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Opening day at the White Trash Hunting Club

12/3/2008

I finally did something in the woods that I've never done — I went duck hunting on opening day of the season. I'm usually looking down from a deer stand somewhere until the season ends, then I might spend a day or two looking up at the sky. This year has been different; I haven't spent a single day in the deer woods and I'm not sure why. It just hasn't felt like the thing to do. Instead, I went duck hunting on opening day.

My younger brother and I walked out my back door in the 24-degree air, drove down the road less than a quarter mile, and parked the truck. From there, we walked about half a mile through frosted honeysuckle and Johnson grass, then waded off into one of the thickest flooded thickets you've ever seen. That's right, less than a mile from my back yard is some of the best early season duck hunting around central Arkansas — usually because it's the one of the few places that is flooded.

It is pretty sad that my property line is on the edge of one of the largest Wildlife Management Areas in Central Arkansas yet I rarely venture out on it. It is not really a place you want to go wading around in by yourself, though. You could go down out there and they wouldn't find you until the water went down next spring; if then.

As I trudged through this head-high honeysuckle and grass maze, I noticed that the frost was reflecting like thousands of little eyes in the blaze of my flashlight. Wow, I never noticed that before. The frost was so thick that the crystals were everywhere; not just on the top of the blades and leaves, but on the sides, too. That's some thick frost right there. Damn, I must be getting old to notice stuff like that.

We lumbered down the edge of the water in our waders and eased off into the black of the swamp. This stuff was thick; buck brush, cypress trees, cypress knees, hardwoods, and waist- to over-the-waist-deep, black water. Black water that stinks like ... nothing else stinks. Some kind of funky, musty, decayed leaves, muck, and maybe a little duck poo mixed in for added aroma thing. It's a very unique smell.

Bro and I slogged through the waist deep water. Over, under, around, and through the buck brush. We did the little dance thing where you almost go down a few times. After 75 yards of this wacky nu-nu stuff, we arrived at the edge of a small opening in the maze. Not like a hole in some primed, well kept, privately owned-type duck haven, but a spot in the buck brush that was a little thinner than the rest of the thicket. A spot where a duck might be able to actually see the water from the tops of the trees. This ain't no high falutin' duck huntin' here. This is pretty hard work for a few shots at what some consider "trash duck" hunting.

6:05 a.m. Fifteen minutes until official shooting time. All around us were ducks. Wood ducks, gadwalls, mallards, some I couldn't identify by their calls. I though one might swim up to the cypress we were leaning against those first few minutes.

The first shots of the morning came fast and furious. Not for us, but for other hunters around the brake. Within a few minutes the air was full of ducks of all species. Some of them actually decided that the little thin spot we had staked out looked pretty inviting.

Did I mention that one of the rules of the WMA is you can only carry 15 shells per person? Do you know how long it takes to blow through 15 bullets? It took Bro a little over 10 minutes. Yeah, he was just a little excited. I wasn't far behind him. After I had blown the cap on number nine, I said something about being a little more selective with our shots. Not that we didn't have ducks down on the water, but we were putting a bead on anything that flew into our little slice of thicket heaven.

The selective shooting thing lasted until the next brace of wood ducks flew through the trees into range. When Bro said he was down to the three in his gun, I reached in my pocket and handed him one of the two that I had left. By 7:30 we had collected our gadwalls and wood ducks and were back at the house sipping coffee and giggling at our little adventure like two school girls. The White Trash Duck Club was open.

Now you can take that as the White Trash Duck Club or the White Trash Duck Club, however your brain interprets the letters. The WTDC went the next morning with our 15 bullets each and came back with more gadwalls and wood ducks — and even a few shells to boot. We're also going tomorrow morning and the next and maybe the next. Standing in waist deep, stinky water waiting for a woody or a gadwall to fly down beats the hell out of sitting in an office. Any day.

As fast as we go through shells, Bro can still make it to work by 8:00 a.m. anyway.

For more info on Kevin Short or to contact Kevin, check out his Web site at www.kfshort.com.