Blog post provided by Brute Outdoors Pro Staff Member Andrew Bradley. Andrew is an avid duck hunter and fisherman from Missouri who can often be found in the field and on the water with his 50 Quart Brute Box at his side.
The taste of hot chocolate is still on my tongue when the truck comes to a halt and we all get out of the truck. The wind is blowing so hard the rain stings when it hits my face. We are the first ones here. Not surprising since there is well more than two hours until sun up. With the canoe and gear in the water dad loads me into the front seat. My uncle and dad walk through the waist high water pushing the canoe full of gear and me. Hank the black lab has to swim next to dad because I took his spot in the canoe. He doesn't mind. I could smell the sweet grass. The water was so black, every star that was starting to pop out as the overcast started to clear was reflected brightly.
After what seemed like an hour of walking dad told me to start handing him decoys out of the bag behind me. He would toss everyone I handed him to my uncle. Who still hasn't spoken a word.
After handing him every decoy in the canoe dad pushed me to a levee and told me to get out and wait for him. As I was waiting for him the rain quit. The wind was still blowing and it would send chills down my spine. I heard a coyote howling in the distance which got my heart rate pumping. “Drew” my dad snuck up behind me. I stood and walked with him to where he and my uncle had built a blind a few days earlier.
I got in the blind and immediately could smell the dirt I was standing on. Hank walked in and sat down next to me and pretty soon the smell of wet dog and dirt started mixing together in the blind. Dad and my uncle came in and sat down. The blind was soon full of wet dog, and dirt mixing in with strong black coffee that my dad and uncle were drinking.
“5 coming in on the left” were the first words my uncle spoke that morning. I saw the birds as they flew right over our spread of decoys. The sounds of ducks starting coming from inside our blind as my dad and uncle started sweet talking these birds and they turned around and there wings cupped. This was first time I had ever saw birds committed and dive bomb decoys. They had been fooled. My dad and uncle stood up and I could feel the percussion from there shotguns as they fired almost simultaneously. Two birds folded and fell dead, floating amongst the decoys. With the smell of gunpowder still lingering in the air my dad said “Hank” and with just his name called Hank exploded out of the blind and was in the water after the birds. He returned quickly and was sent after the next one.
With two birds in the blind we sat back down. After a few more minutes a fog rolled in that was so thick we could barely see the farthest decoys. Dad and my uncle shot a few ducks in this fog before it pushed out. The sun started shining and it became a “blue bird morning”. I could hear the other hunters in the marsh shooting every so often. But they weren't shooting near as much as we were.
Dad taught me a lot of things in a duck blind. Most of which hadn’t a single thing to do with duck hunting. I can still see Mallards dropping from the heavens and smell that gunpowder floating through the air after my dad and uncle had there chance to throw steel at them. Hank, although he has moved on to the duck marshes in heaven as dad told me the day he left us is still as strong a memory as any. I once hated the smell of a wet dog. Now I live for it. I love hearing birds chirping or watching a muskrat swim around checking out the plastic ducks floating in his water. Hear the wings on a flock of birds whistle over your head. Feel the shock wave of a 12 gauge, rattle my chest. I dream of hearing geese honking as they fly low over the water towards our waiting guns. The mud that grabs your boot and sucks you in. Now days I have my own hunting buddies. My own decoys. My own dog Oakley. But nothing is more fun than having Dad in the hunting blind with me.
Dad and I still hunt together every so often but he has lost some of his passion. He says I stole his fire to light my own. When I'm sitting in a fishing boat wetting a line trying to find something else to do when I can’t duck hunt, I can still see the grasslands surrounded by cornfields. Hear the gravel pop as we pull into the parking area. Smell the dirt, water, grass, or corn. Fell a stiff Nebraska north wind on my face. See the observation tower that we spent many hours in patterning birds. The sounds of quacks and cadences coming from my dad’s hen call still feel my dreams.
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