I like the calm, foggy mornings out on my grandfather’s lake. My dad and I sit in the home-built duck blind, planted just on the rim of the massive swath of cattails. It’s very quiet, the six AM morning lacking in ducks as much as noise, much to our displeasure. We still have to sit quietly though, but my dad has chicken soup made, which lifts up my groggy, sleep-filled head. There is still no sun yet, but a pale colored glow just barely peeks it’s head over the trees across the lake, outlining the black silhouettes of the tree tops. I poke at my soup with a plastic spoon, my protective headphones crushing my skull. Still no ducks.
More hours pass. Dawn breaks, lighting up the world gently with it’s rays of pale purple, pink, and orange. We’ve seen a few waterfowl fly overhead, but they never land. Our decoys of canadian geese and mallards remain undisturbed. My dad blows a few geese and duck calls from the big wooden whistle-shaped caller, and tries to teach me how to use them. I don’t do too well, my calls sounding like a dying bird rather than the live ones we’re trying to hunt. He tells me that I’ll get the hang of it eventually.
With all this time with nothing to do, I lose myself in my thoughts like I usually do. It’s my first time duck hunting, and I’m nervous. I can never remember certain things about the shotguns we use; how does it reload, where are the shells, what if it blows up? What if I mess up? These are dangerous weapons, I don’t know if I should be using them when I can’t even remember if they reload on their own or not. I keep these thoughts from my dad, as I’ve already asked him them at least once each hour we’ve been out here. I’m afraid I’ll sound annoying after a while. Still not one duck has landed.
I find comfort in the fact that no other human being is nearby, nor one that could read my thoughts, if one such person existed. I’d find myself embarrassed if they knew how much I doubted myself in my skill to handle a firearm. Though the shadowing disappointment from my father if he were to know instead feels much greater of a fear.
The day grows lighter now, a few more waterfowl flocks flying overhead, never landing. The songbirds are finally up, a few small flocks of them darting from tree to sky to cattails, singing their songs. This morning was going by so slowly, every moment seemed to blur together. My mind wanders, eyes drifting around the landscape; I notice a red-wing blackbird flitting among the breeze-blown reeds, chattering loudly to others of its kind that I could not see. I consider letting my head loll over and drift to a cold but comfortable nap. Waiting is so tiring.
Suddenly there’s a splash, faint but audible, and an excited whisper from my dad. I straighten out, sitting up. A duck had landed in our decoys, rather far off, but we could land a shot on it. About 50 yards? 100? I couldn’t tell, never having been good at judging distance. I felt my resting heart rate start to register as a panic attack. More stupid questions. How do I shoot? How does it reload?
My dad has been at this much longer than I have. He immediately readies his gun, taking aim at the clueless bird. It tries to flap upwards, to escape, but to no avail. A bang, my headphones quieting the sound, and the bird splashes back into the water, still alive. I take aim, my dad encouraging me, and I freeze up, immediately hating myself for it. “What do I do?” I nearly shout, the adrenaline rush going to my head. My dad just tells me to shoot, and I do. The duck stops moving, dropping dead like a swatted house fly. My father is overjoyed. My first duck! “Did I hit it?” I ask. More stupid questions.
In the end, I wonder if asking more questions would have prevented me from stopping dead in my tracks, and instead taking the shot. Although, either way, I suppose it doesn’t make much of a difference. I would’ve hit it either way, right?