Yesterday was opening day of duck season in Klamath county. Normally I’d be sitting in the marsh up to my knees in cold water watching from behind thick tules as ducks wheeled and tipped into our decoys. But instead I’m here, at home, writing on my blog.
What happened? Well, it’s a long story which I won’t get into, but suffice it to say I’m not happy with my work situation…nuff said.
But, as I’m sitting here missing opening day of duck season, which I haven’t missed in 30 years, I’m thinking about all the opening days I’ve had.
It all started when I was 9 years old. Myself my Dad and two older brothers would head up to Rocky Point Resort on Friday. I’d be pulled out of school, which was great enough, and we’d pack an enormous amount of clothing and gear, hook up our aging camouflaged duck boat and go.
The “resort” is a ramshackle fishing village, which would close down for the season soon after opening day of duck season. Duck hunters aren’t the usual Orvis wearing primadonnas that fisherman are, so the owners would usually have their noses turned up slightly at our uncouthness. But, I suppose our money was as green as the fisherman’s, so they put up with us.
We always met another family there and we’d move into one of the plywood cabins for the weekend. Once settled we’d don our rubber chest waders (neoprene waders didn’t exist yet) and get into the duck boat and go on a scouting trip into the marsh.
Opening day is in early October, and around here it’s usually still sunny and warm. Invariably the engine would fire up without a hitch and we’d sputter our way into the depths of the marsh.
We had a “secret spot” we’d always go, which involved some harrowing navigation through seemingly impassable marsh. In fact there was one spot that had a large beaver dam that we had to literally jump over. My Dad would gun the engine, and we’d launch off the beaver dam into the pond beyond.
The dam was so well constructed that our boat barely scratched it. That dam was there every season. I’m sure Mr. Beaver hated opening day of duck season.
As we headed to our spot the sky would become black with hundreds of thousands of ducks. There seemed to be an endless amount of waterfowl, we’d be in awe of the spectacle.
Upon our return to the cabin, we’d eat a “marsh burger” at the resort. My Dad and his buddy would start drinking beer and eventually we’d retire back to the cabin where stronger drink would be brought out.
Finally bedtime would be upon us but we’d be so excited for the next morning we could hardly sleep, it was worse than Christmas eve.
At zero dark early the alarms would go off, we’d don our gear, grab our guns and dogs and head out into the cold morning. It would be pitch dark, but we’d see lasers of light from other hunters using powerful flashlights.
We’d get to the duck boat, settle ourselves and Dad would try to start the motor. The same motor that started easy and purred for us the day before, wouldn’t start. After lots of cussing and carrying on, finally he’d get it going and we’d find our way to our spot.
We’d throw our decoys out and wait for shooting hours to start. In the dark we’d hear and see flashes of ducks as they skittered around our decoys, many landing amongst them. This was always a magic time of day watching the sky slowly lighten, the anticipation of the hunt.
Finally the hour would come, my Dad would tell us it was time and we’d load our guns and wait. It wouldn’t be long before ducks would come and the shooting would begin. It sounded like WW3 out there. We’d shoot through boxes and boxes of shells. Eventually we’d get our limits of ducks (7 each) and call it a day.
The dogs would be exhausted and they’d slip into comas on the boat ride back. We’d pluck and clean ducks and talk about the fantastic hunt we’d just had.
Once unloaded and back in the cabin we’d all lay down and take long luxurious naps. Some of us kids would grab fishing rods and throw lures into Klamath lake, but it was a halfhearted effort, the fishing bug being quickly replaced with the duck hunting bug.
In the morning we’d do it all over again. The hunting usually wasn’t as good as the first day, but we usually managed to scratch another limit of ducks.
Of course the hunting isn’t nearly as good now as it was then, but I’d much prefer to be sitting in that marsh with my Dad, brothers, nephews and my own 2 boys at this moment. But, that’s not to be, the tradition is broken but I’m determined to never miss another.
My brother sent me a picture from the marsh yesterday. It was him holding up a limit of ducks with his son beaming at his side. I’m happy they had a good hunt…wish I was there, and they wished us there too.