It started out with a Facebook contest. The Biggest Fan Contest, “Like” and “share” a page and I was entered for a December Arkansas duck hunt with Ladies In Camo and Ole South Outfitters. That was a no brainer. The hubby (Bryan) and I have always wanted to go to the flyway to hunt mallards; I entered immediately, but was doubtful, as I don’t have the best luck with contests. You can imagine my excitement when I got the message telling me to put in for time off, I had won! “Can I bring my husband?” I asked. “Yes but he would need to pay for his hunt”, was the response. I immediately called Bryan and asked him if he wanted to come with us. Bryan’s reply was “Well, hell yeah, I’m in! ”It turned out to be great timing, as we would be there for Bryan’s birthday.
In the weeks before the hunt, my messenger was filled with information on what to bring and where we would stay. The messages back and forth between the all the ladies attending and the outfitter, built a level of excitement that drove me crazy daily! We were finally going to hunt the flyway! The morning of December 15th, we loaded up the jeep and headed out for our 8.5 hour drive to Forrest City, Ark. Six hours of our journey were spent driving through Tennessee, a dull and boring drive that was draining our anticipation. As we approached Memphis, our eyes went to the sky watching a group of mallards flying over the interstate. That was enough to get us wound up again! We entered Arkansas and were amazed by the amount of geese and ducks in the sky! We had never seen so many birds!
Bryan and I met up with Nancy Jo (Ladies In Camo) and Blake and Julie (Ole South Outfitters) at our hotel first. Ariel (LIC) and her fiancé Dan arrived soon after that and then Billinda (Nancy Jo’s friend) joined us. Any anxiety I had about meeting these folks disappeared the first 10 minutes of our introductions. Our group met for dinner, talked hunting and made our plans to meet in the morning. As Bryan and I walked back to the room, I remember telling him that “I probably won’t be able to sleep tonight, I’m so excited.” Well, I didn’t get much sleep. I received a call at 3:30 am telling me to “Check my bed”, Nancy Jo had found bedbugs! Jumping out of bed, I grabbed my flashlight and started stripping the covers back, scanning the bed for creepy crawlers. “Phew, none here, thank goodness”, I said and climbed back in bed. But by that time, I was wide awake and the thought of bedbugs had my skin crawling. I had to get up.
We met Blake at his property along with several other people, in the purest darkness I’ve ever seen. We loaded up in the boat and proceeded over a beaver dam and through a maze of canals in the swamp off the L’Anguille River. We got settled into the blind, which was more like a luxurious tree house with a full kitchen. After setting out the decoys, Blake checked our ammo, gave us some rules and got himself and the dogs settled. As the sun rose, the sky began to fill with geese and ducks. After some calling from Blake and Hunter (Blake’s son), the ducks started a decent that I will never forget. They started high and circled like a tornado over the blind, maybe four or five times, checking out the water. A knock on the rail was a warning to us that we had “interested” birds. “Be still, they’re checking us out”, Blake whispered. Blake made some calls and the mallards would quack back at him, cupping their wings to land in the water. And then it happened, “CUT EM” he exclaimed. At that point, all hell broke loose in a barrage of gun fire. And as fast as it started, the shooting had ended. The dogs jumped into the water and retrieved the ducks and we set up for the next group.
The weather was warm and the hunting was slow, but it didn’t matter to me. I was having fun. While we waited for more ducks to fly in, we picked Blake’s brain for information. He told us about “S birds” (Blackbirds), “Carp of the sky” (Geese) and why one line of the “V” was longer than the other. The answer to that question was because there are more geese on one side than the other. We laughed until our cheeks were sore at the jokes and hunting stories that were told. We ate breakfast and continued to enjoy the company of our new friends. Sporadically, the ducks would commit, giving us the opportunity to empty our shotguns. Between everyone, we ended up with an assortment of gadwalls and mallards, 8 in all. We wrapped it up around 1 pm and made plans to gather that evening for dinner with Blake, Julie and some of the other guys that were hunting. After filling our stomachs, we headed back to the hotel room for some much needed sleep. Bryan and I decided that night that we would be returning to Ole South Outfitters in 2015. We were hooked, “quack addicts” you could call us.
I arose the next morning, excited but a little depressed, knowing this would be the last hunt. I wasn’t ready for our hunt to end. Once again, we connected with our friends and headed out to the duck blind. Just like the previous day, the ducks came in to our set up. At one point, it was just Bryan, Blake and I standing at our shooting windows. One lone duck flew in and circled behind us. Of course I was looking at my phone when this duck flew in. “Put the phone down, put the phone down, would you put the phone down and shoot this bird!” Blake said. I threw my phone on the rail, pulled up my shotgun and swung around; lining up with the bird. Boom, boom and down came the mallard. Between us all, we ended up shooting 6 ducks. The morning seemed to fly by as fast as the ducks, but it was time to leave. All of us gathered around the mouth of the canal to recap the morning’s events and get pictures. With a swell of emotion building up, I hugged and thanked everyone.
I am very grateful to have been able to meet all these people. And I will definitely return to Ole South Outfitters. I have never been on a hunt where I had so much fun, laughed so hard and felt so welcome. Thank you to Ladies In Camo, especially Nancy Jo for giving me the opportunity to fulfill my dream. And thank you to everyone at Ole South Outfitters for sharing your piece of paradise with Bryan and I.