurkmans
With a slight breeze from the north I headed out the door. The darkness still held the morning off as I checked the boat one last time and made sure that things were strapped down. I hummed to myself as I loaded the dog in the truck and put the truck in drive. The radio sprang to life with the weather for the day. The man on the radio said “your current temp is 32 degrees and the high of 40 today with rain and wind.” A big smile came to my face with the great news of a bad day for every one else. My hopes grew into great delight when the headlights caught the spray from the waves crashing over the top of the dam next to the road.
I unloaded the boat and everything I needed, plus the dog, while the wind and rain smashed into the side of my face. I asked my self “what am I doing out here?” I turned the key and the engine fired right up as the waves crashed against the boat as we left shore. I knew the ducks had to land into the wind so I headed due west to find calmer water. I found it very trying to get the dog up on the deck of the boat while trying to get the decoys out as the wind blew the boat around. It was hard to keep everything straight and to get the line I wanted the decoys in. The rain was dripping off the lip of my hat as I pulled the boat to rest against the shore of a bay I had found on a prior hunt. I got the blind set while the dog ran around the boat to see if there was something he missed on the first go around, like spilled cheetos from the day before.
I sat in the dark of the morning and could hear some ducks overhead with the sound of their wings to guide my ears. As I broke the seal on the thermos, the smell of coffee filled the air and the smells of the marsh faded. I checked my watch to see the time as shooting hours started at 6:45 am and my watch said 6:23. The wind was not blowing as hard in the back of the bay so I could hear the quacks of ducks in the marsh to my left.
The excitement started building as I took another look at my watch to just see if I had read the watch right. This time it was 6:40; five minutes to go. The clouds kept the warmth of the sun out and the cold in. I grabbed for the lighter on the heater at my feet but trying to get the heater lit was a chore in its self. I got the heater lit and began to feel its warmth. Finally it’s 6:59 and time to get the day under way. Fast moving wings in the air and the sounds of the wind and waves mixed with the quacks of mallards calling in the reeds. There were ducks in the air but I could not tell if they were drakes or hens so I practiced my calling and listened to the calls in the wind.
The sun progressed into the sky above the clouds giving the days light a dull look. I had plenty of light to shoot so I got on the call. There was a flock of ducks to my right, just over the treetops, moving fast with the wind. They responded to the call and turned to the decoys sitting on the wind swept water of the bay. I could now see the drakes in the flock, four in all, with five hens at their sides. I grabbed the camera as they made their first pass by the boat. As they banked to come around another time I could see that they had made up their mind to set down in the decoys with their final approach line to the pocket in the decoys right in front of the boat. As they set their wings at 20 yards I picked up the shotgun and took the first drake out in front of the rest. As I pulled the trigger, I watched the drake fold. I looked for the next one and as the shotgun hit my shoulder I could see this drake stop in mid air. I looked for the next one but, as I pushed the safety, could see that the rest were out of range. I called the dog’s name and watched him dive off the boat for his first one. The day wore on, continuing the ritual of a man and dog with the masters of the skies, my blood pump like a child’s the night before Christmas morning.
I was a little cold by the time I got back to the truck that night from sitting in the rain and wind most of the day. It’s a day I’m going to remember for the rest of my life along with a few others that are dear to me. This one was different; it felt, as I was the only one on earth.