or “Mom, there is no one to take me duck hunting. I’ve called everyone . . sniff . . sniff . . and tomorrow is going to be the best morning yet. I just know it.”
And I sympathized with Termite, I really did. We have the boat, he has acquired all the proper gear and clothing and weapons and ammo. The problem is, both his big brothers got off work at the same time and took him hunting two weeks ago; and they both went back to work at the same time, leaving no one to take him hunting this week.
The frustration is, that even though Termite can operate the boat himself, find his way to the duck lease IN THE DARK, and then hunt following proper rules and regulations, HE IS ONLY 12 and legally (and responsibly on my part) isn’t allowed to do any of these things without adult supervision.
The solution was Dotter (Rach) and MuzicMan came to the rescue Saturday evening and took Miah (special son) overnight, thereby freeing me up to supervise Termite on an early-morning hunt. (Yippee, I’m thrilled! But not half as thrilled as Termite, who quacked jubilantly on his duck calls!)
We finally made it to bed around midnight. Yep. Midnight.
When the alarm rang at 4 a.m., I jumped out of bed and into my insulated camouflaged coveralls. Not.
When the alarm rang, I groaned and fell on the floor and groaned again at Termite to slide down off the top bunk. He, of course, hit the floor ready to rumble.
The morning was still. Silent. The air was abnormally dry. The only sounds came from our gear landing loudly on the bottom of the metal boat. With one big push and the swishing sound of metal slicing water, we glided into the bayou and on our way to see what the skies would hold.
The marina lights faded behind us as we pressed on into the dark morning . . .
with only a lantern’s beam revealing brief glimpses of the shoreline, for once again, the newly-purchased spotlight remains dark after a night of presumed recharging. Never trust rechargeable spotlights. Never. We shined a lantern flashlight intermittently because the boat’s running lights (which would show our location to rapidly-passing sport-fishing boats) had also failed.
At this point, I was tense. Very tense.
All is well, though, as we hugged the right-hand bank until we found our turn into the marsh,
which offered its own version of scariness, though not from speeding sport-fishing boats.
The fear here was in the form of dark, shallow, and narrow passages that must be memorized. One wrong turn could result in running aground or wandering lost until sunrise.
Time is of the essence, for we must get into place before the sun breaks the horizon and the waterfowl fly down to feed in the open ponds . . .
And like the 12-year-old-man-boy that he is, my son got us there with nary a wrong turn and immediately set out his battery-powered duck in hopes of fooling the incoming ducks. . .
and luring them down with a decoy whose wings flap, imitating “coming in for a landing”.
He made haste as he puttered around the pond . . .
placing the last of his decoys to his liking.
Mats of woven marsh grasses put the finishing touches on the bow and over the engine.
The idea is to blend in with the marsh as much as possible. Experienced hunters say ducks won’t land in the pond if sunlight reflects off anything odd looking–white is the worst color to have sitting in your boat or showing on your clothing.
Now, down to the business of waiting for the sun to rise and the ducks to fly . . . and hopefully land. (And please get that white water jug out of sight!)
This time between moonset and sunrise was magical. Ibis, herons, egrets, and anhingas flew over so closely we could almost reach above and touch them. They are protected by law and seemed to know we would not shoot them. Pretty amazing.
Almost as amazing as the sky.
For the next two hours, Termite sat patiently, watching the sky for ducks, which flew so high that they barely heard the boy calling to them to perfectly, hailing them down to feed among the plastic ducks. Evidently, those flocks had already fed in someone else’s pond.
With one duck to his credit, Termite called an end to this hunt. Without complaint, he lowered the blind, and paddled around the pond, resetting the decoys in a new pattern for the next time someone would have mercy on him and venture out into the dark marsh before daylight for the hunt.
For me, the opportunities to photograph, preserve, and share with you the way of life we freely enjoy here is reward in itself. Like this osprey catching a fish and flying off to eat it as we made our way home.
If I were warm in bed, I would have missed this scene and the six pair of orange gator eyes glowing in the lantern light on the edge of the pond, the moon saying good night as the sun said good morning, my son again personifying adulthood, and the sky bragging a palette all its own.
Thanks, Termite, for being that tenacious boy who can do all these manly things, just not yet on your own, and for not giving up when you want something so badly. Though it’s hard for me to always appreciate your persistence, that tenacity will pay off one day as you make your life in the Louisiana wetlands.
Coming Soon: A Day in the Life of Bayou Woman