First sunrise

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Moments before sunrise, the anticipation grows across the landscape. The first birds brave enough to sing their song pierce the silence as a golden hue takes over the east. One group of wood ducks gets up off the water to find breakfast while a noisy hen mallard quacks to wake up her lazy drake. Wings and ducks whistle while a great blue heron perches softly in the shallows. The two boys with me are in awe at the spectacle while I am jealous that they get to see this for the first time.

Looking at the weather report early in the week, I decide the time is right to bring the boys to the swamp. To the joy of my son, I tell him his cousin is spending the night to go hunting in the morning. Usually he spends a duck hunt guarding his snacks from his little sister, but finally his best friend is coming along. Putting the boys down for bed, we say our prayers and go over our game plan for the morning.

My nephew is a few years older than my son and has been interested in hunting. His parents, while not hunters (yet), have instilled a desire for the outdoors and an adventurous spirit. With a hesitant curiosity he has observed his uncles and picked up knowledge on his own. Bringing home books from the library about duck and deer hunting, he has methodically taken steps to be ready for his first hunt.

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In the early morning, we drag out of bed, get some donuts and head to the swamp. As we slide the canoe off the bank, a beaver slaps his tail near us giving the boys a startle. Slowly paddling to a shallow area, we set up our decoys and wait for the sunrise show to begin.

During the hunt, the boys have many questions. “Why didn’t you shoot that duck?” “Do we have anymore donuts?” “Did you mean to miss that one?”  Most of the ducks that use this swamp have migrated south, but just as we are about to leave, a mallard flies by and, surprisingly, I don’t miss.

After the shot rang out, the boys are filled with excitement and awe as our Lab finally gets to retrieve. While packing up decoys I hear the boys inspecting the duck and talking strategy. My nephew explains that we may have called too much and had too many decoys. I laugh inside as I can tell he read the “Duck Hunting for Kids” book. And he is probably right, I did call too much.

Paddling back to the truck the boys revel in their success and look in wonder at the swamp in the daylight. They look like Lewis and Clark at the front of the canoe guiding me through an unknown swamp.

Once on dry land, the boys get out of the canoe and look back at the wetland with a smile. Contentedly I look at the boys, knowing that for the rest of their life they will remember their first sunrise together on a swamp. •

Philip Hunt, DMD, is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys spending time afield with his wife, two kids, and two dogs any chance he gets. His monthly column, Tales of the Hunts, can be found in the Tryon Daily Bulletin. He can be reached at, or follow him on Instagram at