When I first started duck hunting, a friend of mine, a stockbroker (yes I did that too), told me that if I was considering taking up duck hunting as a primary passion, that I would need to love maintaining things. Tools, boats, engines, decoys, blinds, dogs, calls, guns, even the properties I would hunt on. And so, after choosing this path 30 years ago, I plunged into the deep end of the pool. I have accumulated an enormous amount of gear over 3 decades and I am not good at selling old equipment. I just keep adding new stuff.
So now, the month of August is all about the race to Opening Day. And I love it. Whenever a cool northwest breeze fluffs the curtains in my bedroom window, and my toes, sticking out of the bottom sheet, seek the warmth of my dog’s belly, I awaken early. Inhaling deeply the first breath of the morning, I cannot stay in bed. It may only be 5AM but the full moon is lighting up the yard and confused robins are singing in the old maple tree on the lawn. I am wide awake. I strain my ears to hear every sound and from a long distance across the fields, near the pond, I hear geese. The long lonely Her-onk of a gander calling to his mate in the moonlit sky to come sit with him and watch the eastern sky turn from black to dark blue, purple and sage green.
I shuffle down the steps to the kitchen. The floor is cool and my feet seek the warmth of the throw rug in front of the coffee maker. The fragrance of fresh coffee has a mesmerizingly comforting aroma. I pour the brew into my favorite mug, the one with the Canada goose on it and gingerly raise the hot liquid to my mouth. Life is good and the day is full of promise.
It’s a Saturday and the To Do list is long and pleasurable.
About 12 years ago, with no woodworking experience at all, I built a boat. A Barnegat sneakboat variation called an Arthur Armstrong Broadbill. It took me 18 months to complete. I often feel waves of pride when I work on her. This month, I took out the floor and added a new drain plug, patched a few cracks in the transom and created a drain system through the ribs. New fastgrass will be ordered shortly and the custom David Clark canvas blind has had new zippers put in. A segment of the grass rail along the gunwhale will get replaced. The stern and bow light will be rewired with some fresh connectors. The fire extinguisher will be replaced and the PFDs will be checked for tears.
The layout blinds have been sewn along the edges and winter wheat raffia has been purchased. We will be tying hanks of the raffia with the new plastic snap swivels that affix the raffia to the stubble straps of the blinds. This will allow us to lie in a field of cut wheat or hay and blend in like a small hump in the surface. Less than 30 days from now we will be lying in a field surrounded by newly flocked full body goose decoys, calling to distant flocks and flagging them with our new flag.In the mean time I am busy preparing all our equipment for “The Season” which starts September 1.
I practice shooting my bow every night from the tree stand in my back yard. I have pictures on my game camera that drive me to perfect my skills. There has been a large bear in the back field recently and I really want a crack at him with my bow. My merry band of gentlemen and young mentees and I have been practicing shooting our .22s at the range in anticipation for some squirrel hunts next month.
Duck decoys need to be washed and anchor lines checked. A new batch of greenwing teal will
Guns are checked and re-checked. Cleaned and re-cleaned. Spit shined and polished. Preparations for a hunt, in my opinion, should be up to military specs. If not out of respect for the equipment, then for safety.
I have some harrowing stories to tell of my early duck hunting days. There were days when I had no mentor and little understanding of the dangers that lurked from Mother Nature’s wrath.
One of the first lessons I learned was to respect the earth and nature. She could embrace us in warmth and beauty or she could treat us with ruthless indifference to our desire to survive. A French philosopher once said “Nature cares not for the individual, but for the survival of a species.” I have learned this lesson first-hand and am lucky to be alive. Now, when the outdoors calls to me I listen but heed the lessons I’ve learned; don’t use climber tree stands in the rain on wet bark; don’t try to cross an open bay in a small low-profile boat when you haven’t heard the marine forecast; don’t leave camp without a compass or GPS; always check your drain plug before you load the boat into the water; always have a game plan if weather changes; and last but not least, the Boy Scout motto; Be Prepared!
Even with the level of respect I have learned, I truly do love August, because of the anticipation. There is so much to do.
I dream every night about Opening Days. Opening Day of Bear Season. Opening Day of
I may seem to be rambling, but forgive me, it’s August, and next month begins the most beloved and sacred time of the year.
From here on in, I will find myself waking up in the middle of the night when the curtains blow over the windowsill and that haunting ethereal sound of geese in the moonlight penetrates my semi-conscious soul.
Author’s Note: Next month on Saturday, September 28 at 5:00PM, Sacred Hunter will be hosting a Hunting Film Festival at the Film House in Burlington at 60 Lake Street. Tickets will be $15 and there will be a Game Chili Cook Off with prizes given at Intermission. There will be $100 First Prize.
To enter the Chili Cook Off or to purchase tickets please go to the website: www.sacredhunter.org. On the bottom of the page is a “Donate” button. Click this button to pay for your tickets. Any questions, please direct them to Bradley Carleton at 802-238-6176.
For a view of the film trailers or to buy tickets, please visit