I learned what matters most on a coldJanuary morning while camouflaged in Advantage Max 4 attire and lyingmotionless among the harvested corn stalks that covered the frozenground. Glancing into the sky, I noticed nature’s paintbrushbeginning to coat the sky with shades of purple, yellow, orange and red;all of which would shortly form a miraculous display. The wind swept thebrisk air along the ground and across my chilled cheeks. Only a fewcreatures had awakened to start the day but I was not alone at thismoment. Just a few feet away were Joe and Jeremy, fellow students alsodecked out in camouflage gear. The three of us grasped shotguns to ourchests, hoping to fire at the snow geese.
Joe, whose huntingI’d heard positive comments about at school, had one of the mouthcalls strung around his neck. I noticed his deliberate action as he tooka few deep breaths and reviewed his plan. All at once, he blew into thecall and the crisp sound of a snow goose flew in front of us. A fewmoments later, Jeremy joined in the calling and soon the colorful skywas spotted with tiny black dots that I assumed were geese headed ourway.
I looked in Joe’s direction and heard his quiet voicesay, “Out front a few miles away!” This was part of thehunter’s vocabulary, words whose meanings I had just begun tounderstand. I smiled and felt my heart begin to pound as I saw thebirds. He calmly reminded me of the danger of sudden movements thatcould cause the waterfowl to steer out of our path and repeated theimportance of not taking a shot until hearing, “1, 2, 3 ...shoot!” I nodded and, surprisingly, didn’t say aword.
Within minutes, I heard my hunting colleagues comment,“Locked up,” “Coming in,” “A few speckledbellies mixed in,” “Get ready,” and “Flocksgalore in all directions out front.” I noticed how my gloves beganto grip the gunstock tighter and the cold suddenly seemed to have noeffect on my body. Many worrisome thoughts skittered through my mind:What if I miss? What if I can’t aim quickly enough? If I screw upon this hunt, I’ll never get a second chance with these guys! Ohmy gosh, they’re coming closer! My thoughts came to an end as Iheard the long-awaited command, “1, 2, 3, shoot!” Withinseconds I managed to raise my Remington 870 Wingmaster to my shoulderand aim at the nearest goose flying over our heads.
The soundof firearms and echoes from the gun barrels spread through thecountryside. The squawking of birds scattered on the ground added to thedin. Without any words or unnecessary movements, we settled back on theground as we spotted more geese approaching. I wondered what the guysthought of my shooting. Did I have their approval? Then the command toshoot came again and a few more geese fell to the ground. After anotherthree rounds, I noticed a thudding feeling in my shoulder area, causingme to wonder about the discoloration that would be there. I certainlydid not allow those thoughts to take over my hunt which was turning outto be a successful and enjoyable one ... at least on my part!
Wecontinued until the birds stopped landing in our field and thenquietly began picking up the snow geese and speckled bellied geese. Theicy field was beginning to melt, making maneuvering a challenge. Then wewent back to Joe’s truck where we were all ready to feel theheater. Our faces were beet red, our noses iced beyond feeling, and ourmouths finding it hard to spew any words. However, Joe and Jeremy didmanage to form astonishing sentences of approval, excitement, surpriseand accomplishment. Their remarks floored me and erased any questionsthat had marched through my mind. I began to feel exhilaration and asense of achievement.
Looking back on that miraculous day bringslots of joyous thoughts. When first asked to go with them, I was fearfulsince I’d known them for only a month. Nonetheless, they somehowrealized my potential to succeed at this hunting experience. This wasthe first time I had ever gone goose hunting, let alone with two olderguys whom I hadn’t considered friends.
That day made me astronger person because I understand the trust Joe and Jeremy placed inme and the distance they traveled to push me to my potential. Withoutthem, I certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed goose hunting. Ever sincethat first hunt, Joe, Jeremy and I have taken part in many huntstogether, some of which include goose, duck, turkey, dove and crow.Meeting them has allowed me to make two great friends who have gainedthe honorable title of hunting buds.
Since that January morning,I have learned that the things in life that sometimes matter most aremeeting new friends. I now know that anytime I’m offered a newopportunity, it is important to approach it with a positive attitude andremember the fabulous outcome of that January goose hunt.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.