Saturday, July 30, 2011

"Magellan Hunts at BEAVER DAM"

As Magellan's migration enters the home stretch, I wanted to take a few seconds and impress upon you (the reader) what was accomplished by a single decoy and a whole bunch of friends.  The ugly decoy known as Magellan started the season on a good ole Southern early season teal hunt.  The hunt is a highlight of my year as many of my good friends get together at Willow Break to socialize the night before.  Everyone chips in for the pot luck social, typically several of us embibe a bit too much in libations, we definitely eat too much and a few end up blowing duck calls ALL NIGHT LONG.  It's a good time that I make a point to not miss.  The teal weren't there in great numbers, though a few were killed, but no one cares...and, that's the beauty of hunting and the friendships I've gained over the years.

After that, Magellan headed to North Dakota with a group of friends from Georgia that go every year.  Shortly thereafter, he headed to Missouri with a set of friends that make that trip every year.  When the seasons got cranking in Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisianna, the dude hunted more days than not.  You've read up to this point about locations, camps, food and fellowship, weather, hardships and ducks kills.  But, do you know the one "theme" that has rung true this whole time that I'm not sure has been pointed out enough?  Magellan never (NOT ONCE) went on a hunt that wasn't truly important to a group of FRIENDS.

Be it a long, arduous trip to North Dakota or a simple walk from the truck to the pit at L'anguille Lounge Duck Club and everywhere and every circumstance in between, showcasing the hunts among friends has been the single most important job Magellan had last year.

While sunrises, wet dogs, camp food, cold beer and warm whiskey, calls, decoys and killing ducks may be the ties that bind, truly, friends are the glue that hold it together.

The last several hunts you'll read about are very special in many ways.  You're going to read about some very storied hunting camps such as Beaver Dam and Double Cypress and everything that goes with hunting there.  But, you're also going to read about friends that hunt together everyday and have for over a decade.  You're going to read about fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, and grownups taking out the youth.  New friends and old, sharing the one thing we have in common no matter the age or station on life - our love of the hunt and our appreciation for our friends.

DATE: 1/18
WHERE: Beaver Dam Hunt Club, "Triple Tree Blind"

WEATHER: temp mid-40's, overcast, little wind and foggy
FRIENDS: Kelly Fortner, Kevin Graves, Hutch Hutchinson and Gill Jackson
KILLS: 19 ducks (mostly gadwall with some mallards, shovelers and ring necks also)

We arrived in Tunica, MS the evening of January 17, 2011. Gil drove down from Lebanon, TN and met me at the house, from which we loaded up and headed South. Kevin came over from Arkansas and met us a little later, just in time for dinner. We followed the local’s advice and ate at the Hollywood CafĂ©, a small local restaurant that is known for inventing the fried dill pickle. I love the little places that have the local flavor and this one did not disappoint, it was great! This was an old building that showed the exterior brick on the interior walls, this always adds quite a bit of character. The food and atmosphere are unmatched and yes, I would recommend the fried dill pickles. We turned in for the evening fairly early; although I have to admit I didn’t get much sleep if any due to the anticipation of the hunts over the next two days.

When the alarm clock went off, I was wide awake just waiting for it to sound. We jumped up and went to action, getting ready for the trip of a lifetime. We met Eric (our guide) and the fourth member of our hunting party Hutch, at the famous Blue and White restaurant in Tunica, MS.

We soon left the Blue and White and headed out towards the most storied of hunting grounds, Beaver Dam Lake. We pulled up and quickly transferred gear from the truck to the boat and headed down to the ramp. On the walk down the hill you could see the sign, “Dr. Chubby’s Dock” it was a pretty magical moment, one in which it all started to sink in, we were really going to get to hunt at Beaver Dam Lake.

There was a bit of fog on this morning and it made for a magical ride across the lake to the blind. The dense air almost made you feel as if you were surrounded by the hunters of old that were in so many stories about this place.

We pulled up to the blind and placed out the decoys. First, we gently placed the mallard decoy from Wapanocca Hunting Club that was used by Nash Buckingham himself. Second, we placed the pintail from Beaver Dam Lake in the water; this decoy belonged to Dr. Chubby and was hunted over by both him and Nash Buckingham. Lastly, we placed Magellan in the water beside the other two decoys with so much hunting history and so many stories to tell. We then eased the boat away from the decoys and got into the blind. Looking out across the lake in the fog was a beautiful sight. It was thick enough to make the air seem heavy but just light enough to allow you to see the age old cypress trees and the saw grass on the far bank.

Hutch and Kevin were on the corners with Gil and I in the middle and Eric stood behind us with a watchful eye, knowing what to expect. I felt like a kid on Christmas, with such anticipation sitting there hearing the birds before we could see them and then watching the lake come to life as the sun began to rise. We soon had a gadwall drake, drift in on Hutch’s side and in quick fashion he dispatched the bird (one shot, one kill). Wow, the pressure was lifted; we had drawn blood in such a historical place. Now, I didn’t shoot that first duck, but I was certainly filled with just as much pride as ole Hutch was for sure. As the morning wore on, the fog lifted and there were plenty of birds in the sky on several occasions. I quite often, found myself thinking “we are hunting Beaver Dam Lake” and stopping to enjoy the moment. Kevin struggled with his shooting that day; however I must admit I was glad he was on the corner and not me. Mainly because it was plenty of fun making fun of him and as you know, you gotta have some fun in the duck blind! Just for the record and to clear Kevin’s good name, he made some nice shots a little later in the day; guess it took some time to shake the nerves.

All the fun wasn’t poked at Kevin, there was a matter of a bet that Gill made with an Oregon fan earlier in the year concerning the Oregon vs. Tennessee football game. Well, needless to say Tennessee lost (I love saying that, being an Alabama fan) and Gill had to wear an Oregon hat in the duck blind sometime this season. He decided that there was no better time to do so than our trip to Beaver Dam Lake. This would be an honorable way to settle the bet and the debt that was owed. So, he put on the most awful looking skull cap you have ever seen. It was black, with orange flames all the way around. Then there was the Oregon “O” with the Oregon duck bursting out of the “O.” Wow, this thing had to be the most disgraceful hat ever worn at such a storied hunting club. As much as I feared it would, the hat didn’t hurt our hunting; heck maybe the ducks even liked it a little.

We all killed a few ducks, missing plenty of shots individually and as a group and made a few great shots too. The birds were killed mostly as singles; however there were a couple of doubles killed that day. The big groups just didn’t seem to want to work on this day. This afforded everyone the ability to take individual shots and kill em the way they should be killed. The rule of the lake is that all boats have to be headed to the dock by 12pm. As the time approached 12pm, we had killed a total of 19 ducks, consisting of gadwall, mallards and a ring neck. To be honest, that ole ring neck was one of the nicest working ducks of the entire day. He buzzed down the lake at mach III, and then put down the landing gear while approaching the decoy spread. He pitched and rocked back and forth just like divers do and I shouldered my shotgun and put him down at about 15 yards. Now, this was no “Bo Whoop”, but it gets the job done most of the time.

As we headed into the dock, with the fog now lifted it was as if you were seeing everything for the first time. I quickly noticed an old shack at the water’s edge of the Owens property. This was a very small wooden shack with a brick chimney, man I sure wish the walls of that place could talk and I could sit in on the conversations of old that were had in such a place.

It was all too easy to be taken back to a simpler time in the very same place, a time when men hunted in proper attire, not all this new fancy camo that we use today. As we neared the dock, you could see the remains of the massive ole cypress tree that we have all seen in so many pictures. It had been struck by lightning and given up the fight a few years back. All that is left is a very impressive stump that stands approximately 12 feet tall and 4 feet wide with the remainder of the tree on the ground and in the yard about 30 feet from the water’s edge.

Once the boat was loaded, we quickly walked up on “Dr. Chubby’s Dock” and took some pictures, you know, to have for the memories. Once that was done, we headed up the hill and got a good look at Hor’ ace and Molly’s old shack. This is a very modest old little building with what appeared to be three rooms. Again, you knew this old structure had so much history to share.

We placed all three decoys on the porch and took a picture. Man, magellan couldn’t have been in better company with two decoys that were hunted over by Nash Buckingham, sitting on Hor’ace and Molly’s porch!

We took plenty of pictures, some with the ducks on the board of fame.

Before leaving, we were able to meet the property care taker. Gil told him that he had an unusual request but one that he hoped would be understood. Gil had a picture of himself and two of his hunting buddies that had passed away in recent years. They were never able to hunt Beaver Dam Lake, although the trio had certainly talked about doing so in years past. Gil wanted to leave the picture with his friends there on the property somewhere, simply placing it behind a lose board or under a rock. Well, the old care taker said, I can do you one better and he most certainly did. He told Gil to get a picture frame for the picture and if he did, he could hang the picture on the wall in Hor’ace and Molly’s shack. Gil was blown away with such a proposal and quickly accepted and gave a very heartfelt thank you. I couldn’t have scripted it better myself, a wonderful day hunting spent with great folks in such a historical place. This is one hunting trip that will not soon be forgotten.

1 comment:

sfbl21 said...

Great story Kelly :)

Love ya