By James Elledge
November 4, 2017 7:04 a.m. The Beaver Moon cuts through dissipating layers of fog that grace the flooded rice fields of Garwood, Texas. Blind bags ruffle as hunters eagerly apply face paint, click off their head lamps and anticipate first light. A flock of 12 Teal zoom in overhead. Whoosh. Clack. The hunter on the far right of the blind chambers his third shell. The retriever heeled up next to him stops her anticipatory panting and everything becomes distinctly still…and quiet.
7:10 a.m. Pop! Boom, pop, pop. The first shots of the South Zone duck opener have been fired somewhere across the prairie. It’s 3 minutes before shoot time, but oh baby, it’s on. The four hunters peer over the front of the brush-clad blind. It’s time.
7:17 a.m. (Whisper) “Two on the right, get ready.” The ducks fly in from the South East - out over the far-right side of the decoy spread - and immediately veer up. They fly straight in to the full moon as the hunters admire the silhouette. “Damnit! We need some wind,” one hunter whispers. “If that keeps happening, the jerk string is coming out,” replies another.
7:29 a.m. “Here we go, coming straight in.” Three hunters raise guns but only two shoot. “Take ‘em!!” Buh, boom. Splash. The retriever breaks slightly. “NO, no ma’am.” The retriever ashamedly scurries back into the blind. “HEEL… Mark… Sadie!” Lunging out of the blind and in to the water, the yellow lab charges head first towards the dead blue wing teal 20 yards ahead. The dog returns with the duck in her mouth and looks up at her owner, shamelessly begging for praise. “Good girl, Sadie! Heel, Sit. Drop.” The first duck of 2017 has been harvested for the Texas boys, and the fun has just begun.
10:38 a.m. The rolling thunder sounds of firing shotguns has finally stopped and the prairie is once again in a lull. The four hunters are still in the blind. They have done well - not quite a limit, but it has been a successful morning all around. Knowing they likely won’t see any other ducks work their decoys, the fellas are perfectly content just sitting in the blind telling stories, planning future duck trips and cracking up at Neoprene farts.
Because this is the place we go to escape the city lights and the pressures that life presents. This is where we always have the extra time to tell that long story and ignite those brotherly belly laughs. This is the feeling. This is Duck Camp.