Breaking Ice and Shooting Ducks with Billy Blakely at Reelfoot Lake
Author’s Note: “I hunt every single day of duck season,” says Billy Blakely, chief guide at Blue Bank Resort on Reelfoot Lake near Tiptonville, Tennessee, located between three waterfowl refuges and only a short distance from the Mississippi River, one of the premier duck hunting regions in the U.S. “I’ll guide 80+ days per year for ducks.” When Blakely takes a party of duck hunters out to Reelfoot Lake for a day of hunting, he often carries 4-10 hunters at one time plus a dog, guns, ammunition and food. Blakely usually will carry his party about 2-miles before they set up to hunt. That 2 miles of the lake includes stumps, shallow water, deep water, brush and ice. If he is hunting from his permanent blind, he pulls his boat into a covered slip.
Question: Billy, where are you finding your ducks, and how are you taking them at Reelfoot?
Blakely: Later in the waterfowl season, we’ll hunt our duck holes back in the marsh that will have about 4 inches of ice on them. Our duck holes all will be frozen.
Question: Billy, how do you hunt when you’re hunting on the main lake?
Blakely: We have a stationary blind in one spot out on the open water, but depending on how the ducks are flying, we spend a lot of time hunting from the boat. Then we can be more mobile.
Question: How do you hunt out of a boat?
Blakely: We put out 75-80 decoys, and we may have to break holes in the ice to get our decoys out. We put out Greenhead Gear decoys and place some Mojo Floaters in with our decoys to make ripples on the water. We try to back the boat up to a stump or a log to break up our outline in the deep water. This lake is loaded with stumps and trees – even in the deep water. One of our favorite places to set up is when we find stumps standing above the water line. Then we can tie our boat to the stumps.
Question: What kinds of ducks are you taking in that deep water?
Blakely: We’re taking a lot of puddle ducks, like blue bills, redheads, canvasbacks and several mallards.
Question: Do the waves ever get up, and the water becomes too rough out in that open water?
Blakely: Oh, yes it does. We may have 2-1/2- to 3-foot swells some days. When we are hunting in water that rough, we usually won’t carry more than six hunters.
Question: When you have six hunters in you boat, is there still enough room to stand up and shoot?
Blakely: Yes, sir, that’s the reason I bought a War Eagle boat.
Question: When it’s cold, how do you stay warm?
Blakely: We have a heater in each end of the blind, so when we pull up that Avery Quick-Set Blind, we stay warm and comfortable.
Question: How long do you usually hunt?
Blakely: We try and get to our spot well before daylight and hunt until we get our limit or until 3 pm, depending on which comes first.
To learn more about duck hunting on Reelfoot Lake, call (731) 538-2112 or visit www.bluebankresort.com.
This article is part of a series on winter duck hunting with Billy Blakely. Click here to go on to part two, calling tips and situational guidance.