One of my favorite things to do is to drive throughout our country and celebrate the cultural and geographic diversity. Most recent trip brought me to Southwestern Louisiana to hunt ducks and Texas panhandle to chase some quail. It turned out to be great hunting trip and even better time making friends. People are what make places fun, interesting or sometimes bad. I met, for the first time, real Cajuns and true lifelong Texans. What an honor to spend few days with them all.
The duck hunt
The atmosphere in the United States have improved a lot as far as society’s attitude towards gun owners and the great tradition of gun culture we have here. It’s here to stay and even political discourse will not change that. I have mentioned this fact before but it seems I meet gun friendly people more often these days whether shooting clays, hunting or just plinking. The trip to Louisiana was not an exception.
I welcomed my friend’s invitation to hunt at his hunt club with enthusiasm and excitement to try something new, duck hunting. Guns, birds and friends are always excellent formula for good times.
I left Florida early morning to meet my friend. We had to get on the ferry to access the island where his club is. Former plantation turned into private hunt club little over an hour’s drive west of New Orleans. The first afternoon we took a boat “tour” to see where the ducks were. If we ended up not hunting at all just the experience of Louisiana bayou would be good enough but we also saw plenty of ducks to hunt the next day. In the morning we had to roll dice to decide hunt area for each group. It has been a custom in their club for several generations to fairly divide the hunting opportunities during the season. Each spot, a blind built in very shallow water (usually only few inches deep),is only accessible via boats because the bottom is too soft to walk on. It seems like Southern Louisiana is one big state full of mud, most of the time under only few inches of water. Very unique environment.
We started the first day with very early breakfast and headed out to get our boats. The trip to the blind and setting up decoys was done in the dark. My friend, lifelong duck hunter, was great mentor to learn from as much as possible every step of the way. Decoys set, boat pulled into the blind, guns loaded now we were just waiting for the sun to come up. Perfectly clear day made the sunrise over bayou one to remember. The ducks started to move we began calling. I literally could not believe the beauty of ducks coming in circling, diving, weaving and just flying so effortlessly to look for good spot to land. We had no intention to shoot on the first few flyovers as we were both admiring the scene we found ourselves in the middle of. Blue sky, orange and yellow sunrise reflecting on the icy cold water and all different species of ducks coming in. Who would want to disturb moments like these? We eventually did, after all we’re here to hunt.
I brought the 12 ga Canvasback Gold over/under. The only hunter with break open gun on the water that day. It took few flyover or flybys to get more familiar with duck pattern if one can. Practice and patience paid off. I got the daily limit of six ducks on seven shells. What a thrill. The shotgun was by far the most true shooting gun I’ve ever used in the field. What I mean there is always little learning curve with each gun you pick up. One shoots little higher, the other little low, left or right. Not Canvasback Gold. Shells are going exactly where I pointed. It almost seemed duck hunting was easy. I could not have better first day. The temperature kept dropping so we decided to start picking up the decoys around mid-morning. Each decoy came with its own sheet of ice. Getting to the lodge was not a choice, it was a necessity at this point. Large cup of hot Louisiana coffee with chicory and some leftover brisket from the night before fixed us all up. There was more fun to be had that day.
We ended up doing little bit of upland hunting. Walking through the fields filled with couple of inches of standing water were good opportunities to shoot Snipe. We brought our 28 ga Canvasbacks and had moderate success. The challenges varied from typical upland hunt. You had to watch not to sink to deep into the mud and try to avoid confrontation with wild hogs feeding and running around in the same spot as the Snipe was feeding. We decided we had enough and went back.
I was told the older couple who came to clean all the birds are local Cajun folk with interesting and efficient way of cleaning waterfowl. They first dipped the whole duck into pot of boiling wax, then dipped it into bucket full of ice water. The process ensured the duck’s feathers became a continuous layer. The gentleman then cracked it like a walnut and the duck was free of all feathers ready to be gutted. Amazing and rare to see. Dinner was duck gumbo. I must say, the food in these parts of the south cannot be matched anywhere else in the country.
The second day was carbon copy of the first except we were short one duck each by design. We were hoping to go into the woods to hunt wood duck we spotted around the ponds the previous afternoon. We just could not get within reasonable shot. They are the most beautiful duck I’ve seen. Upon return back to Florida I found some wood ducks taking off from a pond on my undeveloped property. The duck season was over but there is always next year. The first time duck hunt was so much fun. The island was great duck habitat. The gun shot as well as anyone can expect and to make new friends there was icing on the cake.
The Texas quail hunt
The duck hunt was full of many firsts for me, unlike the quail hunt. I’ve hunted quail with same “crew” Randy Lack, Brett Browning and the guys from Wolf Creek Productions last year in New Mexico. Familiar faces and familiar birds and familiar gun. This time I brought along 28 ga Canvasback Gold, smaller brother to my 12 ga over/under. I’ve been shooting the “junior” since last summer, having lot of fun and some moderate success. Quail are the most challenging upland or any bird out there. So unpredictable.
We started the first morning and quickly realized the dogs will be working hard every covey and we’ll be walking for miles. Wide open prairie with very rough, sometimes razor sharp, under growth. It seems like the quail knew we were coming and kept moving away as our dogs started to close in. I always welcome the challenge and find few things more exciting than walking in the field alongside some great friend and their great dogs. I learned a valuable lesson about myself as an upland bird hunter. I am more successful shooting birds on the go as running dogs flush them out than over a point. Every bird I got was strictly instinctive shot. No planning, no waiting just pointing and shooting. No time to think and no time to make a mistake. I like watching the dogs pointing so much I’m not ready to shoot. The pure joy of seeing man’s best friend working and enjoying the hunt is most of the time the best part. My solution to this “problem” is to get not so good bird dog that just flushes birds without pointing because my success/failure rate is much higher that way. Three days of chasing quail takes its toll on the hunters and especially the dogs. I have much appreciation of their effort.
The Canvasback Gold line of shotguns is proving to be the right choice for the type of hunting I do. They are the best performing guns I have had the pleasure to use so far. My hunts took me from Wyoming mountains, Idaho’s fields, Louisiana bayou or to Texas prairie. Whatever the bird the Canvasback can do it. The smallest Snipe or big tough Ruff grouse, ducks over water or quail in the desert. Everyone one of us has favorite gauge so every one of us can have their favorite Canvasback Gold. Please check them out at CZ-USA.COM.