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Duck hunting, baptism, and hypothermia! Survival tale

Off in the wild blue yonder is a place few ever wander. As a hunter and eco warrior, I love exploring new places. Gathering from the bounty of the wilds. This fine morning I decided to explore the marshlands via kayak. A new and exciting addition to my hunter gather ways.

Any time one mixes water and cold winter weather some inherent risks are involved. One splash or dip in the freezing water quickly turns a nice day of exploring into struggle for survival.

Well not to give away the ending, but this day I took two swims. Having dawned three forms of weather protection via waders, neoprene gloves, and winter jacket. I hoist my shot gun and kayak over my shoulder and waded off into the cool light of the sunrise. Crossing one small river I’m feeling very good not having felt a drop of the frosty water.

Slipping my kayak into the slough and easily sliding inside I start paddling into the reeds. What creatures will I discover foraging their needs? What lies around the next turn, my mind is racing as I paddle on through the calm cold water. I hear some other shotguns startle the calm morning air, my excitement grows.

There’s a meal out here mattes and this hungry hunter is going to bring home some breakfast. Letting my excitement get the better of my experience, here in the woods and wetlands is never a good combination. One wrong slip can ruin the hunt, one ill timed stroke of the ore can scare the game, but one false step can leave you mangled, swimming, or worse.

I push those fear filled thoughts to the back of my mind; as out of the next reed, movement flash’s my eye!

“Dang a Coot!” A type of duck. “Not very sporting to shoot such a tiny creature.” I mutter. Happily watching as it half flys, half runs down the slough away from me; back to safety. The water levels have been dropping and invasive grasses taking over the flats. Resting spots for the big flocks have nearly disappeared. Hunters having to work harder and harder for a smidging of wild meat.

So deeper I paddle out in the slough. Hoping that over the next bank I will see where the wild things flew. But as I launch my float into the next estuary, I am quickly confronted with tall invasive grass called Phragmites and a dry manure infested field instead of the pristine waterway “we used to.”

Makes me really wonder what’s in store for hunters in this new age of industrialization and poor wetland management. Frustrated I turn my skid around and paddle back to the previous bank, scramble out of my boat and haul it up and over to the side in which, I had just come.

The excitement of the hunt gone, I place my foot into the tiny boat and as I launch from the shore it rolls to the side spilling my neoprene covered body, head first into the freezing drink! Gasping from the shear impact of the cold water I swim as quickly as I can back to the bank; before my waders completely fill and drag me down to a frozen watery grave.

Scrambling up to dry ground, I take a moment to thank my preparedness and quick reactions! I asses my new found dilemma, I’m only mildly wet and can feel only a small trickle of water run down my right leg to the inside of my waders. Saying a quick prayer of gratitude. I pull my now swamped kayak from the drink, remove the drain plug and drain out it’s murky contents. Drying my shotgun and cycling the action gave me a bit of comfort. Better to still have a functional weapon. But “dang it” my jacket and upper half are slowly soaking through as the cold wet of winter sinks deeper inside my layers.

“Gotta keep moving,” I tell myself, “you’ll dry out!” Not wanting to admit the hypothermia threat I’m now facing.

So back into the raft I climb slower this time; I paddle away from my near encounter with the “Lady of the lake.” Stroke after stroke I feel my body starting to quiver, out of the reeds another creature flutters. A sparrow this time not even a falcon would waste his time.

So back into the raft I climb slower this time; I paddle away from my near encounter with the “Lady of the lake.” Stroke after stroke I feel my body starting to quiver, out of the reeds another creature flutters. A sparrow this time not even a falcon would waste his time.

As I round the next bend, I look down the end of my raft and there I spied the missing piece to my craft. “Where’s the drain plug? I must have left it on the bank!” How dim witted am I, in the hurried mess to keep moving I forgot an essential part of staying afloat.

Turning around I can feel my fingers starting to tighten the wet has thoroughly sunk in now.

“Alright Jer, it’s time to go” let’s get that plug and return to home. Arriving back at my bathing point I quickly find the missing link. One last time I now have to face the drink. It’s cold unforgiving surface taunting me to try again to stay afloat. The fact that my cold shaking body needs to get out of here, driving me to take the leap.

I, “oh so carefully” try to launch and once again roll the boat! Diving right back into the icy deep. This time there was no stopping the rush of water as it swamped my kayak, waders and pulled everything I owned straight to the bottom.

Luckily I caught my shotgun before it disappears from sight, but man; what a nasty fight! Cold and shaking I pull my things from the frozen water and strip down to try and recover.

Thankfully the sun is out as my bare skin reflects its light, a cool breeze steels my breath from just beyond my sight. “How could I be this dumb,” I think. As all the blood shrinks from my limbs. I stop to shiver, a tale tale sign. I’m NOT starting to recover. I know now, it’s only a matter of time. Ringing out my soaked clothes is nearly torture, but to roll them back on. “This must be what it feels like to be dead!” Good thing I’m only half a mile from my heater and truck.

“There is definitely something wrong with my head! Why am I here? Why am I not getting along with the wetlands? Why did my kayak roll like that, it’s never done this before.” Maybe this is just God telling me, “my intention; isn’t respecting his Creation.”

I climb back into the boat and it holds me up, I slowly float back to the safety of my truck. Also wondering how the “Ice Man” enjoys this torture. Back at the starting line I’m really struggling to pull my now thousand pound skid clear of the icy, mucky, pond. An hour long shower later, my hands are no longer numb. So I put on some warm clothes and get breakfast at my favorite restaurant instead.


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