Date: January 26-27, 2013
Report By: Craig
Weather Conditions: Mostly Sunny with thick fog in the mornings, Temp: All over the 70s to high 60s
Chris and I are both in our late 20’s and had never been duck hunting before. A few weeks ago Chris informed me that his good friend Billy had invited us down to South Louisiana for our first duck hunt. I was pumped! We joked about how we were going to bring a bit of Texas for these Cajuns. We looked forward to finally figuring out what the big deal about duck hunting was. Since neither of us had ever done any type of duck hunting, we never understood why duck hunting was so much more popular than dove hunting. It seems the same in theory, but we hoped we would find out what this obsession is all about.
Chris and I met up Friday and made the long drive to South Louisiana; which from Houston is about a four and a half hour drive. We had to make a stop at a sporting goods store to pick up our hunting license. Every chance we got, we let people know we were from Texas. When the lady was printing our Hunting License out, we noticed how small they were compared to our Texas Hunting License. Chris let her know “Their much bigger in Texas”, and she replied “Well everything’s bigger in Texas!” The only way Chris needed to acknowledge that is with a big nod signaling OH YES! Finally we had our hunting licenses and were back on our way to Billy’s House.
Once we arrived, Billy, Kim (Billy’s awesome wife) and Kenny were waiting for us with Chicken Nuggets and margaritas in hand, which is what I needed after a drive like that. We stayed up for a few hours talking, drinking and shooting Billy’s bow that he had rigged up for bow fishing. As 1:30 A.M. came along we debated whether we should pull an all-nighter or try to get a couple hours of sleep before we had to wake up at 4 A.M. Common sense beat out the whiskey and margaritas, so we headed for bed.
When we laid down to go to sleep, I remember shutting my eyes with the lights off, very comfortable in my bed, and in what seemed like minutes the lights were back on. Billy was in the room mumbling something, something about needing to go now but he’s also dancing with excitement. Right there I realize I need to wake up and match his excitement, so I get up dancing and mumbling and helping Billy wake up Chris and Kenny. Before you know it, we are all up excited walking outside to meet Billy’s friends Thomas and Brandon. We split up into different trucks, with boats in tow, and head for the boat ramp just down the road from Billy’s house.
The morning was pitch black and very foggy. Once we got the boat launched we start heading towards this new duck spot that Billy and Brandon scoped out a little bit ago. We were headed to a basin where the only access was through some narrow winding canals. The only reason why we were able to go to this spot is because recently Louisiana had been getting a lot of rain causing these canals to have more water in them than normal. Even though they had more water in them, the journey to this spot was a little tricky.
Now when I say canal, I mean no more than 10-15 foot wide with trees growing over it. We were navigating through this canal with fog so thick we couldn’t tell what was in front of us, or even when there was a bend in the canal. They remembered just how to get there but in certain spots the canal was full of lilies. They were so thick that logs that would normally float down the canal with no problem were all stuck inside the lilies making it real hard to get through them. The boat Chris, Kenny, Thomas and I were in didn’t have a problem getting through, but Billy’s boat that had Billy and Brandon didn’t have such luck. Once our boat made it through we had to turn around, which was real hard in these narrow canals, go back, throw Billy a rope, and pull him through these thick, log-infested lilies.
Once we got through the lilies, we continued to follow the canal until it opened up to a basin (it looked like the canal turned into a huge lake out of nowhere but it’s called a basin). We finally made it to the spot only to discover that five other groups were already in the basin and had beat us to the best spot there, so we set up in a spot that Brandon and Billy thought would be the next best area.
Kenny, Brandon, Thomas and I were in one boat throwing out the decoys while Billy and Chris were camouflaging their boat with Spanish. The whole time we were racing the sun, hoping to get done before it lit up the basin and the ducks were flying. Luckily for us, the thick fog had made it to where it stayed dark long enough for us to get everything finished.
We were finally hunting. Brandon, Thomas, and Kenny were teaching me what to do and what not to do while duck hunting. They were also calling and spotting birds that may or may not come to our decoys. Well, pretty fast, we had one wood duck coming right at Billy and Chris, and BOOM! Billy blew it out of the sky! It seemed like the morning was going to be pretty good.
We saw a ton of birds, but all of them were out of shooting range. I felt like I could take some, but never got the go ahead. I learned that even though they might be just barely in shooting range, the ducks tend to circle around and come in close, so it is good to pass up some of the further shots. Unfortunately, none of the birds circled back around.
The guys on our boat killed time by talking and getting to know each other. Since I was the only one in our boat not from Louisiana, I start asking them some questions about some of the stereotypes you hear about these Cajun folk. We talked about how much some of these logs I saw floating around us were worth and how alligator season has gone for them, and before you know it we are all giggling so much Billy has to keep whisper yelling at us from the other boat to shut it, but it was too late.
Once we all started talking and joking we couldn’t stop laughing. I wish I could remember all the funny stories we shared that morning. One thing I do remember talking about is how Cajuns just make up their own words for everything. For example, they call a Crappie a Sac-a-lait, a Coot a Pull-do, a backpack a booksack and they call their sisters their wives! I decided to make up my own Cajun words and started calling ducks Top-a-lait. All morning I kept saying, “Fishing for Sac-a-lait while hunting Top-a-lait”. I don’t think it will catch on, but I’m going to call ducks this from now on and say the name comes from South Louisiana.
This was the most fun I have ever had in a boat. I’m sure if someone was to look over at the boat we were in they would see it rocking around and chuckles coming out of it, and at some point, when the chuckles couldn’t be controlled, a huge laugh would come roaring out of the boat. Billy didn’t think it was too funny how loud we were being. He told us later that day he would look over with pure hate in his eyes, but once the morning was over he decided not to kill us.
I’ll never forget what happened as the morning came to an end. We started picking up the decoys, and as Brandon got his hands on one of them, the weight on the line that the decoy was tied to got stuck to the bottom. He was pulling on it trying to get it lose. As he pulled he looks over at me dead in my eyes and says, “It’s a tree shaker!” I lost it; it was the funniest thing to hear him with his Cajun accent saying it just like in the T.V. show! It’s funny the things you remember best.
We got back to Billy’s house, talked about the morning hunt, ate an amazing Cajun feast prepared by Brandon, watched a little Jeopardy, and got some much needed rest. Once we woke up from our naps and got ourselves together, Billy, Brandon, Kenny, Zeus (Kenny’s bird dog), Chris, and I headed out to a pond on Billy’s property for the evening hunt.
This was a cool spot because it used to be a crawfish pond that Brandon and Billy had turned into a duck heaven. Brandon, Kenny, Zeus and I sat in the Hilton of duck blinds they had built this season while Chris and Billy waded into a thick wooded area of the pond behind us to see if any Wood Top-a-lait would fly in there.
I had never really hunted with a bird dog before, but it was awesome! You could tell that Zeus lived for this kind of stuff. At home he was a wild and rambunctious lab that had so much energy, but in the blind he was calm and you could see in his eyes he was just waiting for us to shoot something.
In the beginning of the season, Billy and Brandon had torn it up at this spot, but unfortunately, this evening we didn’t see much. It was still fun to sit in the stand with Brandon, Kenny and Zeus joking around and having some great conversations.
As I look around at the beautiful Louisiana sunset over the pond it hit me; I figured out why duck hunting is so contagious. It combines the action of dove hunting with the skill of deer hunting all in one. When you dove hunt you can stand right next to your truck and doves will still fly over your head. You just don’t need any real skill to do it. Deer hunting takes scouting, blending in to your surroundings, and being careful of your sounds and movement, while you wait to make one careful shot. Duck hunting is the combination of the action you get while dove hunting, with the skills you need while deer hunting, and that’s why so many people fall in love with this sport.
After the evening hunt was over, we went back to Billy’s house where Kim had been working all day cooking us an amazing dinner of shrimp creole, chicken-fried duck, and king cake, which we devoured. Throughout the rest of the evening, more and more of their friends showed up to hang out and have a great time. Even though we only got a few hours of sleep the night before and planned on going back out in the morning, we decided to stay up till the late hours of the night talking, having a good time, and telling stories of the past college days along with stories of the day.
Like I said, we were supposed to wake up the next morning to hunt some more, but I wasn’t able to make it nor did Brandon. Chris, Kenny, and Billy all went out to try a few more ponds and had some luck, while I slept in. I did have to drive the four and a half hour drive back home, so you can’t blame me too much.
While they were out hunting, they went to multiple places looking for ducks. They saw a par of wood ducks early in the morning, but nothing else. They finally tried one last spot where they found some Coot on a pond. They were able to bag three of them and Zeus was thrilled that he got to retrieve. After that they called it a day and came back to the house to clean up their kills.
We said our goodbyes with promises that they would have to come to Texas and let us treat them to a sharking trip and that we would come back again whenever we were welcome. I can now say I am going to start becoming a Top-a-lait hunter. Hopefully next season, Chris and I will be making some trips around Texas to try our luck.
When we first came to Louisiana I thought Chris and I were going to bring a taste of Texas to them but I was wrong, they really gave us a taste of how amazing Louisiana is. These people are the nicest you will ever meet and go so far out of their way to make you feel at home. I can’t thank each and every one of them enough for the great time we had that weekend.