Monday, February 07, 2005

First article - First Light

I recently started writing short stories and articles for local publications. Most are on hunting and/or fishing, although I am slowly expanding into other subjects. I will try and post copies here as well, or link to them where possible.

Below is the first article I wrote and had published. It was first published in Northwoods Sporting Journal, a Maine hunting and fishing magazine, and then later, in Outdoors Magazine in Vermont.

First Light

You are not accustomed to going without your sight, on which you have become so dependant. Yet before first light, you must do just that. Flashlights not allowed, for fear of disturbing game and certain loss of your slowly adjusting night vision.

Once you have the decoys out, or the scent trail down on the deer trail, as the case may be, you return to your post to begin the wait. Your pulse, elevated from your exertions, slowly returns to normal. You strain to use other senses less familiar, less relied upon. Tune your ears. At first silence, then you realize that is deceptive. There is a riot of sound beginning, only sounds you are not yet conditioned to listen for.

An hour and a half before sunrise – you are amazed how dark it still is. No way is it close to shooting light. So you check your watch and wait.

Whistling wings overhead, yet unseen. A mallard? Widgeon? A darting black shape, a bat? A cobweb of young, newly bare beech silhouetted against the sky. Shapes slowly come in to focus, now in outline, soon in detail. Was that a footstep? Or a windblown twig and leaves hitting the ground? The tinkling of a gently winding stream. The twittering of wrens and bushtits and other song birds. The raucous chorus of the blue jays and the crows. The chittering of a chipmunk scampering along a tumbledown stone wall, a squirrel shrieking its intruder alert.

You are watching the world wakeup. We hunters leave the trappings of civilization behind, the warmth of the wood stove and the taste of the morning coffee, to rejoin a world with which we used to be familiar.

There are new smells too - newly fallen leaves, too new to have begun to decompose, freshly dropped acorns, the last remaining apples.

As the earth shudders free of darkness, it always seems we lose a couple of degrees suddenly. So you pull the collar tighter and zip up the jacket. And continue your vigil.

Still too dark, even though time is getting close. A doe wanders along the edge of the field, feeding slowly. A pair of teal land on the edge of the spread and paddle slowly forward, softly chuckling to their unresponsive cousins. “Confidence decoys” you think to yourself. You decide to wait till you hear other shots in the distance – your watch has never been that reliable.

Still too dark, you double check shells and safeties, shooting glasses and obstructions. Then suddenly, it’s legal shooting time and, amazingly, everything is sharp and clear, no longer shrouded in gray and haze. And you wait no more.


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