It's Friday before the opening day of duck season. Of course, nothing but hunting has been on my mind since I got out of bed. Pack the camo and hunting gear, get the groceries for the weekend, all the necessities of a great weekend trip. After pulling the camper up to the lease and setting everything up for the later arrival of my wife and kids, my brother and I make a run to the blind to put out the decoys in an attractive array that is certain to attract the waterfowl from the heavens above!

While loading the decoys on the ATV, a veteran of the lease is coming out of the fields and says, "Those rice fields are full of ducks. Hope they hang around another week!"

To which I reply, "Another week??? I will be going after them in the morning!"

He said he wouldn't recommend that since the season didn't open for another week. I disagreed, and he said, "If you plan on hunting tomorrow, you better have a youth with you! Mark my words, we are in the east zone and it is a youth only hunt this weekend."

Puzzled, I placed the decoys out, then later that night, checked the map on the LDWF site. I saw the same generic map with a dividing line running from Alexandria south to Lafayette.

That surely is I-49 right? WRONG!!

Upon reading the fine print, I found that the dividing line runs along U.S. 167, and our lease is west of I-49 but east of Highway167, so we are in the east zone and the adults could not hunt legally.

That was a really close call, but thank God for the veterans at the camps!

While putting out the decoys, I noticed that the ATV started sputtering a few minutes after I got into the rice field. I thought it was garbage in the carburetor and it would run itself out, but it kept cutting up and, for a short time, I thought we might have to leave the ATV in the field until the next day. It was getting dark and the mosquitoes were making pin cushions out of me!

Surprisingly, as soon as I got out of the water and back on the levee, it purred like a kitten. I was puzzled because the water barely reached the floorboards, but it was a distinct problem related to the water.

We returned to the camper to enjoy the afternoon in the outdoors with my family. As the sun set, we noticed that the lights were dim in the camper. For a moment, I thought my wife was setting a candlelight mood, but that wasn't the case. Seems that the battery on the camper went dry in a couple of cells and was really struggling.

We put a jumper battery pack on the battery and presto!! Bright lights again. We enjoyed the evening, cooked some steaks, and turned in for the night.

So after getting decoys set and learning that the hunt was only a youth weekend, we refocused our efforts on making the weekend a great one for my son. Well, opening morning, I made a bad estimate on the driving time from the camp to the blind and came in about 15 minutes later than I wanted. I was having trouble with the ATV running badly, so we decided to walk in to the blind, which put us in the blind after first light. I hate missing first light!

We were very impressed with the numbers of ducks on the lease, but, unfortunately, they seemed to like a big open-water pond next to ours, and we watched ducks pour into it all morning. We watched large flocks of ducks pile into one pond in much larger flocks than I am used to seeing in the marsh.

Still an enjoyable morning for the big kids out there, just appreciating the ducks in flight and the opportunity to hunt. But it was a little less fun for the youth, who has not quite yet learned to appreciate the finer things in life!

Long story short, we ended up with only two opportunities to take a shot, and my son did knock down a nice-looking redhead drake. Kind of a unique duck that made the hunt a success.

The second night in the camper was filled with more excitement. Remember that weak battery? Well, now the jump pack was discharged and, because it had a unique type of plug, I couldn't use my extension cords to recharge it. Well, no real need for bright lights when you are camping anyway, right? Simple solution, when the sun goes down, we turn in early.

All was going well until about 10 o'clock when a shrill beep began blaring in the camper. Seems as though the CO2 detector has something to say. I silence it, check around, don't find anything on or anything unusual, and go back to sleep. Thirty minutes later, it is singing again. Now its time to do some research, and I start looking for the manual to that damn thing.

While doing so, it become more and more vocal, singing like a fat lady at the opera. Well, come to find out, this fancy little lifesaver has a feature that sets off the alarm if the 12V battery system is compromised. I was OK without the lights, but the blaring alarm was not cool. The battery declined so much that the alarm just had to tell me about it. Over and over again.

I went outside and pulled the terminals off the battery, thinking that would cut all power to the noisy device: Wrong again. So, I will not accept defeat or a sleepless night, so I found a handy dandy screwdriver and promptly removed that damn thing from the wall. Cut the wires to it, and now we shall sleep in peace.

The next day was a little more challenging. I adjusted and we got out to the blind in plenty of time, but there were fewer hunters in the fields than on Saturday, so the birds stacked up quick with fewer people shooting at them. There was no way I could persuade them away from the open-water pond full of real quacking ducks, so we didn't fire a shot Sunday.

I have high hopes for this weekend though, when there are more hunters out keeping the ducks moving. We ended the youth weekend with one duck, but still had a good time.

I predicted that this season would be a challenging one for me, and one filled with lessons. Well, friends, school is in session and I have already learned many things. I quickly learned that ducks in flocks of 20 or 30 are very difficult to call. In the marsh, I was accustomed to flocks of 6 or 8, and had some success getting them to respond.

I also noticed that the ducks looked for open water, and my pothole didn't appeal to them. Time will tell if it was the open water they liked or the safety of no one hunting that field. Next weekend I am certain that someone will be shooting at them in that field, and we will see how they respond.

I learned that my ATV has vent lines from the carburetor that dangled down near the footboards and create problems when they are submerged. I learned that U.S. 167 is the east/west divider, and carbon dioxide alarms can save your life or drive you nuts! I learned to enjoy a hunt without the companionship of my lab Mico. I am not yet ready to replace him, and will certainly miss him each time we go out, but time will heal the wounds and I will someday have another companion beside me.

I am working this weekend, but will try to get one day off to make the opener Saturday. And this time I will be legal! I hope you shoot straight and shoot often!