There are still several hours left before sunrise. You should be tired after listening to the big storm most of the night, but you’re not. You awaken with an unexplainable energy about you. The anticipation of the day ahead fuels you as you prepare for the jolt offered by the early morning cold.
You step outside into the darkness and immediately notice the change in weather. Last night’s arrival of a slow-moving frontal passage will mean cold drizzle and a north wind most of the day. These are made-to-order conditions for this morning’s objective.
To Start the Day
Before leaving on today’s adventure, you head upstairs to grab a hot breakfast and some fresh coffee. Your entry into the dining room is met with a couple of the biggest smiles imaginable. The morning kitchen staff are there, and they’re ready for you. They hand you a plate of fresh-baked biscuits and hot scrambled eggs, all covered in creamy sausage gravy. You smile and suddenly realize that this is much like being at home!
As you finish your meal and start to leave, the kitchen ladies offer another smile and wish you luck. You grab your gear and head over to the boat ramp to meet the others in your party. Through the cold mist you can see your guide launching the big AirRanger into the water. Strapped to the floor in the bow of the airboat is a large bundle of fresh-cut brush. Barking orders from the boat is the guide’s retriever – a chocolate Labrador clad in earmuffs and a doggie life vest.
The Boat Ride
The guide cranks the big-block engine to let it begin warming itself against the morning’s cold air. Moments later, with guns stowed and everyone seated with earmuffs on, the guide points the bow into the darkness. It sounds like a helicopter taking off when the engine accelerates, and the propellers start revving. The big wind-powered boat is suddenly gliding atop of the bay’s chop with great ease.
As the boat makes its way across the bay, your mind drifts into a seemingly different world. The only light you can see is the boat’s headlight – it’s almost as if there’s no one else out there. Your body and face are covered by so many layers of clothing that you forget how cold it really is. Gazing ahead, the rain falling through the slender beam of light reminds you that it’s raining. Without giving it any further thought, you’re extremely happy that you opted to wear your waterproof face mask and gloves.
The guide navigates off the bay and into a sudden maze of narrow bayous and patches of thick marsh grass. Following numerous bends and turns, the winding path opens into a large body of water. There’s an island-like clump of cordgrass situated adjacent to the bank at the opposite end of the lake. The airboat slows to a drift as the bow comes to rest aground on the small island. The guide instructs each of us as to our own different assignments as we unload the boat. Two of us will brush the blind, while the other two help the guide strategically place twelve dozen G&H decoys.
With all the prep work now complete, everyone gets situated in the blind. You’re at the far-left end of the blind, so you’ll shoot first at any birds flying left to right. Your other buddy at the far-right end will shoot first at birds flying right to left. The guide delivers his safety speech and instructs us that he will call all the shots. You load shells into your Renegauge shotgun, and then wait in agonizing anticipation.
It’s nearing shooting time, but visibility is still poor due to the bad weather. Everyone’s attention is suddenly focused skyward as the exhilarating sound of a flock of birds increases overhead in the darkness. Instinctively, you reach for your gun before reality sets in. It’s still not time.
The brisk north wind is at your back, and the air temperature continues to drop. With the clouds hanging low and a light drizzle still falling, the birds are on the move. Like the old saying goes, “the weather today is great if you’re a duck”, or if you’re a duck hunter! You’ve waited all year to get back into the blind, and you couldn’t have picked a better day to do it.
A few hours and countless volleys later, you wrap up one of the most successful hunts you can remember. Your adrenaline rush is subsiding, and you can’t wait to be back in your warm room watching football. You and the others pack up and prepare for the airboat ride back to the lodge. On the ride back, thoughts of the day consume your mind. All you can think of is the excitement and the thrill of the hunt.
A Perfect Ending
Back at the dock, you help with unloading the boat and you thank your guide for such a tremendous day. As you make your way back to the lodge, you sense a sudden feeling of emptiness. The empty feeling has nothing to do with morals or your conscience, but rather your stomach. It’s been a hard day in the marsh, and your stomach is empty. You’re hungry, and you need to eat.
Back at the lodge, you change out of your waders and make yourself comfortable. You’re anxious to go upstairs to the dining room to see if you can find anything to satisfy your hunger. You open the door to the dining room, and you’re struck with the smell of food – hot food! The ladies have prepared a meal fit for a king – pot roast, complete with mashed potatoes, hot gravy and rolls. It’s all ready and waiting for you to dig in.
As you sit and enjoy your hot lunch, you recall a most memorable morning of duck hunting. Following your meal, you slowly head back downstairs to your room for a well-deserved nap. You’re thinking to yourself that you could not have planned a better ending to your day in the field. Sacking out, you realize the real icing on the cake is that you get to do it all again tomorrow! You drift off to sleep dreaming of your next duck hunting adventure here at Bay Flats Lodge.