A Memorable Return

My 20-year-old youngest son Griffin and I hunted a flooded rice blind just outside Sutter refuge on Friday, ending his 3-year absence from duck hunting. We had hunted Wister, San Jacinto or a Wilderness Unlimited pond together almost weekly during the season from the time he was 11, but then college, a full-time job, and my relocation to Northern California changed that.

Me and my son Griff, 20, together again in the blind.

Me and my son Griff, 20, together again in the blind.

With no good rezzies for the few days he’d be visiting, I was glad I’d booked a hunt with River Valley Outfitters. We met up with owner Greg Galli at 5:15am and were soon tossing the blind bag, guns, and ourselves onto the stout little Argo ATV for the ride down the dike and across the water to our blind. With no long walk pushing a gear-laden cart or trudging out through a mud-bottom pond , and with heaters in the spacious pit blind — which was already beautifully brushed up and camouflaged, with many dozens of decoys already out — it didn’t take long for Griff to comment “Wow Dad, this isn’t like our usual hunts, this is vacation huntin’!”

Absolutely, and so far, so good. Now I just hoped that this hunt wouldn’t be like most of my rice and refuge hunts this season, where I never even raised my gun. On the way to the blind, we had scared up a few hundred ducks, which was a good sign, but I’d seen other pre-dawn lift offs before — and they’d been the only ducks sighted those days.

It’s always a good day in the blind, and good to be camo’d up alongside the baby of the family once again. But the east started to glow with me holding my breath and praying that Griff’s first time back would be a memorable one. That little prayer was answered when a lone Wigeon came straight at us out of the mist and rain and was felled by one shot from each of us — what we’ve long called the “cone of death,” where that we get the duck is what’s important, not who got it.

Me and Griff at Kern, 2006

Me and Griff at Kern, 2006

The rest of the morning unfolded much the same way, with a single or a pair drifting in to the decoys, or a swarm checking us out in a quick fly by every half hour or so. Most of the time we’d drop one or two. And in between, we were treated to watching huge clusters of ducks — by the hundreds — making their way from feeding back to Sutter’s closed zone. It was good to see Griff taking birds again, after so long away from a shotgun. So much has changed since our first duck hunt together nine years ago, but really, the essence of it is the same. There we were, once again both eagerly watching the skies, eating the same blind snacks as always, working like a team, marveling at the same sights and sounds.

Around 11am, the cold rain had done its work, and satisfied with the day and our bounty of birds, we decided to head back. It was a great hunt, unique and special and important, yet so happily familiar. A memorable return to a place we never really left.

~ by SpeakingZenaphorically on December 22, 2012.

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