TOM BRYANT: Duck Season: Lots of Work and Little Luck
"If you work hard at it and are a little lucky, maybe you'll have one good duck season out o' 10."
We were standing outside Big Tom's shed that housed his duck cleaning operation at Lake Mattamuskeet. His wife, grandma and daughter were inside making the duck feathers fly.
We always dropped our day's harvest by his place for cleaning. His folks did a great job, and at only two bucks a bird, we considered it a real deal.
"The ladies will be through with your ducks in a few minutes," he said. "I can tell y'all must have been hunting with Mr. Hester. He's the only one to have ducks this early."
And he did have the ducks. We limited out early, almost too early I thought, because once you get a limit, you have to leave the blind.
"Yep, it's not a lot of luck with Bob Hester," Big Tom said. "That man knows more about ducks than ducks know about ducks. Every time anybody comes down here to hunt in his club, they most always get a limit. It ain't a lot o' luck. It's Hester's skill. Just look at the ducks y'all got today."
That conversation took place about 10 years ago on one of my first Matamuskeet hunts at Bob Hester's Wild Wings Hunt Club. Since that time, Hester made his club private, and due to the cost, we leased our own impoundments with a little clubhouse located on nearby land.
Hester continued to be the premiere duck producer, but we still had a lot of fun learning and doing it ourselves in our own club.
The other evening while sorting through my decoys, pulling out the ones that needed weights and new cord, I thought back to that conversation with Big Tom. He was exactly right. It took a lot of work and a little luck.
We had the work part down pat. Blinds were re-bushed every season, corn was planted and flooded at the right time, flyways were studied and planned on, weather was noted and charted as to which days produced the most ducks. And then we relied on luck.
This was going to be our third year at Whistling Wings, as we called our novice club. Lady luck had been kind of scarce the first two seasons, although we did considerably better last year against odds that included a severe drought.
There was one memorable hunt that occurred when a big storm howled in from the northwest.
On a whim prior to heading to the coast, I had thrown in one old cork Bean goose decoy. Early in the season, the state decided to allocate 2,000 permits for migratory geese, and two of us lucked up with the draw.
I had seen and heard numerous Canadas working over the sound on my last trip and thought if nothing else, that lonesome goose decoy would make the duck rig look better.
Rainy and windy came 5 a.m., and as Bryan and I were sloshing out to the blind, I remembered what Big Tom had said. We were due a little luck.
As the hours passed, low clouds scudded across the sound, and rain blew intermittently from the west. We had almost limited out with teal and were getting ready to head to the barn, when suddenly Bryan exclaimed, "You hear 'em? Geese!"
Sure enough, I heard geese long before I saw them. Pulling a goose call from my gunning bag, I started blowing a few plaintive honks, and there they were.
We had placed our lone goose decoy outside the duck spread and the Canadas came to us as if on a string. There were about 20 of them, and Bryan and I took the first two from the flight.
It made for a great day, two geese and a limit of teal.
As we picked up and headed back to the clubhouse for breakfast and a nap, I thought back to our conversation with Big Tom years ago. He was right when he said that we would have one good season out of every 10.
With this day, we were off to a good start.
Yo, fellow duck hunters! Don't forget the annual Ducks Unlimited Banquet this year at Whispering Pines Country Club, Nov. 6. I'll see you there.
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