As I sat in the darkness of the blind praying for daylight, the chorus of waterfowl wings beat the air all around me. “Is it shooting time yet?” I asked Drew Keeth, the manager of Honey Brake Lodge in Jonesville, Louisiana, who replied, “Not yet; we have 3-more minutes.”
As anxious as a youngster on Christmas morning, I could hardly wait until Keeth whispered, “Get ready, boys. We can start hunting now.”
Keeth rang out duck calls for about 5 seconds to snatch web-feet from the air and pull them into the decoys. Ducks cupped their wings to come in to light in the decoys.
“Take ‘em,” Keeth announced.
Instantly shotguns reported, and ducks fell. When the sky was clear, the black Labrador retriever hit the water with all the enthusiasm of his breeding as Keeth told us to, “Stay down. Here comes a flight of wigeons.” Then Keeth said, “Take ‘em.”
Hunters again stood up, empty shotgun shells flew from all directions, and ducks tumbled. We’d been in our blind less than 30 minutes when Keeth announced, “We’ve got our limits. Let’s go back to the lodge and eat breakfast.”
The Promised Land
I’ve hunted ducks and geese in Canada at the first of the season and watched wave after wave of waterfowl decoyed in to ground blinds set up in pea fields. However, never in my life have I ever seen as many or taken a limit of ducks as quickly as I did on opening weekend of duck season in Louisiana at Honey Brake Lodge. Why everyone knows that ducks don’t arrive in the southernmost part of the United States during 70-degree weather until late winter when lakes, ponds and rivers in the North have iced-over.
Keeth told us, “I’m sorry. I wish we’d had a better hunt, but during the early season we only have about 100,000 to 250,000 ducks on the farm. In December and January, this area usually holds about 500,000 to 1 million waterfowl.”
I couldn’t believe my ears, and I wondered why the ducks were there.
According to Keeth, “At Honey Brake Lodge, we’re between Catahoula Lake and the Mississippi River. The farm has the closest agricultural fields for ducks to feed to the Mississippi River. The Louisiana Delta was cleared in 1964, and then the ducks there came north and stopped-off at Catahoula Lake. So, regardless of weather conditions, Honey Brake has tons of ducks all year long.
“Our duck season usually begins at the first of November with temperatures of 70-80 degrees. Large numbers of pintails, mallards, gadwalls, teal and other ducks already will be at Honey Brake, when the season opens. A large number of ducks come down the Mississippi Flyway with the teal we hunt in early September. Many of those ducks don’t head back north until the spring, due to the mild weather and abundant food.
“We have plenty of blinds – 120 blinds on the farm at Honey Brake and nine blinds on Catahoula Lake — so we can rotate the hunting pressure. Then the ducks don’t pickup and leave during duck-hunting season. Honey Brake is in the lowest part of the Louisiana Delta Plantation, one of the largest farms in the United States. The owners have put Honey Brake into the Wetland Reserve Program.”
Honey Brake planted more than 1/2-million trees in 2005. Today there’s 4,000 acres of shallow water regions for the ducks, and the farm also does moist soil management specifically for wildlife and ducks in that area. The farm produces soybeans, milo, corn, wheat, rice and cotton, and those crops provide food for the ducks year round.
“Waterfowl have found a year round home at Honey Brake, since we have any kind of habitat and food that ducks prefer,” Keeth reports.
Visit Honey Brake Lodge, one of the best duck hunting spots anywhere. Go to www.honebrake.com, or call 318-775-1007 to learn more.