John's Journal... Entry 227, Day 1
THE BEST HUNTING-LEASE DUCK HUNTING
Hunting America's Most-Dependable Duck
Editor's Note: My family always belonged to a hunting club. My dad bought a squirrel dog and joined a new hunting lease on the Tombigbee River, near Epes, Alabama, close to the Mississippi border, the year I turned 12. The lease included 8,000 acres of excellent deer and turkey habitat and a rich river-bottom swamp with enough squirrels to keep our squirrel dog's tongue hanging out all day. During my senior year of high school, as my dad and I hunted squirrels in a swamp, a huge flight of mallards and wood ducks flew over. Eager to take some webfoots for dinner, I whispered to my dad, "Get ready, Pop. We're fixing to bust some ducks." My dad smiled and asked, "Have you got a duck stamp?" Of course I didn't have one.
After a slight argument, we left the woods, drove to nearby Livingston, Alabama, and purchased two duck stamps at the post office. On the way back to the woods, I noticed a large group of buildings in the town of Livingston. "What are those buildings?" I asked my dad. "That's the University of West Alabama," Pop explained. I looked at my watch and noted the time. When we returned to the hunting lease, I checked my watch again. Only 15 minutes had elapsed from the time at the front of the University until I stepped out of the truck on the hunting lease. I'd made up my mind. I would attend the University of West Alabama to study something. While in college, I duck hunted at least two or three mornings a week before class and learned some productive tactics for taking hunting-club quacks. If not for my family's hunting-club lease and that flight of ducks that came in as we hunted squirrels, I might not have attended college. But, I knew if I could stay in school for four years and graduate, I'd have four years of the greatest duck, deer and turkey hunting of any young man in the country.
Just before dark on one hunt, the wood ducks came in large flocks and lit in the pothole as though someone had poured them down a stovepipe. The ducks had about 20 yards of open water surrounded by heavy brush where they could land. When the ducks hit the water, they would swim up under the brush because it gave them protection from predators above. Even though I'd reached my limit early, I stayed in this flooded-timber roost to watch the most-awesome sight I'd ever seen. Like a swarm of bees gathered around a queen, whistling woodies filled the air. Several hundred ducks in the air at one time all tried to land at the same small landing zone. At times the ducks came in so thick that I felt I could touch them with my gun barrel, while they remained in the air. When the show ended, I stealthily waded away from the pothole, my limit of wood ducks in my hunting coat and a memory that would last a lifetime.
With milder winters and fewer ducks migrating south until the end of January and February, the home-grown wood duck has become the most-dependable webfoot for watermen to hunt throughout the nation. Although wood ducks feed on a wide variety of different foods, acorns remain their mainstay. During the fall, when creeks and rivers overflow, and potholes fill up, outdoorsmen will have exiting, fun-packed action hunting wood ducks and mallards in the flooded timber. In most areas, especially if your hunting lease has some type of running water on it, Mother Nature and the beavers will provide a duck-hunting hot spot for your hunting-club members. Although most leases hunt primarily deer and turkey, you can get more value for your hunting-club dollar if you consider your lease's waterfowl potential.
TOMORROW: GEARING UP FOR FINDING THE FLOCKS
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Day 1 - Hunting America's