Duck and goose season opens in less than a week
WOODS, WINGS & WATER :: BINK GRIMES
The smell of a wet dog. Mallards swinging wide around a cypress. Pintails careening into a rice prairie pothole. Snow geese dancing above your spread. Way-too-early alarm clocks. Muddy trucks and chest waders. Acrobatic blue-winged teal flying just about the marsh grass.
Specklebellies yodeling in unison. Gray ducks cupping in the Cameron marsh. One cinnamon teal flying with a dozen bluewings. Canadas coming to a winter wheat field. The cacophonous banter of a goose roost. Northern blows in, tides blows out, boat high and dry.
The "wheez" of a greenhead. Canvasbacks bombarding your blocks. Fifty greenwings bunching tight over the decoys. A blue goose bucking the north wind. Water spilling over hip boots. The smell of the marsh. North winds and fresh ducks. Teal breasts over hot coals.
Afternoon naps after the hunt. Chilled ear lobes. The tales that old hunting jacket could tell. Good friends, good fellowship and good hunting. So cold you would rather pour the coffee on your hands than in the cup. Swearing you are sleeping in tomorrow, then right back up the next morning.
Cracked skin and muddy fingernails. Ducks heading to the high ground after a heavy rain. Fooling snow geese in the fog. More teal than mosquitos. Rearranging your wedding day to fall outside of duck season. A band on the left leg, a reward band on the right. Fifty pintails gliding with tails tucked. Your kid's first duck. DU banquets. Another camo hat. Leaky waders. A meandering marsh in the predawn darkness. Every sunrise. Every sunset.
We are a different breed - waterfowlers.
We punch an alarm three hours before the sun awakes, brave the cold and wet, endure sleep deprivation, eat terribly, often forget the simplest of things, stress our marriages three months a year and get more lovin' from our retriever than our wife during duck season.
I heard Jase Robertson's wife call duck season "The Ordeal" on an episode of "Duck Commander."
My wife wholeheartedly agreed.
When January gets here, she begins asking, "How many more days until it is over?"
She knew what she was getting when she married me.
I proposed to her from a Chicago phone booth in June, and we were married in October so the honeymoon wouldn't overlap in to duck season.
Our only child, Mallory, was named for my esteem of mallards.
Our home is decorated with every species of waterfowl on the Gulf Coast, even a few from other states.
Our barn has decoys and waders hanging on every wall, and, often times, during wet winters, there is mud - everywhere.
She puts up with a lot from November to January, just like all women of waterfowlers.
We don't talk as often during the winter - it's hard to talk to sleep-walking zombies.
Deep down, most women realize waterfowlers are sick and cannot be cured. It is a gene inserted by our fathers and grandfathers - part of our DNA, really.
We mope nine months out of the year, allowing speckled trout and redfish to pacify us until the next fall flight arrives. Then the first cool front perks our ears like a young Labrador and the "ordeal" begins.
Duck and goose season opens in less than a week, running Nov. 5-27 and Dec.10-Jan. 29, and this year's campaign should be stellar if you have access to water.
It is a continuous cycle, this life as a waterfowler. One I plan to suffer until God calls me home.
Bink Grimes is a freelance writer, photographer, author and lodge proprietor (www.matagordasunriselodge.com).