My boys and I arrived at Dry Creek Ranch in southwestern Louisiana on a sunny afternoon in late winter. The Forets, part of our father-son group of hunters, arrived a few moments before us. We were out in the middle of nowhere it seemed, and happy to be so. The grounds of Dry Creek Ranch were perfectly manicured and the lodging was inviting. Off in the distance, red stags were grazing and guides driving John Deere Gators were getting ready for our hunt. The pointing and flushing dogs were whining in their kennels.
The final members of our party arrived shortly after us. Once down, we all poked through the ranch house and rooms and then met with Josh Sill. Sill, the owner of Dry Creek Ranch, swapped stories with us and made small talk until we were all ready to go. Sill owns and manages the 900-acre preserve and his love for this place and accommodating hunting groups is very evident with his great demeanor and the magnificent grounds we were looking at.
We jumped on the Gators after introductions were made with our guide and we headed to the duck pond. We were making a mallard hunt and all of our boys were ready to do some shooting. The first groups of ducks quickly came in after we set up in the ground blind. My son took a quick passing shot and knocked down his first duck on the wing. Another group came in and Todd’s son folded a drake and suddenly we were on a roll. All of the boys rotated through and the shoot was amazing. Our boys love to hunt and this opportunity was a big one in their development and passion for the sport.
After quickly filling up our limits, we headed back to the lodge and kicked back for a relaxing night and incredible dinner provided by Sill. We dined on stuffed chickens from Hebert’s Specialty Meats, corn and a garden salad. The best pecan pie, in my humble opinion, was served right after. Everyone retired to bed at different times that night, including a rambunctious bunch of boys in the adjacent room that were still high on the duck shoot that afternoon.
Their energy level kicked back up again at 5 AM, and the boys who cannot seem to get up during the school week suddenly came to life in the predawn hours, waking the whole camp. Apparently they did not get the message that the morning’s quail and chukar hunt would not start until mid-morning when the frost wore away.
Breakfast in the dining hall was eggs, sausage, and biscuits. We all devoured the delicious breakfast and then geared up for the shoot. Josh Sill met all the boys outside and then went through the safety procedures of an upland hunt. This, he said, could be one of the most dangerous kinds of hunts, so teaching the rules of safety and simulating a hunt with the boys was one of the steps to ensure a great and safe morning. The boys learned and the dads nodded approval. The guides pulled up and we took off.
Patrick Gill was our guide and we started walking a field with Gordy, a Brittany Spaniel. Gordy got birdy right away and Gill talked us through the steps he wanted us all to take to get a good shot and make sure that our party of hunters were all safe. Gordy nudged closer and with a stomp of our guide’s foot, a drake pheasant erupted from the brush and took off in to the wind. With a report from the Remington 1187, the rooster fell quick and dead. The hunt was on.
Steve Lanza and his son were in our group for this hunt. The dads held a gun at the ready on the right flank as backup to the boys. Our help was not needed very often. The boys took to wing shooting like they did riding a bike not too many years before. After a few misses they started to pick it up and soon looked like veterans.
Gill, in his mid-twenties, was a superb guide. He laughed and joked with the boys, told stories in between shots, ran Gordy and made everyone feel special. He was a role model and teacher for the boys and he put us in some great action on the field.
About midway through the hunt, Gill gave Gordy a break and pulled out Ranger, a German short-haired pointer, and Layla, an English setter, to close out the hunt. We had flushed some birds that had stretched the hunting field some and rangier dogs were needed to lock on to the strays so we could finish the hunt. Ranger took to the field and covered a lot of ground fast. Layla worked hard too, if not a little slower and maybe a little more thorough. But Ranger found bird scent and went from a full run to a locked point. Gill screamed out a “WHOA!” and Layla abruptly stopped where she was and honored Ranger’s point. We worked our way to the pointing statue of a dog and flushed a chukar. Down it fell after another great shot by our boys. The dogs took off to find more.
Our hunt and stay at Dry Creek Ranch was a great experience. The lodging is top notch and the bird hunting is the kind that keeps you dreaming of coveys and bird dogs on point. The boys and dads told stories for days, and those stories will likely be told for years and be a part of history like the pictures on the walls of Dry Creek. Great memories were made on that father-son hunt at a great establishment in Southwest Louisiana. We all look forward to returning again next year.
Image courtesy Marty Cannon