The wind gusted against the windows and woke me from an already fitful sleep. 1:56am glowed red from the alarm clock. "Another hour and a half," I thought to myself. As I settle back underneath the comforter to try and salvage some additional sleep, the inevitable sets in. Visions of the trip-to-come spring to my mind and, try as I may, they only intensify as I lay tossing and turning, growing more anxious about the prospects of what this morning will bring.
I could tell it would be a "ducky" day. A cold front had blown in the day prior and it had drizzled rain off and on for the past 24 hours. The wind against the windows told me that the storm was starting to blow out, which meant good shooting was to come. But worry crept into my mind as I contemplated whether the storm would move east too quickly, leaving a calm morning in which the birds would rest - loafing and feeding after being battered about for the past two days.
I finally drifted back into my slumber, only to be jarred awake in what seemed like 5 minutes by a screeching used car salesman on the radio repeating his phone number at least 8,000 times. "That's right, the number is 444.2727, that's 444.2727; call now 444.2727." My hand couldn't hit the 'off' button soon enough. "Shut the hell up," I thought to myself. Not exactly the start to the much-anticipated duck hunt I had envisioned in my dreams.
I lay there for a moment trying to calm my pulsing heart rate. Big mistake. Suddenly my mind jolts my body and I think to myself, "Oh my gosh - I fell back asleep, what time is it?!" I look over at the clock. 3:33am. "Oh thank goodness."
I raise from the bed and immediately sit on the floor to begin pulling on all things camo. The weather is cold, one of the coldest weeks we have had this winter. I decided that thermal underwear is a safe bet for the day, even knowing there was a long walk involved in this hunt and I may end up getting overheated. It was worth the chance. I hate being cold. The Dog knows what is going on and is immediately getting worked up - huffing and puffing all about, collar jingling all the way. The Wife rustles and and I freeze, hoping that she doesn't wake completely.
As I drive to The Hunting Partner's house, I glance at the thermometer inside the truck. 23 degrees. "Wow, that's about the coldest I've ever seen it here in Northern California. I hope we can get the boat out of the dock." Fortunately, Mother Nature held out and the wind and rain have kept up through the early hours. The birds should still be on the move at sunrise. I feel that child-like excitement build as we transfer all the gear to his vehicle and head out down the highway.
We have about a one hour drive ahead of us before we get to the dock. Along the way I grunt something to The Hunting Partner about not having enough time to make coffee. Fortunate for me, he has a thermos of the morning nectar of the Gods. Life is good. We roll down the freeway in silence except for the rhythm of the windshield wipers and old Johnny Cash tunes playing on the stereo. I love Johnny Cash. Finally, as the java starts to take hold, the Hunting Partner musters the start of a conversation. "So, what do you think we'll find today," he asks. I think for a moment, take another sip of Joe and answer, "Don't know, just don't know..."
Check back to read Part II of this memorable hunt.