2007 Louisiana Youth Waterfowl

Marsh hunting in Louisiana is an undertaking involving preparation and excitement. Especially when hunting is followed by fishing. Double that when it includes youth hunters. We left camp at 3:30 a.m. Our host, Jeff Anastasio, had awaken earlier than we'd planned, but whether it was because he was truly excited about the pending youth hunt or because he'd become hoarse shouting at the televised LSU versus Alabama game the preceding night, where LSU eventually pulled it out towards the end, we'll never be fully sure. In the 25-feet flats boat: 2 pirogues, check. Decoys, check. GPS, check. Waders, paddles, floatation devices, snacks, retriever, calls, lights, fishing rods, tackle, check and double checked. A pair of 20 gauge shotguns, check.  Little did we know what awaited us.

From the ramp it was about a 10 mile run down the Mississippi River. With a clear sky full of stars above, there was just enough moonlight to see well; only 2 big ships were passed and the water was otherwise smooth as silk. Which is to say, it was the Mississippi River and will forever command our utmost respect. Once off the channel and into the marsh our surroundings became enchanted. In the two-year absence of hurricane- and storm-related saltwater intrusion, the estuary was as beautiful as I could ever remember.  Lush stands of coontail, water celery, wigeon grass and duck potato were in great abundance.  The moment Jeff killed the outboard, we became immersed in a symphony of waterfowl and bird life sounds; gadwall grunts, teal and mottled duck quacks, pintail and wigeon whistles, the sounds of wings in flight, marsh hen cackles.  A shooting star burned briefly to the west as we climbed down into pirogues. The water beneath the deftly moving pirogues was inches, not feet deep. Fish left quiet wakes ahead of us. In the 10 minutes it took to reach our destination, the eastern sky had bloomed faint color. Our blind was perfectly simple: we pushed the larger pirogue into the tall, dense marsh grass. It was perfectly stable, allowing us to stand and work Lacy, Jeff's dog. The first 15 minutes or so seemed unusually quiet, still; unexpectedly void of flying and decoying waterfowl. But that soon changed. A green-winged teal winged towards the decoys and a load of 2-3/4" steel 7s stopped from Duncan's 20 gauge left it flat on the water. Squadrons of bluewinged teal, small flocks of gadwall, singles and pairs of wigeon followed. Forrest made an outstanding shot on a wigeon that swung over the decoys and fell 50 yards from the spread. Birds were plentiful. Not once was a shot called on birds further than 15 or 20 yards. It wasn't necessary. Big smiles lit our little secluded area in the marsh.  The pile grew. A lone canvasback drake tried the decoys but failed to commit. The only pintail seen, which was a big surprise to us all, was a drake that swung low over the decoys but continued onward to elsewhere in the vast marsh. Within an hour and ten minutes, a combination of gadwall wigeon, blue- and green-winged teal totaled 12. At 7:30 we high-fived and began our way to the boat.  It was time to wet a few lines.

Ramsey Russell GetDucks.com