Aubrey Shepherd's focal point for display of Labrador retrievers, natural-resource conservation, English language word use, outdoor sports, recreational sports and athletics

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First printed in
The Morning News
of Northwest Arkansas
Aubrey's Notebook:
Quiet Spots Good Spots for
Duck-Hunting Mornings

Some people might not consider it a good site for hunting ducks.

The fact is that relatively few ducks visit the spot.

It is nothing more than a small woodland swamp with an adjacent grassy meadow partially flooded by the work of a healthy family of beavers.

But that little spot has provided me numerous mornings of duck-hunting pleasure and a fair number of birds for the gumbo pot.

The scarcity of ducks makes the place uninteresting to most area duck hunters, who simply drive past it on the way to eastern Arkansas' prime areas.

I get up late, enjoy an extra cup of coffee and hit that spot just in time for the first flight of mallards, sometimes the only flight of mallards until nearly noon.

The late-morning flight is usually the important one for me. Often, the early flight passes while I am still paddling my pirogue into position or setting out decoys or arguing with Bounty Grant's Aubunique Egg, my chocolate Labrador Retriever, about where to hide and stay warm and dry.

Egg and I get along well in the pirogue and he loves sleeping beside me on the ground while I watch for ducks. My black Lab, Aubunique Beowulf of the Fen, is better suited to hunting from a blind or hiding spot that can be reached by wading or walking dry ground. He'll stand on a log for hours and help watch for ducks. But he refuses to believe I am serious when I tell him to lie still in a boat. He has turned over more than one pirogue.

The hunting spot we are talking about is one I have visited many times over the past 10 years or so. Beowulf, Egg, Who, Her and several other Labs have visited it with me. Egg and Who remain the only two that have ever been allowed to ride there in a pirogue. All the others have had to join me in the long hike to the spot that involves working around the swamp to get to the only part that consistently attracts ducks.

Wood ducks, mergansers and ducks of a few other species occasionally visit the spot, but mostly it is nothing more than a place where a small group of mallards may sometimes be pulled down by my mediocre calling.

Being alone in such a spot can be a great deal more satisfying than being in a crowd of loud-talking, wild-shooting people such as a person encounters on some of the big public areas that attract a lot of ducks.

Certainly, I enjoy having company while hunting. But the birds and other wildlife provide a great deal of company in such spots as my little secret swamp. Fearing the beavers may finally raise the water level so high the timber will die, I have once or twice wished alligators would be stocked there to thin the beaver population. But then I would be afraid to send my dogs out of sight on a retrieve. So I suppose I'll have to accept the beaver population for the good aspects of beaver work.

If you happen to spot my vehicle or just find the little swamp on your own, feel free to join me if you can figure out where I am set up. But be prepared to pet a dog. Regardless of whether Egg or Beowulf is the dog of the day, you'll pay for sharing our spot by having a cold nose offered up for your attention.


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Aubrey James Shepherd
Fayetteville, AR © 2003, 2004, 2005

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