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Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

The Spaces In-between the Hunting Inspire First-timer

African American teenager looking to the right with shotgun pointed upward, water and trees in backgroundPhotos by Tyrelle John Haney

There’s something sacred about being among the trees that touches you to your roots. A few weeks ago, as I lay on the forest floor in a cozy three-person tent, I could feel my roots livening again. I was camping at Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge. My internship with FWS’s Houston Urban Program afforded me the opportunity to duck hunt here with the Four W’s Outdoors, a nonprofit partner that introduces the outdoors to underserved communities.

We were to be up at 4:30 a.m., so I settled into my tent early. No phone, no light, no distraction whatsoever. Just presence. I lay flat on my back and listened. I heard the howls of coyotes harmonizing with the night winds. I heard a bird chirp, then a thud, the hoot of an owl, and the weight of its triumph flapping away. I heard the myriad croaks and creeks of nightlife in the woods, and I relaxed into an unbelievably refreshing sleep.

Group photo  with water in backgroundAn FWS staffer with the 4 W's team.

I woke up very early. Still night, but quieter. I put on some layers to guard against the biting cold. Stepping outside of my tent, I sat and marveled at the brilliance of the night sky. The stars seemed low enough to gather in my hands, like a swarm of fireflies, and they burned with much life.

We went to hunt ducks, but that isn’t the story of my experience.

It was the spaces in-between.

Hunters wading through marshy waters, trees in background and sun shining from left of screenThe waiting, the angst, the pure witness of the integrity of the refuge – it’s like it’s been alive forever, with distinct and enduring character. It was the moment our group expressed their hopes and fears. It was filming the team lay a spread of duck decoys that froze in picturesque form. It was witnessing the sun lift the dew off the waters we stood in. In the end, it was less about harvesting ducks and more about reconnecting with the sacred roots of life.

By Tyrelle John Haney, Houston Urban Intern

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