15 Minutes

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Ducks must have an instinctive awareness of human clocks.  It's a curious phenomenon that happens every morning I'm lucky enough to find myself in a duck blind.  Layered up against the elements, a Mossy Oak StayPuff Marshmallow Man, I clutch a 12-gauge and huddle next to my shivering canine companion.  It isn't the cold that has her quaking like a kid on Christmas morning.  

Flights of Green Winged Teal zip and zoom playfully across a pre-dawn sky.  Mallards quack and quibble back and forth. Wigeon whistle high above.  Slowly, the number of ducks on the pond grows.  Ten, twenty, fifty.  Some so close to the blind I could reach out and grab them.  They must know I'm there, tucked behind a curtain of knotweed, watching their every move with admiration and anticipation.  

Page 10 is well worn in my copy of the Oregon Game Bird Regulations manual.  It contains the table of legal shooting times for game bird seasons across the state.  I checked and double checked today's times on my drive down this morning.  It's 6:49am and I can't fire a shot until 7:04.

The anticipation of a pre-determined minute, set by biologists or bureaucrats in some stately Salem office building is a contradictory delight.  A contrast at the intersection of human-imposed regulation and the comings and goings of wild animals.  Those 15 minutes before shooting time are my favorite.  Decoys spread, calls silent.  To sit in quiet observation and complete awe at these graceful, adventurous creatures.  To be a part of their momentous migration from north to south.  It's another curious contrast that my part in the journey is so violent, so final.  But that's another thought entirely.