THE FALL BRINGS BACK MEMORIES OF DUCK HUNTING WITH MY BROTHERS WHEN I WAS A KID.
I was a tag-along but as long as I didn’t complain and I could distinguish between a blue-winged teal whistling into our blind and the silhouette of a mallard coming into our sights, I was welcome. Opening day was the highlight of September. We’d head out to our blind before dawn, slipping through the marsh as quietly as possible, making sure our paddles didn’t bang on the gunwales, whispering back and forth while we set out the decoys. One year, we had a blind on an island in the St. Lawrence River. We paddled out to the blind in the dark. The main seaway channel wasn’t far off because we could hear the horns of the freighters as they slipped through the predawn calm. I don’t remember what we shot, or if we shot anything, but I’ll never forget the trip back to shore. As we loaded the decoys back in the canoe, a wind picked up and it suddenly turned bitterly cold. We set out nonetheless. Our canoe rode the crests of the waves and then dipped into the troughs. We paddled as hard as we could to keep up with the surges, water splashing over the gunwales onto our decoys and into our faces. We made it to shore, shaking with cold and excitement. My spine tingles when I think back on how fearless we were.
I’m smiling as I write this because I’m about to tag along with my brother on another duck hunting adventure – not on the St. Lawrence Seaway this time, but in northern Manitoba. I’m still welcome because I can paddle a canoe and I know the difference between a teal and a mallard. And I won’t complain.