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Duck hunting

NoDak 2011: The Keys

He shuffled his feet through the grass. Like he was searching for something. His jacket and hat in a heap. Head down. Shoulders slumped.

Zeus and I walked up but Dusty wouldn’t look at us. I didn’t want to ask the question. Because I didn’t want to hear the answer.

“Dusty…what are you looking for?”

“I don’t want to tell you.”

The realization was a shot of adrenaline. The air tasted different. Like a million static electric shocks to my face, then arms, then feet.

Dusty was searching for the f*&#^*g truck keys.

The odds were against us. A hay field in North Dakota is no place to find something so small and so important. Yet there we stood with a single option. Find the keys. Before sunset.

I walked back to the truck. I searched every pocket in his vest and jacket. I kicked the grass. I begged Zeus to use his nose. I prayed. Still. No keys.

Time was ticking away. Sweat dripped down my face soaking every layer of clothes under my waders. I was so mad. But I didn’t have time to yell. I was scared as hell. But I didn’t have time to think about that either.

Then the familiar jingle. I watched in horror as Dusty defiantly chucked the keys into the air. Some odd victory display driven by a stinging dose of relief.

I dove for the keys before they hit the grass. I wanted to punch his face. I wanted to hug him. I opted for neither. I patted him on the back knowing that I will forever be able to hold this over his head. We headed back to the decoy spread to finish our limit.

We didn’t say much at first. Still dazed by the ordeal. I showed Dusty my two Blue Wing Teal. I knocked down the double right after he left to take his pup back to the truck. The rest…history. He still didn’t look like himself. Until the ducks started moving again.

We knocked down a couple of scaup. Then had a flock of 5 or 6 hens swim right up to the decoys. They hung around for awhile. Diving to feed. Staring at the decoys with a comfortable but confused look in their eyes.

Then a pair of blue wings screamed into the spread. They were basically at my feet. I pulled up just as the landing gear came down. Fired once. And both folded.

We finished our limit with mallards and another bluebill. Then hiked back to the truck as the luckiest men in the entire state of North Dakota.

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