We all have a place that reminds us of our youth, one that allows for nothing but reflection and inner peace. For those who love the outdoors, it can be a deer stand, a fishing boat, a duck blind or even a corn field.
Personally, I love being on the back of a fishing boat in the middle of the Gulf Stream, or on the side of a marsh sitting in a duck blind.
I grew up thinking I belonged in the wilderness. Whether I was shooting targets in the backyard, playing in the mud or riding one of our two horses, the outdoors was in my blood. Because of this, hunting came naturally.
"I remember the first time I asked to go hunting with my father as if it were yesterday."I remember the first time I asked to go hunting with my father as if it were yesterday. It was sometime in October of 2001, and I was eight years old. My parents were about to go to bed on a Friday night when I came into their room and asked my dad if he would teach me how to hunt.
Of course he said yes, and that Saturday he re-emphasized the importance of gun safety and how life is different in the woods. He made sure to explain that you have to take certain precautions, and gave me an entire lesson on what to do and what not to do while hunting.
It was not long before I took on the family tradition of deer hunting when my father transitioned into waterfowl and upland bird hunting. I followed suit, and the wetlands became my safe haven.
When you're away from your favorite place for any extent of time, it starts to wear on you. Because I recently graduated from college, moved to a new area and started a new career, I had to put hunting and fishing on the back burner. Even though I would like to go more than once or twice a season, my love for the outdoors has kept the spark of tomboy alive in my soul. I am forever grateful for that.
It wasn't until early January that I was able to get back into the wetlands and duck hunt with my father, two brothers and boyfriend. Being new to the D.C. area, I knew this would be the perfect time to escape the chaos of the city.
"When you're away from your favorite place for any extent of time, it starts to wear on you."Getting back into the game and waking up at 4:30 a.m. wasn’t as difficult as you might think. The excitement I felt helped me jump right up and get my day going. Plus, our hunting spot, which will remain nameless, was an hour away, meaning I could nap the whole way there.
When we got to our secret plantation it was still dark, which was perfect. We were able to get to the blind and get everything set up just in time to get everything set up and position the decoys before the sun rose.
Then, we waited.
Sitting in the blind while the sun came up was as serene as it gets; gazing into God’s masterpiece as if it were painted just for us. The peace of the plantation made me thankful for the tradition of hunting.
Normally I would be freezing, but with unseasonably mild temperatures in the 60s, I was definitely in my comfort zone.
What is great about this particular spot is that we always see something. The first time my father brought me there, we just sat in his truck and watched thousands of swans fly overhead. It was remarkable.
We saw at least 500 Canada Geese flying above our heads in the first hour, and by the end of the day we must have seen 5,000. Unfortunately they were too far up to shoot, but I didn’t care. It was refreshing to be surrounded by wildlife.
After thousands of waterfowl passed far above our heads we finally had four geese fly within range.
I was so excited I didn’t know what to do with myself. Composure was nonexistent. Long breaks from a sport leave your skills rusty -- and it is safe to say I hadn't practiced with my shotgun in at least a year.
I missed my first shot. After that miss, all five of us shot, letting freedom ring. Embarrassingly enough, I screwed it up for everyone, making our only chance at a good harvest fly out of range.
We ended the day with one Canada Goose in the bag — just not one I harvested. However, they let me think it was mine.
After all, it wasn't even about harvesting the goose. It was about the quality time I got to spend with my family. Not much can beat being in the outdoors with loved ones and this peaceful day reminded me of that.
Next time, though, I’m definitely bagging a bird of my own.