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Beginning of the End

By HUNTER REDFIELD – Student contributor

A 4 a.m. wake up call was summoned by the sound of a barking dog on an alarm and a stoked boy.

Along with jumping out of bed and putting on clothes in record time came the moan of the Keurig and an engine starting. An hour-long car ride comes to a close with an empty coffee mug and what I hope is many ducks to come.

Stepping out of the truck, I glance at the sky, a breath becomes a hard thing to find as it is taken away by the sheer beauty of stars encompassing a swamp. Ratchet straps are undone, canoe taken off, and it is soon loaded with decoys, our duck bag and a shotgun.

Paddling down the channel in the pitch black, it hits me.

This is the beginning of the end.

We pull in, deploy the decoys, sit in the canoe, then find our place to stand as shooting hours slowly tick closer and closer. Then it happens, a firing pin hits a primer which sends spark into the powder and ignites it which sends it pushing steel out the barrel and the rest is unknown.

With that gunshot begins my last ever youth duck hunt, and soon following that one shot is a rumble of multiple more shots, all before I rung that mallard that kept flying or the teal that did the same thing.

Then came the wood duck that buzzed the decoys and didn’t make it out alive. Soon followed by another who got lucky on the first shot, but never saw the second one coming.

Many times when “Here comes one!” was said, it was followed by a blue jay making its way across the swamp and a duck that used this to its advantage and slipped by while we were distracted.

Ducks on track to fly by and give perfect shots were swayed by the next guys up, and didn’t really give me opportunities.

A couple more ducks were shot as the morning wound down and birds quit flying, then people started to move and the swamp came alive. Wood ducks were dipping and diving through the trees, a flock of thirty buzzed over our head, and a few mallards and blue wings gave us the slip when they flew by.

Then came that shadow off in the distance of cupped wings dropping into the hole below us, but just as I thought it was over, they picked back up and kept flying towards us.

It went over my dad’s head at about ten feet and once again locked wings to land with its plastic counterparts, and at an unbelievably close distance, she made a crash landing a little sooner than she would’ve liked to.

Her beak wasn’t one that would classify as normal, as a large chunk had been shot off and began to regrow. This lead to lots of questioning.

With that mallard came nothing more to shoot at, so we picked up decoys and endured a very hot paddle out of the swamp to unload all the junk we’d thrown in in the morning, just to strap the canoe back down and have that hour-long car ride back home.

Only to wish it was the beginning of the end again.

 

Columnist Hunter Redfield is a student at Cranberry High School and a member of Cranberry Chronicles, the school’s journalism/publications group.

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