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Opening Day

Jacob Umstead and Hunter Redfield at Geneva Swamp on the first day of duck season (By Jenna Seigworth/Student contributor)

By HUNTER REDFIELD – Student Contributor

My alarm sounded at 2:30 a.m. and I get up as fast as possible knowing if I laid there any longer I would fall back asleep.

I turned on the lights and listened to Jacob moan and groan before checking my phone to make sure Jenna was awake.

Then the process began of making coffee and getting all the last minute necessities gathered up before getting into the truck.

We pull into Jenna’s and she walks around the garage as I smile at her, wondering how we talked her into this. We load her things in what seems like an already full truck and take to the road, as I watch a Penske box truck swerve back and forth all over the road before we make a turn.

For the rest of the ride I direct my mom to where all the turns are until we make it to the spot we want to hunt. I say goodbye to her and watch her pull out and drive away as we unload the truck of everything we stuffed in it the night before.

Excitement was starting to set in as we talked to another guy launching in the same place we were, and finally everything was rounded up and in the canoe ready to go.

We slip it down the bank, into the water and we take off. We weave our way down the channel while trying to avoid as many weeds as possible and end up at the first obstacle. A giant white oak that had fallen into the channel, blocking it off.

We pull over to the bank and exit one by one and begin dragging the canoe over the log and, eventually, back into the water. We go about trying to dodge as many weeds as possible, yet again, till we make it to an old beaver dam where we all exit the canoe, drag it over the logs, and then hop back in it.

Finally, our spot is within ten yards. We pull in and unload the guns and other gear before we put the decoys out. Once finished putting the decoys out, it’s a waiting game, just watching the clock and waiting for shooting time to come.

Through the darkness, headlamps can be seen all through the swamp and a few of them near us as we watch them split up and head two different directions.

From then on, we watched as everyone settled into their spots while the buzzing sound of mosquitos wings seem to be the only thing heard.

Rain begins to drop from the sky and suddenly everyone is wearing rain gear, but the mosquitoes still did not seem to be affected as they took cover in our hoods, buzzing all around.

Shooting time nears and a barrage of shots goes off, then another, and duck season has finally kicked off. The first birds of the day were a mile high and seemed to be going anywhere but where we were, as did every low flying group of wood ducks and the occasional teal.

Sandhill cranes made their way around the swamp multiple times, filling the air with the rattling bugle sound they are known for, whenever it wasn’t already fulfilled with the sound of shotguns cracking the air.

Finally, a couple wood ducks make it within reach of our shotguns and, after two shots, we watch them fly away. Flock after flock of ducks circles the area then locks and drops into a hole behind us and shotguns blast as birds fall over and over again.

Pellets occasionally rain down around us and, for some reason, ducks would fly to our right and straight ahead of us but out of shooting distance. We are left waiting till some do and once again strike out on shooting.

Rain plummets from the sky, everything is soaked, and in between trying to watch birds, we talk about how numb and wet our hands are, but over and over again are interrupted by birds just out of distance who would make a circle and then get shot by the guy behind us.

Suddenly, four wood ducks are flying low right at us, dipping and diving through the trees. We shoot, but before I can get a third shell cycled in, my gun is jammed by one of the spent shells.

So, I go to the canoe and try to take it apart but due to my numb fingers and how slick the water made it, I am unable to undo the cap that would free the barrel. After a while of watching for ducks and calling, I regain enough heat to partially feel my hands and spin it off. However, it was of no use due to the fact that the shell seemed to be jammed in the barrel.

So there I was, in the middle of the swamp in the pouring down rain, holding my shotgun barrel with no means of shooting ducks. I watch and call to birds who didn’t seem to have any interest in us but continued to go to the guys behind us.

In between watching for birds, I joke with Jenna, hoping to pass the time quicker.

Guns bark 360 degrees around us then silence follows until the next flock buzzes around getting shot at over and over.

A wood duck flies straight over top and I watch the steel Jacob launches at it go just behind the bird and I start yelling “lead it! lead it! lead it!” like Jeff Coats, a very well known sea duck guide, does when his clients are missing birds.

With that bird came another long wait, until finally another bird broke over top, but I was not watching but rather facing the ground and feeling the repercussion of the sound of his shotgun seeming to smash the ground and bounce right back up into my face.

It was nearing 10:30 a.m. and we were well past ready to be done. We pick up our decoys, and pull the canoe back over the beaver dam and make our way back down the channel, stopping for about 10 minutes where Jacob thought a good spot would be before pulling the canoe back over the log.

Jacob crawls in and Jenna begins to follow but takes a missed step and falls backwards, being saved only by a grass mat as her head hangs over the water. As she begins to sink, I reach out and grab her hand, pulling her up and making sure she gets into the canoe without falling a second time.

We go as fast as we can down the channel and make it to where we put in. We get out and proceed to load the canoe into the truck, wanting nothing more than the heat that comes with it.

We talk to guys in the parking lot who were more than eager to tell us of good duck spots, knowing we will enjoy them as much as they seemed to. After saying our goodbyes, we loaded into the truck and made it to a restaurant, which had a parking lot full of trucks with canoes and kayaks in the back.

We get the last open booth as chatter of the mornings hunts filled the restaurant. We order our food, drink coffee and talk about nothing more than how bad our morning was before eating and waiting forever for the bill before once again hitting the road for home.

 

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

Jenna Seigworth is a student at Cranberry High School and a member of Cranberry Chronicles, the school’s journalism/publications class.

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