As I reached over to turn off the alarm, my hand felt the wet nose of Deke, my 33-year-old son’s big black Lab. The dog was sleeping between our beds at the motel in Eldorado Springs.
My son, David, and I were on a three-day waterfowl-hunting trip to Schell-Osage’s Conservation Area. This was our third and last day to hunt. We were hunting without a reservation, and that morning it was my turn to try my luck at drawing a lower number for a good blind choice.
After loading our gear and Deke into the pickup, we headed to an all-night convenience store to fill our coffee thermoses and stock up on munchies. We weren’t the only ones there that early. The store was busy with lots of crazy waterfowlers.
It took us about 20 minutes to reach Schell. Vehicles, boats and trailers packed the parking lot, and the crowded office reminded us how Saturday is usually a busy day at Schell.
“Well, Dad, I hope your luck is with you, or we may be headed home early,” David said.
“No problem,” I assured him. The first two days we were able to choose fairly good blinds—F-4 and C-6—because there were fewer parties than blinds, along with spots available in A-pool, which is a wade-and-shoot area. That Saturday, however, some parties would be going home without any blind or spot.
At 4:45 a.m. sharp, Ken Davis, the area manager, closed the party list and declared the drawing open for reservation holders. Those hunters crowded toward the two windows to draw a small cube with a position number on it from a covered wooden box. Reservation holders were guaranteed a low enough number to give them at least a blind choice. The rest of the parties, like us, had to rely on the luck of their one representative to draw a low enough number for a blind or spot choice.
I had signed the party list, filled out my daily bag limit blue card and was seated on one of the old split log benches brought up years ago from the original office. I watched, listened and enjoyed the old familiar sights and sounds.
Surveying the room, I recognized many faces from previous years. There were some father-son pairs and hunting partner groups that I’d seen year after year at Schell.
A father, son and grandfather were seated next to me. The 10-year-old boy was going to make the pick for