Two days at Realtree's duck lease provided unforgettable scenes and memories to spare
I'd been warned about the mud. Still, as I hopped on the back of a four-wheeler, felt those big tires churn into the greasy road, and watched my soil-splattered rental car disappear into the night, I thought I might have underestimated the situation.
But with duck camp ahead, I figured I'd worry later about the trip home. For now, it was time to enjoy whistling wings and Louisiana's finest hospitality.
The Long Haul
I'd joined several Realtree staffers and pro-staffers at the company's waterfowl lease near Bonita, Louisiana, to create content and promote MAX-7, Realtree's latest waterfowl pattern. The guest list read like a who's who of high-profile waterfowl folks, including Justin Martin, general manager of Duck Commander; Rusty Creasey, manager of the Coca Cola Duck Club; and Dennis “Dr. Duck” Loosier, co-host of Black Cloud on Realtree 365. Michael Pitts, co-host of Realtree Road Trips, was also in camp to try his hand at duck hunting, and Realtree.com's Michael Pendley and his son Potroast were on hand to provide top-notch cuisine for meals.
The first morning, I partnered with Pitts and Loosier, and we headed to a pit blind on a rice levee. The four-wheelers ground steadily away from camp, but the closer we got to the blind, the slicker and more difficult the road became. After we dropped our gear in the pit, one of the four-wheelers slid precariously close to the water, and we had to engage in some early morning calisthenics to get it out. But as shooting light dawned, everybody slipped into the pit and got ready.
Despite warm temperatures and light winds, birds filled the air — specklebellies and snow geese, mostly, but good flocks of teal, shovelers, mallards, and pintails, too. And although he hadn't chased ducks much during his career, Pitts was ready. Within the first few minutes, he bagged a teal, a shoveler, and his first greenhead. Meanwhile, Loosier's black Lab, Axel, performed like a champ, marking every fall and taking hand signals without fail.
The wind switched and shooting slowed a bit by midmorning, but everyone agreed it had been a great hunt. Nine ducks and three geese adorned our straps as we headed toward the lodge for a late breakfast and camaraderie with the other groups.
The second morning dawned far cooler and windier, and Loosier steered us toward a spacious elevated blind in an open timber hole. Several hunters would sit in the blind, and a few others would hide near trees surrounding the hole.
As with the first morning, activity at daylight was crazy. Geese seemed to fill every corner of the sky, and several groups of teal darted in and out of the spread just before shooting light. Finally, when we were legal, more teal slipped in, and the guns roared. A pair of mallards cupped overhead, and Pitts scored his second greenhead of the trip. A spoonie darted in from behind us and somehow escaped a nine-shot volley, zipping through the woods unharmed as we chuckled at our awful shooting.
Duck action slowed a bit as the sun rose higher, but Loosier had one more trick up his sleeve. When a flock of specks passed low over the hole, he picked out a bird and downed it. And as Axel pushed through water to make the retrieve, everyone noticed the goose was different. It wore a band. In fact, the band was thin and extremely worn, indicating the speck was an old bird that had made many migrations. The trophy was the icing on the cake to another great morning, and everyone wore big smiles as we picked up and headed back to camp.
The Road Home
Finally, it was time to leave Louisiana and begin the long trek north. Surprisingly, the rental car handled the mud well enough to reach solid gravel roads, and I hoped the agency wouldn't notice how dirty the vehicle's body was. Those thoughts didn't last long, though. Daydreaming while driving to the airport, I drifted back on two memorable days with MAX-7, abundant waterfowl, and some great duck hunters. I'd arrive home to full-blown winter, yet scenes from Louisiana would make the gray, snowy days to come far more bearable.
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