Half of the fun of a marsh hunt is the meandering boat ride.
Originally published on Sunday, December 2, 2012
What does a fishing and hunting lodge proprietor and guide do when duck season closes in Texas and he finally takes a little time off from the daylight for the dark business of entertaining outdoorsmen? He calls some of his dearest friends across the border and scores a room and a pit blind in the famed Cameron Parish marsh.
I have told people on several occasions that I don't go to Hackberry Rod and Gun to catch fish or kill ducks - that's a bonus - the Cajun cuisine is the lure that drags me east down I-10.
A limit of green-winged teal and gadwalls is always a good day, but the bowl of gumbo waiting back at the lodge is better. Limits of tackle-busting redfish and just as many speckled trout to boot as the sun goes down in West Cove is a pretty good way to spend an afternoon, but the shrimp cocktail, followed by pot-roasted pintail, dirty rice, sweet potatoes with pecans and bourbon-iced bread pudding is a better way to finish the day.
I know, this is not the food section; I admit I have a problem limiting proportions of great food. Nevertheless, my wife disagrees, confessing my problem lies not in dining but in ducks.
I learned to hunt ducks in the Chambers County marsh, once a famed duck haven rivaling any piece of waterfowling wetland in the country. Now, most of my winter morning are spent on the high ground of the coastal prairies in Wharton and Matagorda counties. Wing-shooting can be world-class here as well, but it just isn't the marsh. Call me crazy, but the scent of methane from an eroding marsh pond has the callings of home, much like the whiff of my mom's chicken fried steak.
Each of the three mornings I spent in Louisiana this week varied due to the clash of cold and humid air coupled with a bright fire ball of a moon. Ducks moved early, before legal shooting time really, then sat for a couple of hours before feeling the need to fly and feed around mid-morning.
The shooting wasn't fast, but it wasn't for lack of ducks. Wild game move on the moon, the tides, the weather changes, a falling barometer, things not even we humans can control. We managed to bag our limit, but it took a bit longer than previous trips. Again, weather swings, lunar phases and the last week of an already productive first split of the Louisiana duck season were the culprits.
Fast shoots are fine. We all like to boast about those "30 ducks in 30 minutes" burn-downs; and, I have had too many to remember at HR&G. However, when you are tucked in the cozy confines of a perfectly brushed pit blind, you want to savor the sunrise and the fellowship of dear friends. It's more enjoyable in this stage of my hunting prowess to decoy a trio of grey ducks then laugh and talk about how cool it was to watch them lock up on high when they hear a five-note hail call.
That scene has played out thousands of times in a duck blind, but we still get giddy as if it were the first gads we had ever fooled.
A half-hour later, still laughing about the inexplicable miss on the left side, the wind from two dozen greenwings blow our hats off as conversations quickly conclude and fingers fumble for the shotgun.
Lord willing there will be many more mornings like this.
Bink Grimes is a freelance writer, photographer, author and licensed captain (firstname.lastname@example.org).