By Aubrey Haynes | October 27, 2022
The season had ended and there was one weekend left for fun - youth weekend. When the call came in from my best friend, Madison, to get my gear together for a field hunt and weekend at the duck camp I probably kenneled up quicker than the dog!
I lived for weekends at the duck camp. Mud riding, back roading, circling around a fire at night, meeting new people, and getting up early to hunt birds each morning makes for the best weekend. Youth hunt was no different. We got up early and were off to whatever field the adults had planned for us. There wasn’t a blind big enough for our group so down we went, crawling into a ditch that was just deep enough for us to crouch and hide as the geese flew over yet shallow enough for us to stand and shoot.
The temperature of the day, how many birds were flying over, the person to my right and left… I wish I could tell you I remember those things. Most of those details are lost in time. What I can recall, though, is standing in that ditch, holding my big brother’s shot gun, and picking out my goose. It was just me and my chosen goose in that moment. Someone called “shoot ‘em”! My legs popped me upright, the shotgun’s barrel swung to stay with the goose, and my finger slapped the trigger. As the shot fired, everything felt like a slow-motion video. His wings gave out, his flight path stopped, and the goose began to descend. Watching, proudly, I realized I didn’t have time to pick out a second goose. The slow-motion video sped to a 3x fast forward. My goose was falling directly to me! Standing in that ditch, with sloping ground keeping me from moving backwards and shooting hunters on either side of me keeping me from diving out of the way, I was a sitting duck. My body turned and my arm and shoulder braced, preparing for the goose’s not so graceful landing. THUMP. I felt the force radiate all the way to my toes.
Picking him up from the ground, I laughed. Being 15 years old with very few cares in the world, the entire situation was comical. The adults were a bit more concerned, educating me that the same thing had happened to a friend of theirs which ruptured his spleen. Thankfully, a bruised arm and trophy of a goose was all I had to show for the day. A trophy that now hangs in a guest bedroom, recalling this memory each time I walk by.
Looking back, I understand more of what the adults signed up for when taking on a group of youth who raised hell, made messes, and thought they were pool sharks playing on the table in the camp living room. I hope they know that the memories built made their work worth it.