Join Judy Outside: Solstice Edition

ArrayDecember 24, 2019 at 9:19 am

By Commissioner Judy Camuso

This year I opted to celebrate the winter solstice by watching the sun rise over the ocean off Prouts Neck in Scarborough.  The scene was incredible and no matter how many times I watch the sunrise, I am always rewarded with nature’s beauty and solace and glad I dragged myself out of bed at 3:30 am. 

Winter solstice sunrise

As I sat there, shivering, I reflected on what an amazing year this has been for me. There have been so many opportunities and experiences, new friends and reconnections, lessons learned, and challenges met; I am overwhelmed with gratitude.  Many days in the past year, in fact, most days, I am puzzled with the question “how is this my life?”  I feel so lucky and privileged to be doing whatever activity spurs the question.

Saturday I was invited to join a new friend, Christi Holmes and two other women I never met for a sea duck hunt. We all met at Cabela’s at 5, then caravanned to Pine Point in Scarborough and were on the water by 6. 

The group was comprised of four women: me, Christi, Sonja and Terry and also Terry’s boyfriend and guide, Troy Field of Traditions Guiding.  Oh, and Pearl! The beautiful, sweet, black lab who retrieved for us, so technically there were five women! 

It was cold - a mere 8 degrees when I left my house, and although I have excellent gear and an abundance of hand and toe warmers, it was cold.  We launched the boat and slowly made our way out of the harbor in the dark and motored out to our hunting spot; which I suspect I’m not supposed to divulge! 

Troy asked who wanted to go in the layout boat first and I must confess I was a little nervous looking at the low laying boat, so I quickly suggested anyone but me. Christi and Sonja got themselves positioned in the boat, which was anchored and then we set the decoys up off the layout boat. 

Now, I had no idea what a “layout” boat was prior to this adventure but it is an incredibly stable, very low to the water boat that you lay down in until the ducks are close -- then you sit up to shoot.  I’ve been in a layout blind before, but never a layout boat and the thought of being that much closer to the ocean on such a cold morning, bouncing around was not thrilling me. Once Troy got the layout boat and decoys arranged; we anchored a ways away, so we could watch but not interfere. 

It was almost legal shooting time and birds were flying to the decoys from every direction.  Christi and Sonja were awesome and quickly shot 5 ducks between them.  Three hen eiders, a drake eider and a black scoter.  Pearl was shaking with anticipation to retrieve the ducks. She sat on the stern waiting until she heard Troy give her the command “bird,” and only then would she plunge into the water and fetch the duck.

Now it was my turn.  Having watching Christi and Sonja I could see how stable the boat was and I was itching for a chance to try it.  So, Terry and I climbed in and waited.  By now the sun was up, and the temperatures were climbing a bit. Much to my surprise though; I was much warmer in the layout boat then I was in the big boat.  Of course, the ocean temperature is still close to 39 degrees while the air was still a chilly 12, so once settled in the boat you could almost fall asleep sitting in the sun. 

View of the decoy spread from the layout boat

Before too long, a duck flew into our spread (the area within the decoys) and Terry quickly shot it.  We both shouted in excitement; it was the first duck she shot on the wing. 

Now I was a bit jealous and getting antsy for my chance.  Terry and I lay in the boat and chatted, waiting for some ducks to fly our way.  We talked about life, jobs, marriages, relationships, hunting, being outside, dogs, and all the things one normally talks about while laying down in boat out in the ocean. 

Honestly, it was so beautiful and peaceful and warm; I could have stayed there all day and wouldn’t have cared if another duck came anywhere near us.  Just being out there, watching the purple sandpipers flit about on the nearby ledges and listening to the long-tailed ducks chirping at each other in the distance, chatting with this new friend, soaking in the sun, was more than enough for me.

Eventually more ducks flew by, and I missed every single one. Which, I’m not going to lie, is annoying and frustrating.  I did learn a few things though. 

1). Do not sit up in the layout boat until the ducks are actually close; otherwise you scare them off. They can see you. That’s why you are wearing all this camo knucklehead.

2). The ducks are much further away than you think they are; wait until they are close

3). Don’t get so excited that you don’t properly set up.  I can tell by the large bruise on the middle of my arm that I was NOT properly setting up my shotgun

By the end of the morning, the group had shot seven ducks, laughed and cheered, shouted words of encouragement and shared knowledge.  There is nothing else like it.  I ended up shooting nothing; I’m still cold and I will go again as soon as I can. 

When we got back to the boat launch there were two other duck hunters loading up their boat and one of them waited to see how we had done. As we got closer, I could see the hunter looking at us, curiously.  Then he shouted to Troy “hey, who are you and how the hell did you get a boatload of women?!”  It occurred to me that he seemed jealous. All these years I’ve felt like an outsider in this world, like I’m not good enough, the wrong sex, you name it; I’ve not felt particularly included and with one sentence this stranger made me feel completely welcome, wanted even.  

Once again; I thought to myself “how is this my life” and smiled at my incredibly good fortune.  Happy Solstice