Duck season for us down here in The South ended almost three months ago to the day. Spring has arrived and only a handful of bluewings remain this far south. For the Southern Waterfowler the migration is all but done for this year. For many duck and goose hunters the “Off Season” is in full swing. Not for me.
In part by chance and in part by choice I grew up with a year-round view of waterfowling. From my earliest days there was always something duck hunting related that needed to be done on the weekends. My family was fortunate to own some very prime hunting ground in my home state of Mississippi and though I did spend a good bit of the spring and summer fishing local lakes and rivers, there was a large amount of time spent working on projects that directly related to duck hunting that had to happen in the so called “off season”.
It generally started just days or weeks after the close of the regular season. Large decoy spreads left in front of the big permanent blinds had to be picked up, boats hauled back to the camp, blinds stripped of things that would not weather well until we returned in the fall.
Were it not for the fact that our swamp seemed to always fill up with ducks just after the season closed these projects might have all been completed in a day or so. But as it was we spent a lot of time just watching the ducks and dreaming of next season. With such fine company it never really seemed like work.
As spring came on dad would set aside chores for turkey hunting. I gave it a try but it would not be for several decades that I caught the turkey bug. So while dad fought mosquitos and pitted himself against the thunder chickens I would fish and wander the woods, always viewing things through the filter of a waterfowler’s eye.
I might have been casting lures between cypress knees or dropping jigs into thickets of button willows in search of fat largemouth bass or slab crappie but my time on the waters around my home were always also a survey of those places for their duck hunting potential.
Now days I have found some small corner of my father’s love for spring turkey hunting, but in all honesty I plan my hunts more for their waterfowl habitat scouting potential more than for their likelihood to end with a long beard on my shoulder.
My family lost all their land long ago and life took me far away from home for a few decades. I returned to my beloved southland some ten years ago as the game keeper for a close friend whose family owns some of the most magnificent waterfowling grounds I have ever known. I worked for them and for other private lodges for several years and the depth of my love and understanding of waterfowl habitat grew.
Life now finds me seeking my fortune in the oilfield but my heart remains in the wilds. I do not own a patch of ground myself but at any given opportunity I am helping friends and acquaintances with their own little patches of heaven on earth.
It extends my season and feeds my soul.