The next leg of the trip was to take place about 2 hours north of Stuttgart at one of my closest friends, Justin Williams, camp. Justin set this hunt up for a group of our buddies as a way for everyone to get away and relax for a few days and hopefully shoot some ducks. Joining us were Mouse, Sherwood, and Edward, all of which have been friends for as long as I can remember. While life has taken us all in separate directions, our one common bond is duck hunting.
Duck reports were still depressing, but we knew without a doubt that a good time would be had.
The private spots on the camp were beautiful. Flooded rice fields along the Cache River. The weather was cooperating and everything was aligning for a nice few days of hunting. An absolute perfect setting, minus one thing…..ducks. The good thing about hunting with friends that you only see a few times a year, plenty of conversation and bantering going on. It can make a “slow” hunt fly by.
The first morning hunt ended unsuccessfully and the scouting began. Edward had just gotten a new, “used” boat with a direct drive motor on it. Not a bad thing unless your scouting in a field of cypress knees. No neutral and no reverse proved to be difficult to say the least. I managed to high center his boat, wedge it from every direction with a cypress knee, and we might still be there if not for having Sherwood’s boat to free us. Oh the joys of waterfowing.
We found a nice hole on the public area that we decided to hunt that next day. Ed and Sherwood ran the hole early. Turned out that there were no other hunting parties in the area that day. We had two groups of mallards give us a serious look, but didn’t finish. Other than that, blue, empty sky all morning. The most excitement happened as we were picking up decoys, Justin decided to go swimming. If you’ve hunted long enough, you’ve been there.
While we didn’t see a ton of ducks that morning, we liked the hole and there was a bit of a front coming in that afternoon. We decided to try it again the next morning. This is where things get interesting….
Since we were the only ones in the area that day before, we made the unwise decision to sleep in just a little thinking we would get that same spot the next morning. When we got to the boat ramp there were 2 trucks already there, uh oh. I use the term “boat ramp” loosely. It’s more of an incline on the side of a highway with no where to park except along a very busy two lane road . Nevertheless; we put the boat in, parked the trucks as far off the road (roughly 3-4 feet) as possible and set out for our destination.
As we got closer to the spot we received the flashing spotlight treatment. They had beat us there. Backup plan was to convene back to a private blind on the river. As we pulled up to the blind, cut the motor, and started discussing our plan we heard the unmistakable sound of metal colliding with metal. There was no doubt in our minds, someone had just hit one of the trucks at the “boat ramp”. We had a bad feeling, since we were parked at the end of the line of trucks and trailers, that whatever had just happened surely involved one of our trucks. We immediately struck out to check the situation.
We arrived to blue lights, a dump truck, and fellow hunters truck, trailer and boat in pieces. One of the trucks that had put a boat in earlier had also been hit and was almost in the river. The dump truck had ricocheted off the parked truck and hit the other vehicle head on as he was trying to get his boat in the water.
The officer asked us to go inform the group, that had beat us to the hole earlier, that their truck had been hit and to please come to the ramp. As we approached the group for the second time now in the dark, we cut the engine and asked what kind of truck they drove. Sure enough, it was the one that had been hit and was almost in the water. We told them about the accident, and at the time, I don’t think they believed us. Regardless, one of them eventually headed out, leaving his other buddies to hunt. We later saw the boat return and they were able to finish out the morning. We headed back to the river blind, thankful that no one who was involved was injured and grateful it wasn’t our trucks.
The afternoon was spent scouting and turning calls in the mobile shop. After steaks and over drinks, we formulated a plan for the last morning.
Our last morning proved to no more successful than any of the others. However, no one fell in and there were no head on collisions to deal with.
As hunters, our common objective is to see, call, and shoot ducks, but it’s not necessarily the most important part sometimes. As a duck hunter, if it’s your only goal, you probably won’t do it for very long. It can’t be just about the numbers. You have to find other things to appreciate on each and every trip. For me this trip was about retelling old stories, laughing until my gut hurt, and appreciating time with my buddies who I only see a few times a year. Did we kill ducks? Yea, a few, but I wont ever be able to recount any of those numbers. I’ll always remember everything else that made that trip so memorable.
If you hunt the Mississippi flyway, it’s probably been a tough year for you due to weather, water, and every other variable that couldn’t be worse. On a year like this, step back and remember what’s actually important. I like to shoot as much as the next, but remember, they call it hunting, not killing, for a reason.
Edward and I pulled out Thursday afternoon and headed to our next adventure about and hour south…….