I bet your Friday nights are spent having dinner with friends. Tipping back a few drinks? Maybe a movie with your sweetheart? I have 10 months a year for that shit.
This is my duck season.
My Friday nights are short. Spent loading the truck. Skipping dinner. Counting 18 shells and packing-up my waders. Charging the mojo. Cleaning decoys. Feeding Zeus. My head is on a pillow about the same time most people leave the house to kick-off their weekends.
When flight ducks press on the edge of the Canadian freeze, intercepting them at Harsen’s Island is a matter of early mornings and luck of the draw. I get up at 3 am. Get the boat on the hitch by 3:30. 4:45 we’re in line for the ferry. Cross the channel and to the DNR shack by 5:15. The bingo is at 5:30. Get picked in the top 20 and you’ll have a good hunt. Get picked later than that and you’ll put in some work to pull the trigger.
These Saturdays are sacred. Fleeting moments trapped between 5 days of work and watching the weather. Each hunt is different yet it’s the same. Great shots. Great retrieves. Cigars at sunrise. Uncle Mike’s Chocolate Coffee. The stories I’ve heard a million times and I’ll hear a million more. The sweetness of the time spent on this island with my friends, family and great dogs isn’t lost on me. I need to remember each hunt. The memories fill the void in my brain from the last day of the season to the first of the next.
I feel at home on these Saturdays. Surrounded by people I’ve never met. Yet they understand me as well as anyone. Duck hunting is about passion. It’s about punishment. It’s about adrenaline, gear and skill. Every camo-clad decoy jockey is there for the same reason. It’s like a huge duck club but it’s public land. And it comes with the usual annoyances of packing a bunch of hunters into close proximity. Still, for it’s good parts and it’s bad, there’s nothing like it.
Now my season is done. My Friday nights are back to normal and my weekends don’t start at 3 am. I’ll be home in time for dinner with my wife on Saturday nights without paint on my face and duck blood under my fingernails. My knees should ache less. My shoulder should be unbruised on Monday mornings.
Damn it. I miss it already.