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Duck!

We drifted slowly down the alder choked stream, occassionally having to use their branches to pull ourselves along. There were trees across the stream that had pieces cut out of them with a chainsaw with just enough of an opening for a canoe to get through. The water was tannin stained and full of weed growth, the bottom a black tangle of hundreds of years worth of leaves and twigs, with sandbars here and there that we would temporarily rest upon, before digging our paddles into the muck to get moving again.

My college roommate and I had decided to try duck hunting, and neither one of us had really ever been before, and we were headed down Sunkaze stream in Old Town, Maine, which led to a giant marsh with water channels ribboned through it's length, an area we thought would be perfect for ducks. It was early November, and it had been a very cold November, and pockets of the stream that saw little daylight had a skim of ice on them. The morning was still and very cold, and as the sun began to rise mist started steaming of the water. I was in the stern, and my roommate was in the bow as we twisted and turned through the stream, trying to remember all the turns we were taking so we could make it back to the truck. The bowman announced he had to go to the bathroom and there being no solid ground around to speak of, I nosed the canoe into a large hummock that was covered with grass and a few scraggly alders. Just as he stood up there was a burst of water and noise as ducks on the other side of the hummock took to the air, it seemed as though they were everywhere.

We sat in stunned silence, mouths hanging open, neither us, nor the ducks had noticed each other until by fate, we had picked that spot to go to the bathroom. We gathered our wits, and figured with all the ducks flying around the marsh, we should be able to call one in. Paddling downstream a bit, we came to a rather wide piece of water, and we were camoflaged somewhat by tall grass on all sides. We decided this would be the place to try to call a duck, and after a few calls, we had a lone duck headed our way moving quickly. We almost had no time to react as we lifted our guns and aimed at the duck that was bearing down on us and fired.

In that next instant we were both swimming, discovering that it is in fact possible to shoot ones self right out of a canoe; bang and you're in the drink. I had my gun in one hand, the canoe and paddle in the other. My roommate had dropped his gun, and dove for it in the frigid water. We quickly swam to where we could sink in the muck and only be up to our knees, and emptied the canoe, and started back upstream, not a word past "Are you alright?" spoken after the incident. I think paddling so hard upstream and wool pants kept me from freezing to death that day on the way back to the truck, and we put the canoe on it's racks with clothes that were literally frozen solid. We got into the truck and cranked up the heat, and after our clothes went from ice to dripping water my companion looked at me and said "you know, we don't need to tell anyone back at the dorm what happened today". I laughed and agreed, wondering what that duck was telling his buddies.

Submitted by: Tim Billings, Otter Creek, ME


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