The definition of a challenge, according to Merriam/Webster and the online Dictionary.com is, “a call to take part in a contest or competition, especially a duel, as in, 'He accepted the challenge.'" The etymology of the word comes from several ancient sources, such as the Middle English chalengen, which means “to accuse,” or from the Latin word, calumniari, which means to accuse falsely.
However you define or imagine the definition of a challenge, I suspect that most of us who love the outdoors and spend time duck hunting during this time of the year have faced a challenge or two along the way.
With the 2017-18 waterfowl season underway, I have once again faced a challenge or two. The first was finding ducks in places where I have permission to hunt. While the recent drought lasted in the Mississippi Delta, unless there was a natural waterway, lake or a duck hole pumped full of water, there just weren't any ducks where we traditionally find them during dry conditions. Even as I read my typing, I realize that those are three challenges, not just one, but none of them rises to the level of being “The Challenge.”
For those who don’t hunt ducks, the above challenges might not seem to rise to the level of being challenges at all. Truth is, those aren’t what I would call “The Challenge.” Those are minor challenges. The contest that I’m speaking of is a doozy of a duel.
Pressing on toward “The Challenge,” I recently was invited to go duck hunting with a young friend, fresh out of high school last spring. Michael invited me to join him at a location that I was already familiar with. Years and years ago I had hunted the lake with a dear friend and fellow Christian, a member of my congregation and a deacon in our church.
Accepting the invitation to return to an old hunting ground wasn’t a challenge at all. Slopping through suction-cup mud and paddling a canoe out into the lake was a challenge for my 67-year-old body, but still not “The Challenge.”
Standing next to a cypress tree for nearly three hours on a freezing cold, windy morning was a challenge, but again, not “The Challenge.” Not a single duck came near enough to cause me to reach for my shotgun. Seeing very few ducks in the sky all morning and never firing a shot was a challenge, but you know…not “The Challenge.”
What would any challenging duck hunt be without some sort of calamity? Well, how about a serious mud hole, a jacked up four-wheel-drive pickup truck and a broken shock as a result of said serious mud hole? That was a challenge, but still not “The Challenge.”
On a second attempt at the same location, the result of hours of standing in cold water, battling the wind in the face with eyes full of tears, we fired a total of three shots. The three shots, three more than the last hunt, resulted in three ducks, one Gadwall and two Green Wing Teal. The Challenge wasn’t hitting our targets either.
By now, you are really wondering what “The Challenge” could be. Well, “The Challenge” is the contest between my love for all things duck hunting and my need for sense enough to see if I will get up and try it again! Now that’s The Challenge. It remains to be seen if I will be up to dealing with that duel, answering the call to rise to the occasion and win the contest raging within me.
Believing that “The Challenge” of duck hunting is getting up and going in the first place may be a long shot for some of you, but…whatever you do, don’t be afraid to go with the long shots. Live life to its fullest every moment and be ready!
Rev. Richard Wiman is the pastor of First
Presbyterian Church in Belzoni and an
accomplished, much-published writer.