On the Lake: These Really Are the Special Times
I I missed the early after-Thanksgiving hunt at our duck impoundments at Mattamuskeet.
The other guys were there, though, and had a big time, although ducks were few and far between. I resolved that since I had missed the camaraderie of hunting buddies on that trip, I would close out the early season and hunt the last three days alone.
My father taught me at a young age that it’s all right to enjoy your own company, and you had better get used to it because at times it’s the only company you’ll have.
So early on Wednesday morning, I loaded all my gear into the back of the Cruiser, picked out a few of my favorite Christmas CDs, kissed my bride goodbye, and with Celine Dion’s beautiful seasonal music pouring from the speakers of the CD player, I headed east.
The ride to Hyde County is an easy one, with the exception of the race around Raleigh. I’ve often wondered why people insist on driving 10 miles an hour over the speed limit, and the bulk of them have to be leading the pack. I try to stay in an outside lane and dodge the racers until I’m on N.C. 264; then I can kick back and enjoy the scenery.
On the other side of Washington, 264 branches off toward Belhaven, and there I really get in the mood. Miles of freshly plowed fields, some of them planted in winter wheat, seem to stretch to the horizon.
Then comes the bridge over the Pungo River, and the Pamlico Sound looms on the right. There you are officially in duck hunting country. You could easily change duck to bear, rabbit, deer or any game animal that might be in season. Hyde County has it all, but for us duck hunters, it is the place.
Our little house, or lodge, as we call it, is right on the Pamlico. It has all the convenience of home with enough room to suit seven tired hunters. Very rarely have we all been able to show up at the same time. But when we do, look out. Food fit for a king, wine chosen by the best wine aficionados, the best beer and whiskeys from around the world, and stories and laughter that bolster the spirit.
Duck hunters by nature are a different lot. Forever optimistic, the next duck is just over the tree line. It’s like a book a good friend gave me for Christmas one year that shows a pair of hunters on a marsh staring out over a dozen or so decoys while in the background, oblivious to them, a tornado is roaring out of the woods.
If that had been a friend I hunt with, we would have said something like, “Hey, that’s a pretty big storm on the way. Let’s give it another hour and call it quits.”
On this trip, though, I was alone and it was the Christmas month, a time for reflection. A man can do a lot of thinking when he’s by himself in a duck blind. I will admit I have never solved many of the world’s problems while duck hunting and perhaps not too many of my own; but I believe I have become a better person. Watching a full moon come up over a cypress tree-lined marsh with a pair of black ducks rocketing out of a darkening sky tends to put things in perspective.
On this, what I call my Christmas hunt, I spent three days in a blind and never fired my gun. I watched swans by the hundreds come off the sound heading to Lake Mattamuskeet. They fly in that magnificent, effortless way that makes them one of God’s great birds.
I watched Canada geese come whiffling down from so high in the sky that they looked like dots. I watched a yearling bear eat his corn lunch not 20 yards from where I was hunkered down, and I watched that wonderful Christmas full moon come up over the Pamlico.
I picked up the decoys and secured everything in the blind to be ready for the next hunt and headed back to the lodge for the last evening of this trip. The full moon was big and golden and looked as if I was driving right into it.
I turned on the CD player and Celine Dion was singing her beautiful Christmas song “These Are the Special Times.”
Thank you, Ms. Dion, I thought, but you don’t need to remind me of that.
Contact Tom Bryant at email@example.com.
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