The Silver Lining

I hunted at Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge on the last of my reservation draws for the season. Heavily layered against the morning cold and frost, getting the gun up to take the first three ducks that zoomed by was tough and I missed them all. Hours went by without any birds coming within range, until one of the dozens of off-limits Specks floating around turned out to be a Snow. Coming out of the sun, it was just overhead when I could make out the black wing tips. Forcing the gun all the way up, this one was all but on my empty strap when the Benelli went “click.” The lone Snow was below the high tules around my pit blind before I could get another round ready.


More hours passed until a nice drake Pintail sailed into view. A quick shot – miss – then swept the gun farther forward for the kill and – jam. No reason for it; the gun had been cleaned the night before and had worked flawlessly all season. Just rotten luck.

Double damn.

I glanced over at the dog, who tilted her head questioningly, but with sympathy in her eyes. “Sorry pup,” I said. “Looks like you’re not getting any customers on your last time out.”

A little depressed that my last refuge hunt was going to end with a zero – after so many chances – I surveyed the decoys, the spinner, the blind material I’d hauled out and sighed at the thought of packing it all up for the long walk back. Thirty more minutes, I thought to myself.

As the time counted down, birds showed no interest in my pond, swooping instead into the unoccupied pond east of me. The more ducks that gathered there, the more others ignored my calls and decoys and joined them.

Five minutes to go. Four. Three.


Then a pair of small Snows – Rossies, it turned out – flew toward me from a different direction, and I saw them in time. I intended taking both, but one, two, then three shots at the closest one yielded nothing, not so much as a twitch. I gazed at the fleeing geese with a mix of amazement and despair. How could I miss, yet again? Was this hunt simply cursed, doomed to see the season out with a whimper instead of a bang? So many good hunts, and this was how it all ended?

Still watching the pair, I gasped as the one I’d shot at suddenly dropped like a rock.

Relieved and jubilant I sprang from the pit, the pup on my heels. Neither of us saw where it went down because of the tules surrounding our island. But it would be far. Splashing through the water in the general direction, the dog hopping up on hind legs to try to find it, I suddenly spied it belly up at the far edge of the pond. Schatzie went to it and was still trying to get the right grip when I got there.

“I got it pup,” I told her. On my way back to the blind, I examined the small white bounty of a long day. And that’s when I saw the band.

All the cold, all the work, all the waiting and working through the down feelings of a disastrous last hunt, disappeared at that moment. And I realized then how much every hunt has to teach me about life. Because no matter how bad things look, the very next moment could bring a change that turns it all around. As long as you’re still in the game.


~ by SpeakingZenaphorically on January 19, 2013.

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