He said it would be fun. He said we would get in the marsh before daylight and leave early because we would have our limit. I told Julius Murray he would have his limit because I had quit hunting a long time ago. Since I had never been duck hunting I seized the opportunity to get in the swamp with my camera. I would be shooting a different way.
On a cold December morning in 1987 we tromped through the high grasses of the northern Ross Barnett Reservoir. Most of these stalks of weed were taller than me by two feet. Some were tough to push over and in some cases so thick we had to machete them down to get through. The ground became wet bog in some areas but we continued through the mire. Arriving at a small opening I saw an area that was like a small pond. Shining my flashlight revealed fallen trees. Upon our presence, I could hear, but not see, turtles scampering into the water. Clunk, clunk, clunk drew apprehensive nerves toward their departure. Was it really turtles, or something else? Little did they know I would capture them later when they thought we were gone.
The sun was not up. There was faint light from a toenail moon setting in the west. We waited in the dark of morning with a flashlight, a cup of coffee and whispered conversation. Our hands tightened around our thermos bringing a hint of warmth. Quiet broke in shards of stress when movement here-or-there tuned our heart to any strange noise around us. The thought of gators was constant, but I trusted Julius’s skills to keep us safe.
Twilight revealed a light fog encompassed our blind. The long sacred wail of a Loon said a good morning to his mate asking. “Where are you?” Moments later a higher pitched wail lets him know, “I am over here.” Evocative sounds, never be forgotten, will forever establish the tranquility of the swamp and deminish fear.
As the fog lifted we hunkered behind tall reeds and watched hundreds of duck and geese fly above and around us. Julius raised his gun and followed each bird in his gun site. When he didn’t shoot I questioned him. “We cannot fire until 6:00 o’clock, it’s the law,” he said. Hearing others fire their guns reminded me I was proud to be his friend, and of his integrity to remain silent until time. I continued to snap photos of the wonders around us, including the turtles.
Did these birds have a Timex, or what? The big hand struck twelve and they vanished. There were one or two honks from Canadian Geese in the distance, but in a gun site looked like tiny fragments of dirt blowing through the air. Being the patient man that he was, Julius waited another hour only to be disappointed. There were no birds close enough to bring home for dinner.
Julius was right. I did have fun, but he did not get his limit. I got better shots with my camera. We went home with no duck and the promise of beautiful morning photos waiting to be developed.
If you’d like to hear the sound of a loon check this out: