Talking Ducks Down
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, what do you do when a warm front comes through, and you can get into your permanent duck blinds on the lake?
Blakely: We use our boats to go through the shallow marshes and get back to our duck holes in the grass and the timber where we have our permanent blinds. I like a War Eagle boat, because it’s big and can carry a lot of equipment and people, yet it still can run across Reelfoot Lake’s shallow water without getting stuck.
Question: What’s the difference in the types of ducks that you take in the shallow-water blinds compared to out on the open water?
Blakely: We usually take many more mallards and teals back in the duck holes where we have our permanent blinds than we take when we hunt the open water. We also take fewer diving ducks back in those duck holes.
Question: What is an average day of duck hunting with you at Reelfoot Lake?
Blakely: We almost always get our limits.
Question: What type of calling do you do?
Blakely: I do a lot of really loud calling, because we have so much competition from other hunters in the places that we hunt. I call loudly and hard. I usually have an assistant guide with me who is also calling loud and hard.
Question: What call are you using?
Blakely: I like the Primos Wench. When I first see the ducks, I hit them with hard, hail calls. If those ducks are really flying high, we stay on them with our calling for a pretty good while to bring them down. When the ducks are about 50 yards from the blind, we ease up a little more. When they are 50 yards and coming to the blind, we use quacks and chatters. If they pass over the blind but not close enough for the hunters to get a shot, we give them come-back calls.
Question: What is the biggest flight you’ve had come into the blind in December?
Blakely: Between 150-200 ducks came in at one time in one flight, and we landed 15 or 20 of those ducks in the decoys before I called the shot (told the hunters to come up out of the blind and shoot).
This article is part of a series on winter duck hunting. Click here to go back to part one, an introduction to hunting ducks in the winter. Click here for part three wherein Billy Blakely explains why you should talk loudly and have a lot of decoys.