Dawn has no charm for a lot of people. But for those who are bound to nature by hunting, first light calls to us like a spell. We pop up out of bed like it was toaster, at dark o’clock, to navigate trails, woods and waters by flashlight just to be on watch at first light. Because if we lose that hour, we’ll be hunting all day to make up for the loss.
First light is when hungry, restless ducks head out to feed or stretch their wings and look for company. At first light, the turkey woods ring with gobbles, yelps and fly down cackles. First light is our last chance to see a bruiser buck as he sneaks back into his daytime security cover. The crisp, still air at first light is the best time to reach out to a distant bull moose with our call. First light is our best chance to see and take game.
Listening in pre-dawn gloom is encountering nature a whole new way. The unfamiliar calls of night creatures are haunting and eerie. Wings whistle over head in the marsh close enough to knock a hat off if one stood up. A buck paws a scrape and thrashes a bush with its antlers – close enough to hear but not see in the murky shadows of early dawn. There’s splashing in the water nearby. Is it ducks splashing down or just a merganser chasing minnows? Is it a moose or just a beaver?
The black of night is dissolving to grey. Legal shooting light is minutes away and the woods are astir all around. It’s the finest time to be hunkered down in a blind or perched in a tree stand. Anticipation grows like the orange glow bleeding up in the east. First light is magic.