Crosswinds: Back in the Groove

The many “firsts” of the season are soon upon us

© Justin Piner

The first shot feels a little off. This early in the season the gunstock doesn’t find the pocket of your shooting shoulder quite as easily as it will in the mornings to come. It’s hard to keep your head down with the first dawn rising and the first ducks swirling in front of you for the first time in months. You’re not in short sleeves like you’ve been at the skeet range. You’re bound up in hunting layers and chest wader straps, your feet mired in mud. It all feels a bit unnatural. But that will change. You’ll get your groove back.

Soon enough, all the firsts will be behind you. First hunt of the season, first shot of the season, first miss of the season, first duck on the water. All those weeks looking forward to all of this, and here we are.

This morning is all we’ve thought about for days. It stole away our sleep last night. It will haunt our stories tomorrow. It’s all coming back to you now—the redolent funk of mud and swamp and wet gear and crushed leaves. The rhythmic hollow thump of a dog’s tail on the blind floor. Even the mosquitoes buzzing in your ear.

Then the sky glows and the trees emerge from the far side of the slough and there are wings overhead. “Shooting time,” somebody says, hushed and hurried.

And the first birds appear, and the first duck sails down, and the gun comes up, and suddenly, it’s all on.