Opening Weekend

So many things have happened in our little family over the past few weeks. It’s hard to pick what to write about first. As you see in the title of this post, I obviously have decided to go with the opening weekend of duck season in Mississippi, but I will be sure to fill y’all in on all the other happenings too.

Back to duck hunting. Every year I eagerly await this time of year not just for shooting and eating ducks, but for the quality time outdoors and more importantly the time spent with family. Duck season and holidays have the great benefit of falling at the same time of year, so not only do I get to spend the holidays with my family, but I get the whole 60 days of duck season. Most weekends are spent at my parent’s house or duck camp where we are surrounded by good food and better people. It’s because of this that I look forward to duck season all year long.

Normally, I miss opening weekend to spend Thanksgiving with the Burke’s in New England, but this year due to travel we decided to visit for New Years instead. That means this was the first Thanksgiving and opening weekend, I spent at home since I met Andrew, 7 years ago. This might not work out again, so I savored the whole weekend getting in as much family and outdoors time as possible.

In Mississippi, duck season always opens the Friday after Thanksgiving, so after eating an incredible meal at my sister’s we loaded into the car and drove the hour to my parents. Among the chaos of four families unpacking and getting settled to stay the weekend, we bathed and put Chicken to bed and gathered our hunting clothes. At my parent’s Chicken sleeps in a pack-n-play in the walk-in closet in our bedroom (my brother’s genius idea), but even with a door and sound machine blocking her from our room, we had to pull some pretty stealthy moves getting our hunting gear together without waking her. Luckily,  she was in a pretty deep Thanksgiving coma. Once our gear was together, Andrew and I let the trytophan and pecan pie take over too.

This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I love the early morning scurry before heading to the duck blind. It was a pretty chaotic one as there were 5 adults and 3 kids all trying to get ready. Normally, situations like this stress me out, but the stumbling adults desperately waiting for the coffee to finish brewing, the toaster popping up toast every minute or so, kids not so quietly looking for socks and hats, and let’s not forget my dad telling us we’re late for the thousandth time, gets me amped up for the duck blind. It is these early morning moments that only us hunters get to share, and it is something about our family I cherish.

The scurrying continues at camp when we pull on waders, load the ranger with guns and decoys, somehow fit 9 people and a lab in the ranger, drive to the blind, unload, get the kids settled, and put out decoys all before shooting time if were lucky. All this work pays off when everyone is settled and quiet, and you get to witness the world come to life.

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We hunted every morning of the weekend. Repeated the routine for 3 days and had a great time too. We had good hunts, but probably the best part was not the shooting itself but sharing this weekend with my family, particularly my niece and nephews. They were such troopers and eagerly woke early each morning. While in the duck blind they didn’t complain or fight. My nephew wants me to take him back this weekend, and I will happily do just that.

Sharing the outdoors and our sport with the younger generation is so important. As outdoorsmen and women, we must instill the love of nature in our children. It is the only way to ensure that these wetlands will be conserved. Besides duck hunting, I took my niece deer hunting one afternoon over the weekend. These 2 hours were probably the most special 2 hours of the weekend. The time I spent with her talking in the woods is something I will always hold dear. She has grown to be a smart and insightful little girl. While waiting for the deer to appear, she asked why I was the only girl who hunted. I had always thought I’d be ready for this question when it came and although it caught me a bit by surprise, I think I did a pretty good job answering. I first began with telling her that I am not the only girl who hunts and explained that there are many women hunters including her. I didn’t want her to get the idea that there was a reason that some women didn’t hunt, so I told her that more women probably would hunt if they just had the opportunity too. I also explained to her that things are different now, lots of young girls hunt and will continue to hunt. I said to her it is our job, to show other girls how great it is. I finished by asking her to help me teach Chicken and her cousin to love the outdoors too. She was very proud to have the responsibility as the older cousin, and she left with a new found mission of their outdoor mentor. I think in the end it went alright, and I am glad I got that time with her.

I will finish with some pictures from the weekend. I hope you enjoy.

 

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My parent’s lab, Nell, looking regal on her dog stand.

 

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My nephew and Dad after Sunday’s hunt.

 

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My niece and nephews on opening day.

 

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Andrew watching the ducks come in. 

 

 

 

 

 

Here goes nothing…

is something I often mutter before starting something difficult. Whether that’s the start of a race, a big project at work, heading out to the duck blind, telling my husband I’ve signed up for another marathon or have some crazy idea to redecorate our house. Writing my first blog post feels very similar. I’ve never found it easy to put myself out there, and I can feel myself getting a stomach ache just thinking about clicking “publish.” I have always had a weak stomach that seems to be directly tied to my emotions. Since this whole blog thing is about telling the world the nitty gritty of your life, the good, the bad, and the embarrassing. I thought I’d just get it out of the way and start with an embarrassing story about my emotionally ridden stomach.

Here goes nothing…when I was a little girl about 11 years old, I would often go waterfowl hunting with my dad on the weekends. I would look forward to these mornings all week. The night before I would lay out my hunting clothes and make sure my boots were by the door. I always wanted to be ready to wake up and go so I wouldn’t be a hassle. (When you’re the only girl in the duck blind this is a common worry. In an effort to not be a bother, I would try to be extra prepared the night before.) One morning on our way to the duck blind, I had gotten myself all worked up. We arrived at the boat and were loading up to head out to the blind, and I could feel the butterflies fluttering. Not wanting to be a wimp, I decided to just suck it up. This turned out to be a very bad idea. For those of you who don’t duck hunt, trying to go to the bathroom as a girl wearing chest waiters is almost impossible. So my nerves got worse as I worried about this fact, and the extra worry resulted in my REALLY needing to go to the bathroom. There was nothing but boys and waist-high water all around. I finally got up the nerve to tell my dad that it was an emergency, and being the awesome dad he is, he told everyone he had forgotten his duck calls in the truck. Dad and I loaded back into the boat, and he drove me out of sight to an abandoned duck blind where I could go to the bathroom. Still surrounded by water, I had to lean off the deck to use the bathroom, it was awful and not to mention cold. Dad never told anyone, but when it was just us and we passed that duck blind, he would joke and ask me if I needed to use my outhouse. I’d like to say that is my only embarrassing nervous stomach story, but one is definitely enough for now, especially since we just met.

That experience might ruin the outdoors for someone but not me. The times I spent with my dad hunting are some of the most cherished moments of my life. To this day, I anxiously await the start of duck season when I get to spend mornings in the blind with my dad and family. I hope that one day I can share those experiences with my daughter, except she won’t feel like she has to prove herself because she’s a girl. She will find empowerment in her time in the outdoors and the activities she pursues, and I will be there to help her along the way. In this blog, I will share our adventures as new mom and daughter in a life lived outside.

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Dad and I after a great opening day a couple years back.