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(For the week of January 28, 2008)
Reminiscing About a Few Good Duck Hunts
by James L. Cummins

The duck season ended this past Sunday; it was one of my better seasons.

Several years ago, on opening day, after my friend Leigh kept me out late at the grand opening of the Broad Street Baking Company and Cafe, I traveled to one of the most beautiful "duck holes" I had ever seen. It was on the Mississippi River not too far from Charles Evers' home in Fayette. It is called Coles Creek.

We met Jeff, James, Jeffery, Steve, Ray and Brooks, all from Brookhaven, for the hunt. As luck would have it, it was pouring down rain. But the rain was welcomed. If it wasn't for it and the efforts of landowners pumping water on their own land or the results of the early water provided by the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program and the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, any available habitat prior to opening day only existed in our dreams. Nevertheless, the hunt was superb.

On another occasion, I went on a combination deer and duck hunt. At one time I had five bucks in my scope; one had at least an 18" spread, but it was too far. The next day my old friends, John and Clayton, and I hunted ducks. Another person was supposed to join us, but he had to leave and be a guest on Face the Nation – an excuse that most of my hunting partners never use! The hunt turned out great.

But my favorite hunt was deep in the heart of the Delta. In fact, if we had not even shot a duck, it would have been an experience I will always cherish. I met Fred, Ernie and Joe at 5:15 a.m. for the short ride to Fred and Ernie's own little piece of paradise. After getting to their place, we went by 4-wheelers to the pit blind. After putting out about three dozen decoys, we all got in the pit and waited for legal shooting time – another 15 minutes.

After about 5 minutes the sun began to rise and ducks blackened the sky. I had never in my life – all 42 years of it – seen so many ducks. Mallards were landing almost in the pit. It was an amazing site. A few minutes after legal shooting time (we actually forgot about it), we quickly shot our four mallards. "Let's not take our 'off ducks' and go ahead and leave so the birds can feed," whispered Fred.

We gathered the decoys and went back to camp. After about 30 minutes of reminiscing about the sight before the hunt, Fred said breakfast was ready. It was a delicious sausage and egg casserole that Fred's wife, Barbara, had prepared the night before – and my second helping was even better!

On another hunt I had two friends in from Atlanta. After taking only three ducks, watching the sky turn green due to a passing tornado and weathering a marbled-sized hail storm, we left the borrowed pit near Lake Lee. I then called my mother to see if she was OK. She asked me if I went duck hunting and I replied "absolutely not." She then informed me that only a fool would get out in that weather. I did not disagree.

Great hunting. Great friends. Great food. Great conservation. There is not much else one needs.

James L. Cummins is executive director of Wildlife Mississippi, a non-profit, conservation organization founded to conserve, restore and enhance fish, wildlife and plant resources throughout Mississippi.