I still measure my time at the Peoria Journal Star in duck seasons: 13 to be exact.
I still remember the day I interviewed for the job at the Journal Star. While driving onto the Interstate, two mallards flew out of the grassy area in the cloverleaf and passed right front of my truck. To me, it was a sign. Louisville basketball recruits are lured by strippers. Me, I got two ducks as my incentive to come to Peoria.
So yeah, duck season means a lot to me. No, I don’t get to hunt nearly as much as I would like or as I once did. Life has changed. More work. Kids. Family.
But being in the blind still feels right. So this weekend marked a welcome return to the marsh, as the Central Zone season opened.
Teal and wood ducks kept some hunters very busy. There were more geese than expected in the strip mines. And we even got a strong wind on Saturday to move the decoys. Overall, it was an encouraging start. There are ducks in the Illinois River Valley.
Despite an ongoing kitchen remodel that uncovered termite damage over the weekend, I scratched out two mornings of hunting.
Saturday I hunted with my two oldest boys and the dog we feed 12 months a year so she can retrieve ducks for a dozen days. We saw one wood duck and the oldest boy shot it. Mostly we talked, laughed and enjoyed a few hours together before basketball practice ended the hunt prematurely.
Sunday it was just me and the dog in the fog. No birds for a few hours, not that it mattered. I thought about hunts gone by. And then I thought about nothing, which was even better. Some people do yoga or meditate to get into a trance. For me, just standing there in the blind and waiting was enough to clear the mind.
One goose interrupted the trance. Only briefly, as the gun did its job and so did the dog.
Later the fog cleared. The birds did not fly like crazy once it lifted. There was not a breath of wind.
Still, I went home smiling. There are 58 more days to enjoy.