The 2018-19 waterfowl season is upon us. Though we’ve already had an early teal and Canada goose season back in September, the full-blown duck season is poised to commence, and diehard duck hunters are chomping at the bits to get going. As in the past few years, Thanksgiving weekend will mark the beginning of the waterfowl hunting season in Mississippi.
In order to provide as many days of duck hunting as possible for state duck hunters, the the seasons for ducks, mergansers, and coots will run from Friday to Sunday, November 24-26. A second weekend season will run from December 1-3, and then the continuous duck season will run from December 6 to January 28, 2019.
As the rain keeps falling, every ditch and low spot is rapidly filling with water. When the ducks finally arrive in force, the Delta will look mighty inviting to the rafts of ducks that we will witness. The sound of ducks and geese arriving during the dark nights of November and December is one of the sweetest sounds to my ears and to those of many a duck hunter. The sights and sounds of migrating waterfowl act like magnets to the maestros with duck and goose calls.
I’ve been duck hunting since 1970, which not only means that I’ve been on many a duck hunt, but it also means that I have seen thousands of ducks on hunts and no ducks on others. For nearly 50 years, I’ve been on some of the most incredible ducks hunts imaginable. I’ve seen mallards circling a flooded soybean, rice, corn or millet field in such huge numbers that they appeared to be a swirling tornado of feet and feathers.
Nothing is quite like the sight of 5,000 mallards on an extremely cold and windy day. On such occasions it is possible to patiently take a shot, drop a duck, and then wait for the ducks to swirl back around and come again. After just a few of these memorable scenes, the limit is easily taken. I’ll never forget such hunts, nor will I forget the brothers in arms I shared them with.
As any duck hunter worth his salt also knows, when the weather is perfect, perfectly miserable that is, and the ducks are around, not only is the hunt going to be memorable for the ducks taken, but also for another reason. Almost without exception, every great duck hunt is going to include some sort of mishap. From stepping in a stump hole and doing a face plant in icy water, to tearing the front axle out from under the ATV after hitting a stump, to having a shotgun freeze from the icy spray that the wind is stirring up, the best duck hunts almost always involve some uncomfortable, costly experience.
Successful duck hunts are those that have lingering effects. No, I’m not talking about frost bite and hypothermia! When a duck hunt is successful, and a limit of ducks is taken, the fried duck, grilled duck, duck soup and duck gumbo spells and smells success. I have a hard time figuring out if I like Drew Burton fried mallard bites dipped in his homemade Hollandaise sauce or Anthony Wade’s teal gumbo. I can hurt myself on either and hope to do so before too long.
In the end, however, the greatest, most successful and most memorable duck hunts are those I’ve shared with special friends through the past 48 years of duck hunting. Duck hunters who have endured the miserable hunting conditions together are similar in some ways to soldiers who have faced a common foe in battle. The experiences and the memories bind us together in what is the best duck soup ever cooked up, and the stories only get better and better with the telling.