Southbound Teal

posted on August 15, 2012

Even though you know what you are about to see as you open the freezer, the sight of your last delicious duck making its final flight from its frozen tomb to your countertop is bittersweet. The little bird will dance in your cast-iron skillet soon enough, but it still doesn’t feel right. The freezer that was once dominated by the coveted protein is now ceding space to frozen peas and flavorless chicken. It’s a sad sight, but one you mean to right, and soon. Summer is over, your true calling is about to begin again. Your last meal is delicious.

Shotguns get the last of the Hoppe’s 9. Gear is packed and then packed again leaving nothing to chance. The night before is restless, you spend it tossing and turning like a kid on Christmas Eve regardless of the fact that you know what gifts await you in the morning. You’ve been waiting for this day for the last six months, when it was still cold outside. Now it’s hot, and you’re in luck because it’s September, the start of teal season.

Your mind races with thoughts of what this early season will indicate for the remainder of the year. Will the ducks show? What about numbers? You know the immediate answer to most of these questions already due to your diligent Internet scouting. You’ve checked the breeding reports. The reassuring phone calls to friends up North tell you what you want to hear—the birds are on the move.

You trek to the blind on autopilot. You could’ve made it blindfolded, and would have if the instance had called for it. Nothing will keep you from today. Your hunting partner knew it too and didn’t hesitate to jump from the truck and disappear into the marsh. You allowed him this freedom, a gift for the opener. As you step up into the blind he gives you a look as if to say, “Where have you been? Don’t you know what day it is?”… You know.

You planned to put out a small but effective spread, its shape determined days ago. Each deke has a home and must be placed precisely. That all goes out the window as you hear the first whistle of wings overhead. No time for precision, they must go out now!

Your eyes focus on two spots—the sky and your watch—waiting for the moment when the two align beneath the fading stars and creeping sunlight. Shadows zoom by overhead like missiles, splashes sound off deep in the spread. You look down … five more minutes.

Guns are loaded with the least-rusted of last year’s 3-inch mags. You adjust the lanyard around your neck. Taking one last sip of coffee, you look to your watch and then to your partner as a crooked smile engulfs your face. It’s shooting time.

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