Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Daddy's Girl

I would like to take a moment and back up to October 1, 2008. This was the first year my daughter was able to hunt. I hope that as a guide I never loose sight of the importance of family and friends.

The Maine sea duck season opened on October 1st with my annual father daughter hunt. As many may already know by visiting my web page this has been going on for many years now. A quick look at my galley pictures shows my daughter going along at a very young age. This was the first year she was old enough to hunt. This year was even more special because I included my best friend and his daughter who have never hunted sea ducks. We set out at the usual time about 3:30am. A short ride in the duck truck to one of my favorite launch sites was the plan of the day. My always-excited 10 year old was talking the whole way, which, to my surprise was not the norm. She almost always sleeps while we are on the road. I look back now and wonder, was she really that excited about her first hunt with a firearm. Maybe she was just trying to impress her new friend? My best friend who is not a morning person by nature was unusually coherent and alert which I attribute his uneasiness about riding ten mile on the open ocean in the black of night. Upon arrival, the seas were calm and the skies were clear, it looked to be an uneventful boat ride. At that point the color vanished and a very cautious tone made its way into my friend's voice. Nervousness had set in. It was now very real for him as he looked toward the ocean with a healthy dose of respect. I am sure at that point he was asking himself what in the world am I doing here. As parents, we never stop making sacrifices for our children and this was a big one for him. After a few minutes of preparation, we set out on a twenty minute boat ride. I took the time to see my friend's daughter had a grin that could be seen for miles even in the dark. She seemed to be enjoying every minute. My buddy on the other hand was more than uneasy, not stopping for even a second to take a breath between sentences. At about the five mile mark the fog moved in and visibility was now zero. My focus changed from a casual boat ride to watching radar and chartplotters intently. By that point my daughter was sleeping, my friend and his daughter were talking non-stop. Are you all set? Do you know where we are? Do we need to go back? The questions didn't stop and it was apparent they were both a little uneasy. At that time I was of little comfort because I was quite busy getting us to our hunting spot. As we arrived at our hunting location, the weather seemed to change in an instant. The fog lifted and the sea calmed. It was going to be a fun morning with the kids. We set the decoys and hooked the boat into position. Now, we had twenty minutes until shooting light, coffee, hot chocolate and some muffins were in order. With my buddy and his girl in the front and my daughter and I holding up the rear we got ready for some early season sea duck shooting. The first group of Eiders came across the front of the boat looking like fighter jets. Three shots later all four departed unhurt. The smile on lyssa's face told the whole story. This way cool I heard her say. The shooting at the front of the boat kept a steady pace for about thirty minutes. Sadly, she killed no birds. AT LAST!!!! A single drake Eider was working his way up the back of the boat to our decoys. It looked like my daughter was going to get her first shot at a duck. The big drake cupped up and came in. I was getting ready to back her up when she stood and fired two shots from her over/under 20ga. To my surprise, she dropped him stone dead. Over the years I have shot more sea ducks than I could possibly count but, my accomplishments don't even compare to watching my child take her first. I now know how my dad felt 35 years ago when I took my first duck. There is nothing better! The biggest satisfaction for any parent is watching your son or daughter not only take the first wild game but to handle their firearm responsibly and safely. We ended the day with only one bird. My good friend's girl who has already seen success in the field was not at all disappointed and only shared in my daughter's excitement after her first bird.

We packed up and headed back about 9:00 am. Clear skies and calm seas followed us all the way back. After taking photos and loading the boat we headed home. While riding back in the duck truck my buddy commented that I must have a screw loose to want to pursue this kind of work. Simply stated, I find no greater satisfaction than being on the ocean. Yes, it's cold and possibly dangerous but when a person has the opportunity to make a living doing what they love is there anything better. It's always fun to share the first hunt with people who have never tried sea duck hunting. I hope, as I get older, I always remember October 1, 2008 when daddy's girl took her first Eider. The satisfaction that comes from sharing my passion with family and friends is immeasurable. I look forward to many more seasons with my favorite hunting partner DADDY"S GIRL.