Immortalized in Nash Buckingham’s De’ Shootinest Gent’man and Other Stories, Mike and Lamar Boyd have lived and hunted Beaverdam Lake (what Nash referred to as the South Trails area) their entire lives. “When I was younger, I thought everyone had a Beaverdam,” says Lamar. Mike Boyd was mentored into duck hunting by a farmhand named “Coon,” describing what it was like back then. He then describes founding Beaver Dam Hunting Services, learning about the lake’s storied history and eventually evolving into a custodian of its duck hunting culture in delivering duck hunting experiences to clients from throughout the United States and beyond.
On the Shore of the Historic Beaverdam Lake
And these ducks come down and there’s no doubt, of course they’ve been coming down for eons and you’ll never convince me that they don’t recognize these places when they see them.
Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere, I am south of Tunica, Mississippi, I think I’m in Tunica County. And I’m on the shore of historic Beaverdam Lake, any of you guys that read old Nash Buckingham stories, he made this part of the world extremely famous back in the day. But the tradition continues down here on the south end of Beaverdam Lake with the Boyd family. Today’s guests are Mike Boyd and Lamar Boyd of Beaverdam Hunting Services. Mike, how the heck are you?
Mike Boyd: I’m good, Ramsey. How are you?
Ramsey Russell: I’m good. You’ve had a busy day, hadn’t you? You staying busy.
Mike Boyd: Well, this time of year, a two inch rain right now would un-busy me up and it’d be welcome right now, but it’s not in the forecast, so yes, we’re busy. But I mean, it would do whatever it takes to make it happen.
Ramsey Russell: Mike, talk a little bit about Tunica County because it’s right here on the county line, I always get it confused when I don’t see the county sign driving up this way. But put me and the listeners on a map of where we’re sitting right now, we’re not far from Memphis, we’re not far from the Mississippi River, it’s got to be a reason that this area, so historically profound to a duck.
Mike Boyd: Well, we’re 35 miles south of Memphis from where we’re sitting, we’re about 8 miles from the river channel, it’s west of here. The delta is just laced with ox bows and little willow breaks and slews and we got all those ducks piling down, I mean, the way the delta is shaped. And actually Memphis is a little northeast of us, so if you went straight north from here, you would actually go into Horseshoe Lake over in Arkansas and when you go to Horseshoe and you go north from there up 55 you’re going through some pretty strong duck territory. And these ducks come down and there’s no doubt, of course they’ve been coming down for eons and you’ll never convince me that they don’t recognize these places when they see them.
Ramsey Russell: Well, I think a lot of the modern day science is pointing to the fact that, they got a patriarchy, a high fidelity for certain places they were in before, forever.
Mike Boyd: The only back thing that backs up my thinking on that, sure enough is back in the early 80, I killed a banded green head out of my main line of Beaverdam and I remember he was banded near Togo, Saskatchewan by a guy with Fish and Wildlife Service from out in the southwest. And like everybody else, I send the band information in and they send me the little card and that’s my prize. And so 6 years later, I killed another banded green head that fell within 5, 10 yards of where that one did banded in the same place the same year by the same guy and how he got back to this exact spot, I think it’s more than a coincidence for sure.
Ramsey Russell: When you spell out the landscape level, those birds really are kind of coming down, they’re coming down the Mississippi drain, but they are kind of coming through that country over there in Arkansas and bending right on around right into here, there’s a good stretch of cypress breaks between here and Memphis that are just as historically good.
The More I Think I Know About Ducks, the Less I Prove I Know
Mike Boyd: Absolutely, they are. And they’re just hopping from one to the next and of course, we hunt Beaverdam, I’m not going to say we hunt it every day, but we hunt it almost every day and there’s not a lot of places that will take a pounding every day like Beaverdam will. But over the years, it’s been amazing how it’s like the resource just reset at midnight and the next day was a totally different day. They’re not all good, well, they’re all good, but I mean, some of them hold more ducks than others. But something that Lamar and I noticed, we’ve got another place that we call the Dockry Place, it’s about a mile and a half east of here, it’s east of 61. And when we hunt Beaverdam, we rarely are we looking east for our ducks, we’re always looking west and north and south, but we’re looking towards the river and that’s where our ducks are coming from. If you go to the Dockry place a mile and a half east of there, we’re not looking west, we’re not looking towards Mississippi River, we’re looking east. Isn’t that crazy? Those are cold water river, ducks. That close, those two Flyways come together right there and it’s not 100% but there’s a lot of truth to that.
Ramsey Russell: Everything I grew up thinking about ducks and duck behavior is changing with the modern research. For example, I was sitting in on a conversation, I’ve talked about it here before that, cold water refuge over in Tallahatchie County and just a couple of miles south York Woods, they have demonstrated through band recoveries and radio transmitters that those are two independent populations, I can’t believe that, I thought those duck are swapping around and they are two separate cohorts.
Mike Boyd: People think you’re crazy when you say something like that, but it’s right, it is. But the more I think I know about ducks, the less I prove I know.
Ramsey Russell: Are you from here, born and raised in Dundee?
Mike Boyd: I was actually born in Clarksdale because that’s where the hospital was. But I’ve lived my entire life right here.
Ramsey Russell: And how long has your family been established here?
Mike Boyd: Well, my grandfather moved up here after World War II. It was a lot of land up for sale after World War II. And so he moved up here from Bolivar County and he bought just over 1000 acres here and he wasn’t a duck hunter, a lot of the old timers, they like to quail hunt, they like turkey hunt and nothing wrong with that, but he wasn’t a duck hunter. So the fact that, the northwest corner of this 1000 some odd acres he bought was on Beaverdam, it just happened to be a lake on the northwest corner of the property. But I grew up hunting there, my dad wasn’t a duck hunter, I don’t know how I ended up duck hunter, but I did. There was an old guy, there was an old black man named Jimmy Herd, everybody had a nickname back then and he was a great guy, I mean, he was like a second daddy. I mean, I worked with him.
Ramsey Russell: What was his nick name?
Mike Boyd: Coon. He was a trapper, he was a hunter, he was a fisherman that son of a gun catch a fish any time and he and I used to go fishing that man, he’d take me up on Beaverdam when I was a little boy. We’d go up there with a bunch of crickets and we’d catch up in those saw grass up there and man, it was really something. But Coon actually would take me duck hunting.
Ramsey Russell: Did he work for your grandfather?
Mike Boyd: He did. And then he worked for my dad. Matter of fact, Coons buried on the bank of Beaverdam just down from Lamar’s house. Yeah, sure he is. But he and his wife Mary, they never had any children, but he loved to hunt and fish and so he just kind of took me under his wing and he and I had a big time.
Ramsey Russell: Did he take you duck hunting for the first time?
Mike Boyd: He did.
Ramsey Russell: Tell me about that, do you remember that?
Mike Boyd: I don’t remember that particular hunt because I’m sure my brother was probably there and my dad might have gone, but I don’t ever remember duck hunting with my dad. My dad, he was a deer hunter and a turkey hunter and a bird hunter, but I don’t ever remember him hunting ducks. But we had an Arkansas traveler boat, John boat and we’d paddle out there and I remember it was thick buck brush and just this mad of vegetation on Beaverdam, right where our main blind is now. But it’s just changed so much over the years when the beavers and the siltation and the lake, it’s just the makeup of the lake has just changed, it’s a lot more open now. Ducks still come to it, they use it, but it’s just not the same. Remember we had old charcoal bucket and Coon would make a fire, because we didn’t have any warm clothes when we were kids, it was just whatever got handed down, we thought we put on 20 pair of socks and they make our feet even colder. But that’s what we thought we needed to do and pajamas under our jeans or whatever we wore. But that was the most patient man in the world. I don’t know how many ducks, I missed, I’m still missing them, but I mean, I really was missing them back then. But he’d let me stay long as I wanted to stay, I’ll never forget –
Ramsey Russell: Did he call?
Mike Boyd: He did, but he just quacked. He didn’t believe in calling much. He just tried to get their attention and let them work themselves. Of course, there wasn’t a lot of shooting on the lake that I remember and now we had those old fiber decoys that were made up in Saint Louis, I can’t remember the name of the company that made them. But anyway, and in whatever, for a decoy way to spark plug or a nut there ain’t nothing wrong with them, they paid for repurposing. But I remember one Saturday morning I came down, it was probably over Christmas holidays when I was a little boy and my dad was sitting there reading commercial drinking coffee at the kitchen table. And I said, I want to go duck hunting this morning, he asked me if I want to go deer hunting, he was going deer hunting, we were members of a club called Duck Lake and I said, I want to go duck hunting this morning. And he said, well, get the jeep and go down there and see if Coon will take you. And I said, daddy it’s 5 o’clock in the morning, I can’t go down there. He said, go down there, he’s awake. So I go down there and I knock on the door, of course, I didn’t have a driver’s license, but we drove around and that’s why I take the old jeep down there and I pull in there and I knock on the door and Mary comes to the door, his wife and she said you about looking for Coon, I said, yes, ma’am, but I said, I don’t want to bother you all. She said, come on, he back here in the kitchen, I went back in there and we went back in the kitchen at 5 o’clock in the morning, Coon is standing on top of the kitchen table, he got a paint bucket in one hand, a paintbrush in the other and he’s painting the kitchen ceiling, I think he was glad to see me. He said, you about wanting to go duck hunting, I said yes, sir. But I don’t want to stop you from what you’re doing. He went, you’re going up and get ready, I’ll meet you down at the landing in a minute. And so he came down and we went duck hunting. But man, he was good as go.
Ramsey Russell: You remember your first duck?
Mike Boyd: Well, I don’t remember first.
The Most Famous Duck Hole in America: Duck Hunting Beaverdam Lake
Ramsey Russell: What are some of the memorable stories growing up hunting with Beaverdam in your backyard? What are some of the memorable stories you might have? Because that was a great one.
Mike Boyd: Well, so I always had to tell this story and I hunted a good bit in high school and then I remember when I was in college, I think that was about the time of the point system and gadwalls were 10 points and I hunted on Beaverdam. Now, man, you talk about some good hunts, we had some really good hunts, you go out there, you killed 10 gadwalls. But when I got out of college, I went to Mississippi State, when I got out of college in 1977 I came back and I wasn’t married and so I spent the whole winter deer hunting and duck hunting. And so I got to be friends with this guy that actually worked for the NRCS office here and it was soil conservation then, a guy named Bob Jones. And Bob, originally he was from Colville, he went to University of Tennessee. But anyway, he worked in the field office here, he’s a great guy, he loves to duck hunt, he still loves duck hunting, he still comes and duck hunts with me all these years later. But Bob and I hunted a lot and we were sitting in a blind Beaverdam one morning and he said, you ever thought about guiding? And I said, what? He said, there’s people that would pay to come see this and he said, do you realize how important this is to some people? And I was like, well, not, I don’t guess I do, I said, I think you’re crazy. But, well, I got married in 1981 and of course, farming wasn’t that great back then and newly married and needing all the income I could get, I said, well, I might try it. So, you remember Dun’s in Grand Junction, well, they were pretty big deal. They were going pretty strong about that time and so, I called up here to Dun’s to see – because I didn’t know how to go about booking a duck hunt and so I talked to the guy that was the head of hunting services up here was a guy named Wade Brown and Wade, he was a fine gentleman from – he lived in Memphis, he lived up on Central Avenue and one of beautiful at antebellum houses up there, hunted all over the world. And so Wade, I told him what I wanted to do who I was and of course he knew Beaverdam and he said, Mike, I’m not sure you really understand what you’re getting into, but he said, I’d love to come down and just spend a morning in the blind with you and just kind of see you set up and all this and let’s go from there, I said, perfect. So he and my buddy Bob Jones and I went one morning and we had a good hunt, I don’t remember how many ducks we killed, it really didn’t matter, but it was a beautiful day and I’ve got some old pictures from that hunt. But we got through and Wade said, if you really want to do this because he was booking safaris and he was booking the high dollar stuff and this was small potatoes to him. And he said, but to be a well-rounded service, we would certainly book your hunts for you if you wanted us to. So we talked about that and he said, but I’ll tell you what I’m going to do, he said, I want to just kind of hand pick a few groups for you this first year and just be sure this is what you want to do. And then at the end of the year, we’ll talk again, if you’re happy with it, then we’ll do more next year if you want to do that, so we did. And so 40 years later, I only use them two years, by the way, after two years, I didn’t need them anymore because word of mouth got out and there’s no better advertising than somebody that had a good experience. And so they go back and tell their buddies and then their buddies call. And so, I only use Duns for two years, but I really think that was a good move to do that. I will say this, two of the guys that booked with me, that was before Lamar was even born, my first year, they’re still hunting with us, they hadn’t missed a year. Yeah, Lamar and I talked about it, I like steak, I don’t eat it every day. I mean, to commit to coming somewhere for 40 years, that’s strong. And these guys, they could go anywhere in the world they want to hunt and they do, but they always enjoy coming over here and I think as much as anything. I mean, I don’t think it’s Lamar and my charm, I think it’s more the pace of life and a chance to rest and kind of reset and relax. But anyway, I always like to give Bob Jones credit. Matter of fact, Bob went on to be the state conservationist for the State of Alaska, he retired just a few years ago, but I always give him the credit slash blame for me becoming a duck guide.
The Importance of Beaverdam in the Waterfowl World
…he and I are in total agreement that that building should be on the historic register, it should, absolutely.
Ramsey Russell: Talk about growing up, you grew up on the banks of Beaverdam, you went out with Coon and duck hunted, boy, I mean, I can’t imagine what cypress break with a gadwall being a 10 point duck or something about this habitat they love. When did you become aware of the history and the fame that Nash Buckingham, when did that all fly up on your radar about what was right here in your backyard?
Mike Boyd: I can answer that. It really hit me about the mid-80s once I started guiding and these guys would come here and they would talk about Nash and all these stuff they knew about him. We’ve got guys that hunt with us that can sit and recite word for word paragraphs from his book. I mean, it’s almost a cult following. And then I became friends with Chubby Andrews and so, I learned a lot from him and I hunted with him a good bit over the years and matter of fact, I took chubby on his last duck hunt in Beaverdam a few years ago. And so I was blessed to be around people that made me aware of just how important Nash was and how important Beaverdam was in the waterfowl world.
Ramsey Russell: Have you done a lot of reading up since those days?
Mike Boyd: I have. I’ve read a good bit of Nash’s stuff. I tend to lean towards waterfowl stuff, I’m not as interested in his bird hunting, quail hunting and all that, I do read. Yeah, but the guy was just a master and I think he was a really good guy.
Ramsey Russell: He was a heck of a shot. Some of the stuff I remember about him up here hunting is, they would come out of Memphis and the rail would stop.
Mike Boyd: The Limb Dodger, that was what they call, that’s what they called the train, the Limb Dodger. Before they built the railroad, they would take a little steamboat down the river from Memphis and they would stop at Austin, which was the county seat for a while. And then, Doctor Owen, Owen family owns the bulk of Beaverdam Lake, Doctor Owen would make arrangements because he knew they were coming and he would send Harris or whoever with a wagon buckboard and go out and pick them up and come that 3 mile, 4 miles, whatever it is back east across the north end of Beaverdam and then down south to where the clubhouse eventually was built and they would tent camp there. But once they built the railroad Ramsey, it absolutely dumped them off within 100 yards of the camp.
Ramsey Russell: Now, would that have been – I know about a mile up the road here, there’s an old building, would that have been where the rail stop was?
Mike Boyd: Yeah, absolutely, right there.
Ramsey Russell: So talk about that property up here, I believe that old building talk about what that building is and where the camp house was and related to that.
Mike Boyd: So, after a few years, after they decided that was something they really wanted to invest their time and a little money in because most of these guys coming out of Memphis, they were men of means, they could afford to do some things and I don’t know what role Dr. Owen played in it too, I’m sure he played a role. But there was the old club house that was destroyed when a tree fell over it in a storm, but then they actually moved another house in there and I understand that was a structure that was out on one of their farms called Limerick, which is about 3 to 4 miles east of here. Richard Owen, actually moved that in there, but there’s still an old tenant house up there and that’s where Harris and Molly lived. And of course Harris was, that was Nash’s right hand man, he loved Nash and Nash loved him, but that building was damaged in a tornado a couple of years ago, but John Owen who owns that particular part of the lake, John went in there and had it repaired and thank goodness, I mean, he and I are in total agreement that that building should be on the historic register, it should, absolutely. I doubt if it ever will be and maybe we’re a little biased but –
Ramsey Russell: What do you all do with it now, what’s it do now?
Mike Boyd: Nothing. I mean, it’s just there and there’s a lot of pictures taken on the front porch of it. Absolutely, I have too. But it’s just kind of there and it’s sad that that something’s not done with it but John has since taken, his daughter married and John’s got grandchildren now and they live in Memphis and they come down on the weekends a lot of times and so John took the clubhouse after the club disbanded and he just went in there and did a big renovation on it and they use it for their personal use now, family and I get that but yeah, Beaverdam is it’s well known to a lot of people and I never really realized it for the longest, but once I was made aware of it, we tried to become a little better students of what we were sitting on.
Ramsey Russell: Back when some of the old reports, Nash Buckingham describes when he was young, college age, it was pre Migratory Bird Treaty and they had a self-imposed limit of 50 ducks and he would try to go out, as a matter of fact, I remember one particular story, he went out, it was like his last hunt before he would have to buy a membership to be in the club. And I think he shot 2 mallards and 48 pintail drake just took his time and that must have been amazing habitat. What do you think has changed since those days? We were talking a little bit about it before hand. But what would you guess has changed and then what has changed since you hunted with Coon back in those days to now? How has Beaverdam evolved as a habitat resource?
Mike Boyd: So, when I was a little boy, I remember, I spent so much time on this bayou bank right here, I was trying to dig some worms or cut some weed worms or get a cricket or something and throw in there and try to catch something. But I remember it is a flowing stream when I was a kid and I mean, they put a big box covered in right here and over the years the lake has silted in from agriculture around and we talked about that, it’s a natural progression but it’s been accelerated, but now the bottoms come up when the bottom comes up, the top’s got to go up. So now the top is not flowing through that box anymore, the tops dead hidden right into the back of that thing. So all this vegetation, logs and stuff like that start backing up. So, it just kind of the domino effect, it seems like and you get all this vegetation and stuff that grows there and dies and sinks and there’s more silt and more bottom and it just keeps coming up and I don’t want to say the greatest days of Beaverdam are gone. But I mean, I think the greatest days of a lot of things that we enjoyed are gone, that doesn’t mean they’re not still good and worthy, but we still catch fish out here. We catch all the fish we want and Beaverdam is still a special place, the lake is healthy. I mean, we still have coontail moss, we’ve got all the markers for a healthy –
Ramsey Russell: Primary food of gadwalls is coontail moss and I knew it was healthy, I mean, God made these old oxbows used to be a river, it got blocked off and out catches the sediment, that’s what it does. And we talked about that, I was just wondering, how much it’s changed and I know that food or not, those habitats are so good, when duck are fed in agriculture, the wind blows, boy, somewhere safe they can get up in the shadows.
Mike Boyd: That’s right and they do, they like getting away and not being disturbed and there’s plenty of places out there that they can do that and if you pressure them, they’ll find those places, I promise you and you won’t be able to get to them.
What is the Beaverdam Hunting Experience Like?
We work out a date, we work out a time, you come, you’re in this camp, nobody else is in this camp except you and your group.
Ramsey Russell: Describe the Beaverdam duck hunting experience. Somebody shows up and they go out to your main blind or one of your blinds out here on Beaverdam, what is that like? I’ve heard a little bit from Alex Little John describing it. But what is that experience like?
Mike Boyd: So, I hate to say we probably take it for granted but it’s just like Lamar said earlier, we kind of thought growing up, everybody had a Beaverdam in their backyard, not true. So groups come in here, they’ll call us and book hunts and we’ve got guys that we don’t have a lot of attrition, I mean, we have guys that fall out for whatever reason, they quit hunting their financial situation changes, they get a divorce, I don’t know, but we’ve always got guys coming in but the guys that have come and hunted with us for years, they know what to expect. And so we’ve got two camps and these are houses, the one we’re sitting in right now, my grandfather built in the early 50s and the other one is actually the depot manager’s house from when the railroad was built, so it’s a late 1800s house that we have renovated over the years and it’s very nice and it’s got high ceilings in it and it’s a great place to stay, but it’s got a totally different feel from this one. But there’s several things that we do or don’t do as a guide service that other people do. First of all, we don’t mix groups. Ramsey calls me and says, Mike, I got a group and we want to come home with you. Great. We work out a date, we work out a time, you come, you’re in this camp, nobody else is in this camp except you and your group. If you all get mad at each other and fight and everything, that’s between you all, I’m not getting in it, but we have just stayed away from mixing people because we just don’t feel like we need to do that. We want you to come and we want this to be your experience. And so you stay here, now, we’ve got kitchens, we’ve got full kitchens, we don’t cook, we give you a place to stay, we’ve got grills, we’ve got fish cookers, you can come and you can cook a steak, you can go out to eat if you want to, it’s an entirely up to you, there’s a lot of good restaurants close by and so a lot of people do that and then we have guys that show up and they’ll have these big coolers, these big yeti coolers and they’ll never leave the whole time, they’re here, they’ll sit out around the fire all day and half the night and that’s fine, I love that. But it’s kind of whatever you want to do. So, depending on where we’re going to meet, let’s just say we’re going to go to Beaverdam, the boat ramp is actually in Lamar’s backyard. So, most guys know how to get there, we agree on a time and we meet them there at that point, we get in a boat and a short boat ride out and you wouldn’t believe how many guys we have that are from, let’s just say New York City or some big city and we’re just easing through the cypress on the way out there and they’re in total awe. I’ve heard them say, I did not know there were that many stars in the sky because there’s just so much light around them, they don’t get to see that. Again, things that we take for granted. And we just take a short boat ride about 5 minutes out to the blind, step up into the blind, I’ll start the coffee pot and sometimes we’ll cook breakfast, sometimes we don’t. But it’s just everybody’s got a place to sit and we kind of go over the ground rules and guys, we got to be safe and we just do that deal, we want you to have a good time, but we’re going to be safe about it. And we generally try to hunt till about 10 o’clock in the morning, we kind of got a fuel for the day, you do have those days where those ducks are maybe going to come back in there later in the morning, but we never hunt past noon. But we generally start trying to wind down about 10 o’clock and it works for us. Now, if we’re going to one of the places on the farm, like the Dockery place over there, then we might have to leave a few minutes earlier, but not much. But I don’t know, we’ve kind of worked the kinks out over the years and we enjoy it, but there’s a lot that goes into it as you well know.
Appreciation for the History of the Sport: Changes in Duck Hunting
Everybody seems now to just want that picture at the end of the hunt.
Ramsey Russell: Mike, get off the subject just a little bit. How has duck hunting culture changed do you think since Nash Buckingham, since you and Coon hunted out here? How has the duck hunting culture, how do you think it’s changed in your career, your lifetime?
Mike Boyd: Well, it goes back to – now print media is kind of a people that are not attracted to that, I still want to hold a book, I still want to hold a magazine and look at the article, there’s something about holding a book, especially if it’s like Buckingham wrote it or whatever. I don’t think that generally speaking, I’m not going to say everyone, but generally speaking, I don’t think the younger people have an appreciation of how we got here as much as maybe we did years ago. I wish people would appreciate the history of the sport. And it’s not just here, I mean, it’s the eastern shore, it’s all these different places that got us to where we are right now. And I don’t know, it just seems to be different. Everybody seems now to just want that picture at the end of the hunt. Lamar learned at an early age because I beat it into him, I said, go appreciate that sunrise that morning, that whatever, that little tweedy bird right there, seeing that deer, it’s not simply about piling up dead ducks in the floor of a blind, it’s so much more, it’s the dog, it’s the conversation, it’s the jawing at each other, it’s the having fun, it’s the remembering hunts from 20 years ago or Joe fell in, got wet and whatever. And I think we’ve lost some of that and I hate that, I wish we could get back to some of that, I don’t know how to do it.
Ramsey Russell: Some of the most striking pictures back in Nash Buckingham’s day there was a picture of him, he’s a young man, him and some other gentleman in the camp, they’re on the stairs at camp house that burnt down, they’re all wearing their wax cotton jackets and they got ties and it wasn’t because they were la di da, it was like some form of respect. And I’m not saying a man’s got to wear a tie to show a duck respect, but I think somehow along the way we’ve lost respect for hunting and even for the resource, I just think that, I feel that when I see. I mean, look the whole time you’re describing, the Beaverdam experience here and how you all approach hunting and I’ve still got another question for you, but it’s all about the overall experience, not just dead duck, dead duck are part of the duck hunting experience, but it ain’t just dead duck. And maybe that’s an old man opinion as you start getting older.
Mike Boyd: Well, like I said before, Lamar learned it at an early age and I said, you’re going to be a lot happier because you know this because some guys never get it. I’ve had 70 year old guys home with me and all they want to do is pull that trigger and see how many, that’s how we determine the success of the morning was how many times that dog had to go or we had to run the boat to pick up ducks and it kind of hurts me in a way and luckily over the years, a lot of those guys don’t hunt with us anymore. I like to hunt with the guys that make it a pleasant day.
Ramsey Russell: That’s right, I’m the same way. We’ve been in business now for 20 years and look, we go to places Mike that shoot more than 6 ducks is the average, I mean, it’s normal but at some point in time when is enough enough? And I shook a man’s hand this year and said, I’ve enjoyed hunting with you, but you need to call somebody else. But because to me, it disrespects me and it disrespects the staff and it disrespects hunting and it disrespects the ducks anywhere just to make it about just carnage. But Mike, I want to tell – one more thing I was going to ask you because I’m trying to dance around with how your upbringings, your influences like coon and others and the relevance of the historical context of Beaverdam, how it had affected you and the way that you deliver hunts and what I’m kind of getting at is you all do offer somebody described to me, a paddling out to the blind and shooting, old shotguns and very traditional, it’s much like you all can make it like Nash Buckingham. Where does that come from?
Mike Boyd: I think it goes back to just that appreciation for the history of the sport and the respect of those guys and Lamar too. We follow several social media sites that are about the old double guns and there’s just something about them, it was a special time and it goes back to – as silly as it might sound, it goes back to that necktie, that necktie made a statement and they weren’t out there trying to out dress one another, it was about respect for the day, and they weren’t just a bunch of guys out there just – even though they killed a lot of birds now, they killed a lot of birds. I remember, Chubby Andrews told me one time, he told me several times, he said, Nash didn’t drive and I said, what? He said and I want to say that he told me Nash never owned a car. Now, as strange as that sounds it, I can believe it. But he said, but when Nash got to be older, I think he lived in an apartment, he and Irma lived in an apartment in midtown. And Chubby told me, Nash had a great connection with Owen and he said, I had the car and Nash had the shells and he said we’d make a date and Chubby Andrews always, I remember Doctor Andrews driving at old Delta 88 or a 98 Oldsmobile and he said I’d go pick him up, Nash would be standing out on the curb in front of his apartment and he’d have his shotgun with him and he’d be holding those boxes of red and yellow shells. But that was just a special time and we appreciate that. And I don’t know if you are familiar with this, but I give a buddy of mine a little plug and that doesn’t need one, but there’s a writer named Wayne Capooth, great guy, he absolutely wrote my favorite hunting book and it was Golden Age of Waterfowl, there’s so much information in there. We were in the blind one morning and I looked at him and I said, Wayne, where in the world did you get all that information in those books? I said, it’s mind boggling. He said, Memphis Public Library and I said, wow, what you went through to get that. But it was a labor of love. I mean, he loves that. But Wayne’s a great guy, I got to spend the day with him last year. But I love going back and reading the stories about the old clubs, black fish and all the old famous duck clubs and Beaverdam was among the most famous of those and it was just a special time and I just like to visit again, it’s kind of like watching Andy Griffin.
Ramsey Russell: It was important to you obviously to drag your son Lamar into it, that’s what we hunters do, we bring our kids into what we do.
Mike Boyd: 15 years old as soon as he got his learner’s permit, I put him to work, he could blow a duck call, he knew what to do, he just needed to legally get there, so once he got his learner’s permit and he had a licensed driver, so I made sure the guys hunting with us were licensed, he would meet him and he would guide on his own at 15 and so now he’s 37 and so he’s been gone for quite a number of years and so I kind of follow him around now.
Ramsey Russell: I want to talk to Lamar and hear some of his stories about Beaverdam.
Mike Boyd: Yeah, I want you to.
Ramsey Russell: Thanks a lot, Mike. I’ve enjoyed hearing a lot, hearing your story and getting to meet you finally and everything else.
Mike Boyd: Same here, Ramsey. Thank you.
Ramsey Russell: Lamar, what in the world after talking to Mike, what was it like growing up with the famous Beaverdam right in your backyard, duck hunting on – for generations, your family’s been duck hunting there on Beaverdam and did you grow up taking it for granted?
Lamar Boyd: I think I did, I really did. I didn’t have a lot of friends that duck hunted growing up, unless they were older guys, people that might have been twice my age and I duck hunted a lot with a neighbor that lives up the lake from his willow and I just kind of thought everybody had a Beaverdam because I didn’t have experience outside of here and it wasn’t until I got older that I realized that it was something special and it was something to certainly not be taken for granted and I did for a long time. I didn’t realize what great opportunities I had within the arm’s reach of my home growing up.
Ramsey Russell: Where else were you hunting? Because I’m thinking you may have been with some college buddies or somewhere hunting something one day you realize, boy, well, I got a lot in my backyard that this ain’t got.
Lamar Boyd: So everything we do is pretty easy, you hang out with a fat guy, he’s going to make it easy, right? So, I remember when I was young, we duck hunt outside of like Clarendon, Arkansas over in that area and we would go in a muddy duck pit, cold out in the middle of a rice field, rain or shine, you weren’t comfortable, it didn’t matter the conditions and it was kind of at that point and that I might have been 10, 12 years old, I thought this is a lot different than home now, I still appreciated it, it was fun, but it was a lot different and I couldn’t wait to get back home to keep doing what we were doing.
A Duck Hunt to Remember
And I would go with them and they would drag me around that slew in an old craft ducker that came from the Beaverdam Club. And that’s pretty neat looking back.
Ramsey Russell: I heard that. Do you remember your first duck hunt?
Lamar Boyd: I can’t say I remember specifically my first duck hunt, I know I was about 6 or 7 years old, I do know that I killed a drake wigeon as my first duck and had it mounted and a few years later, dad’s puppy chewed it up. So I don’t have it anymore, but I do remember that.
Ramsey Russell: What are some of your most memorable hunts? I guess you grew up hunting with your daddy?
Lamar Boyd: I did. So when I was younger he didn’t hunt to the level that we do now, I mean, there was a shorter season for one thing. Well, we had a lot of opportunities to hunt together and it was certainly fun and of course, I remember when I was real young, I was like dad, I want to learn how to blow a duck call, I want to go hunt, teach me what you know and then of course, he gave me like a DR 85 and said, here’s the duck call, I can’t tell you how to blow it, you’re just going to have to figure it out.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, did you figure it out?
Lamar Boyd: Well, I’m still learning but I’m okay, but I still got ways to go. But I remember going and I hunted a lot – when I was real young, of course, I had to go with dad, when I got a little bit older and could go by myself, I hunted on the farm, I didn’t really hunt Beaverdam because if he was guiding a group that’s where they went. And so I’d get somebody to take me wherever I wanted to go and I would hunt and I would make so many mistakes that it was unbelievable. But I tried to learn from it every day and eventually I got better. And of course I started guiding, but man, we hunted Beaverdam, we hunted the farm, I remember when I was real small, didn’t have waders, didn’t have warm clothes, didn’t have any of that. I actually would go across the highway with dad on our place where we joined another guys and we hunted together with our neighbor and they drug me out into that slew in the kind of habitat you talk about, you like to hunt, cypress, willow, buck brush, it’s great and we would go out there and have some tremendous duck hunts. And I would go with them and they would drag me around that slew in an old craft ducker that came from the Beaverdam Club. And that’s pretty neat looking back. Now, I didn’t have a clue what we were doing, but that was pretty cool.
Ramsey Russell: Hindsight is like that, isn’t it? It’s a 2020, when we’re going through it, we’re kids, we take things for granted, but you look back and go, man, what a lucky guy I was.
Lamar Boyd: Sure. I got to do a lot of stuff. I had great deer hunting, great duck hunting and it was all right there on our place.
Ramsey Russell: When did you become aware of like the whole Nash Buckingham type history?
Lamar Boyd: So I was younger, dad mentioned he was a little bit older when he became aware of it. But I do remember as a child, there was a collection of books that were the works of Nash Buckingham that were in our house and I can remember flipping pages and thinking, hey, I recognize that name that’s an old family name in Tunica that I’ve heard or whatever. And so I remember Nash Buckingham, I remember the books being around the house, but once I got to be a teenager is when I started hunting with people from away from here that came for that reason and at that point, it started clicking with me. So, these people are driving from five states away to hunt this place that it must be pretty cool, it’s known for something. And so I started doing a little reading myself and figured out I know what they’re coming for now.
Ramsey Russell: In some ways you’re kind of a custodian of that fame, that tradition. How did that change the way you approach duck hunting on Beaverdam?
Lamar Boyd: Well, I’ve always thought there was a right and the wrong way to duck hunt.
Ramsey Russell: What’s the right way and what’s the wrong way or vice versa?
Lamar Boyd: I don’t know if we do it right, but I think that there’s an etiquette that comes along with it, a lot of people think it’s an elitist sport, but I don’t want anybody to think that your economic status determines your access to wildlife, but I think you should behave and I think you should treat what you’re hunting with respect the people, your with your neighbor down the lake or in the next field, be courteous, let those birds work, don’t sky blast, don’t kill that bird and let they fly 500 yards and die. And I think we owe it to them to find them and use them for whatever purpose that is. But I want to get better each time I go to, I want to work ducks, if they’re at 50 yards, the next pass, I want them at 30 and if I can get them at 15, that’s what I want to do. Because we can kill more of them ethically and I think that’s the right way to do it. I don’t like people that don’t work birds, I don’t like people that don’t respect others that go up and down the lake or maybe you need to pass a test before you can go hunting now.
Ramsey Russell: I don’t know. It’s funny how I asked your daddy about the duck hunting culture, how it changed and it’s like I can remember my grandfather sitting on a boat ramp smoking a cigarette talking to everybody else that’s fixing to go hunt and they just kind of, well, if you’re going to go there, I’ll go over here and I’ll go there and now it’s just like every man for himself, it’s like a war, me against you.
Lamar Boyd: We can’t be friends, we are enemies.
Ramsey Russell: We can be friends at lunch, we can’t be friends on a duck hunt, that don’t make sense.
Lamar Boyd: I’m not for giving up my best hunting or fishing spot to everybody, but if I go kill them one day and I can’t go the next, I’m probably going to tell you, hey, man, this is a good spot, you might hit it while we’re not there. But it seems like that level of communication doesn’t exist anymore.
Ramsey Russell: A lot of your clients that show up down here, you talk about these guys that come to pay homage to the history of Beaverdam. What percent of them bring guns, like I would bring, a semi-automatic Benelli versus some that would just bring an old classical gun or break it out for a special occasion. Do you see something like that going hand in hand?
Lamar Boyd: Sure. I would say 80% of our guys bring Benelli or Berettas they a lot of Super Black Eagles, a lot of A400s, that kind of stuff. And I shoot a lot of times I shoot a Benelli just because it works and I got a count on it. But the 10% or 15% or whatever it is that do bring those guns, the older guns they’re here because they know Beaverdam in a historical sense, they know what it is, they want to come and kind of recreate that experience and so they bring a lot of guns and we do too. Dad and I, I don’t know how many days a year we’ll shoot model 21s or Parkers or foxes, we’ve got a collection of guns and none of them are safe queens, if I buy it, I use it and it’s pretty neat. Now with modern shells and chokes, a lot of people are swapping sub gauges and all of that, if you shoot an old gun, you’re probably going to be banging at him with a 12 gauge and a full choke and that’s pretty cool too.
Ramsey Russell: You’re right about that. Well, my phone started ringing it broke my concentration. But what’s your favorite gun to hunt with out there?
Lamar Boyd: Well, boy, that’s a good question. So every day I hunt with a 20 gauge. M2 Benelli, that’s my any condition, any circumstance gun.
Ramsey Russell: Have you tried the 28 gauge yet?
Lamar Boyd: Well, I can’t get dad to buy me one, but if he will, I’ll shoot it.
Ramsey Russell: If you ever take that 28 gauge, that weighs 5 and a quarter pounds loaded with three rounds or three inch Boss shots shells, if you ever tried that, I just can’t imagine you going back to nothing.
Lamar Boyd: I’ve shot one in my life and the 28 gauge is so nice.
Ramsey Russell: It changed my life.
Lamar Boyd: It’s doesn’t beat you up –
Ramsey Russell: It’s like an addiction.
Lamar Boyd: I know it. But in terms of older guns, I’ve got a Super fox that’s just like what Nash shot in his years and dad and I both we have He fox, which was a heavy barrel 3 inch gun that was designed around the Super X shotgun shell, they were kind of a match made together and I like hunting with that gun. But probably my secretly a model 21 is probably my best gun that I like the most.
Ramsey Russell: That is side by side?
Lamar Boyd: It is.
Ramsey Russell: I’ll be darn. Well, you talk about Nash Buckingham’s gun Bo-Whoop, there’s been some hunts that it’s been shot here and you all blind, did you shoot it?
Lamar Boyd: I did, I got to kill a drake gadwall with it, which was a fitting duck for that gun on that lake, I thought. But, yeah, we hosted a hunt that was put together by DU and it was a pretty special thing. A lot of guys got to shoot the gun, everybody that was in attendance got to shoot the gun at something whether and Will Brantley actually killed a speckle belly with it, of all things, yeah, I call him specky. So that was a good deal for him. But yeah, it was a good experience. We’ve actually done that twice now.
Don’t Get Complacent on the Hunt
Ramsey Russell: Boy, I’d like to shoot that gun one day just say I shot it. What it’s got long barrels, describe it.
Lamar Boyd: 32 inch barrels.
Ramsey Russell: I bet it’s heavier than that little 28 gauge, I was talking about.
Lamar Boyd: It’s quite a bit, it’s probably a 9 or 10lbs gun, it’s a big one. But real nice gun, not fancy, kind of plain, but just perfect for waterfowl back in those days. It was a 3 inch chamber, 32 inch barrels, straight grip stock and Nash thought safety has made you complacent, so he wanted his guns built without safeties. Wow. It’s kind of an odd thing in today’s world, but actually those guns, quite a few of them built back in the day didn’t have safeties for that reason, people prefer to not have them. And as a matter of fact I’ve got a degrade Parker that’s got no safety.
Ramsey Russell: The only gun I’ve ever hunted without a safety, I’ve got an old 1878 Colt hammer gun, pull the hammer back, it’s ready to roll.
Lamar Boyd: That’s right. But at least it’s got a hammer.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. Gadwalls, this is their habitat, I know you all shoot mallards also and speckle bellies and ain’t no telling what else you shoot. But you got any pointers for decoying and working gadwalls, that’s a cantankerous bird. And it’s like, they work in reverse instead of coming closer they’re going further on each pass sometimes.
Lamar Boyd: That’s right. You pray for the gadwall that does it on the first pass, but when you don’t have those, it’s like some days you just can’t win. And usually those first couple of groups of the day have sort of set the tone for how it’s going to go, but I don’t know, I’ve been doing this 22 years and I can’t work gadwalls yet, so I don’t know what to do. Some days they make you look like you know exactly what to do and other days you cannot finish them.
Ramsey Russell: A lot of you all’s hunting areas are what Nash Buckingham would have described as the south trails.
Lamar Boyd: That’s right.
Ramsey Russell: And the timber gets greater stem density, sometimes you all got some real thick. What would be an ideal – you wake up in the morning, you’re like, oh boy, this is it, what kind of weather conditions you’re looking for just you know this is the day.
Lamar Boyd: Yeah. So, duck hunters like change in the weather, but I want that bluebird sky 10 mile an hour north wind 25°, I don’t want ice, but I want everybody else to have ice and in deeper water, we tend to be the last to freeze, but we’re also the last to fall. So, we like bluebird, north wind, a lot of ducks, that’s the main thing.
Ramsey Russell: That makes it easy, doesn’t it?
Lamar Boyd: It does.
Ramsey Russell: What do you think, a lot of your clients that come here to hunt this historic property, I’m just guessing. Heck yeah, they’ll shoot 6 ducks if they can get it, but that’s not the measuring stick, is it?
Lamar Boyd: I don’t think it is with all of them.
Ramsey Russell: Like I want my 6 ducks, but that ain’t the end all, be all.
Lamar Boyd: Sure. Like dad described and you all discussed it, it’s an experience. A lot of people are coming here because it is unique. I mean, there’s not a tremendous amount of places in North America, you can go and hunt cypress, timber, you got to be in the southeast to do that basically on a broad scale. People come here just for that experience, it’s something new. But it’s also nice when you can go and kind of be with your group, you don’t have to lay across somebody’s hotel bed to watch the football game, you got a nice place to come back to and stay. You can cook and kind of share that camaraderie and fellowship in the evenings, there’s a lot of that that goes on with our guys and I think that really for them is just an escape from everyday life. When you’re coming from Tallahassee or Atlanta or Chicago or wherever you’re coming from, this is such a change of pace that it’s nice to just kind of take advantage of it.
Ramsey Russell: Where do you think – change in subject on you a little bit, we’re in the Delta feel like we’re in the middle of nowhere out here on old 61 but we’re really not, we’re not too far from Memphis, not too far from Tunica, we’re not too far from Clarksdale. What are some of the restaurants around that you can think of that just, hey, you’re going to be in this area and don’t want to cook at night, here’s some areas you ought to think about hitting because the Delta is crazy about being so remote but having really good restaurants that are more than just great food, it’s a big social experience here in the Delta.
Lamar Boyd: Sure, it is. That’s very true. Of course, right here in Tunica, the blue and white is famous that, I mean, you even know about Nash and them stopping at the blue and white, so it’s been here for a while. And it’s fine if you want that old greasy spoon diner experience, it’s just right for that. But then right down here at Moon Lake, just 15 minutes from where we are, there’s been restaurants over the years that are great, there’s two there now that you can eat at Uncle Henry’s and Catherine’s, which is fixing a reopen from what I hear and they’ve historically been great places to eat. You got the Como steakhouse and Como that everybody knows about, we even have people that drive to doe’s in Greenville and eat.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, if I wasn’t from around here it’s worth the drive, I can tell you that.
Lamar Boyd: And if you want to go to Memphis, you can and there’s untold places.
Ramsey Russell: I mean, it’s not far from here, is it?
Lamar Boyd: About 35 minutes could get you downtown and then if you want to go east where most stuff is, you’re within an hour of anything.
Ramsey Russell: It’s a quick drive on the highway and stuff like that. I think, a lot of people I talk to that comes to the Mississippi Delta from elsewhere. I mean, Clarksdale, go down and get some barbecue at Clarkdale, go jump into the blue scene, I mean, there’s so much culture right here, you know what I’m saying, besides just the historic duck hunting.
Lamar Boyd: That’s right. You can go down to the shack up in and Hopson commissary, there’s several blues clubs around, you can go get you some barbecue at abe, it’s a good day trip for a lot of people, it’s not a bad thing at all, if you want to go that afternoon to do those things.
Building a Family of Duck Hunters
But my boys, they’re farmers, they’re hunters, but the main thing is time, they want to spend time.
Ramsey Russell: You grew up hunting here at Beaverdam with your daddy, you became aware of the history of it all, you’ve been guiding since you’re 15, now you got some little boys yourself. How old are your children?
Lamar Boyd: So, Forrest is 5, Russell is 7 and then I got Sophie, my daughter that’s 10.
Ramsey Russell: Do they duck hunt?
Lamar Boyd: They go eat breakfast. They love to go. There’s not many mornings that –
Ramsey Russell: TIME man, they love to spend time with you.
Lamar Boyd: That’s it. And I got some nephews, I’ve got a sister that’s got children and dad and I take them and their dad will come, go with us and we try to keep it a fun thing. But they do like to hunt. My daughter, Sophie has killed a couple of ducks, she’s killed a deer, she killed her first deer a couple of years ago, so she’s in it, she loves it, she wants to go because the boys in her class at school haven’t done those things and she wants to go to school and kind of rip them. But my boys, they’re farmers, they’re hunters, but the main thing is time, they want to spend time.
Ramsey Russell: I keep up with Mike on social media and I notice around the holidays you’ve got a blind just slap full of young ones, cousins and kids and you got cinnamon rolls going or omelet going, the ducks are just an afterthought, it’s all about the experience.
Lamar Boyd: It is. And one day it’s going to change from that, but I sure am enjoying what it is now.
Ramsey Russell: Don’t hurry along. You got to take it off. Well, I can remember when I had babies, I just wanted to grow up and get older, I wish they were kids again, that’s right. Now that you’re older and they’re not pleasant to be around sometimes, I wish they were kids.
Lamar Boyd: That’s right. Well, you hear things when you’re a young parent and people tell you, oh, you’re not going to have time anymore, the kids you’re going to take over your life or they’ll grow up so fast and some of those things have come true. But we’ve tried to take the time to do what we need to with them. And one thing we’re concentrating on now is, we’re still going to guide hunts and we’re still going to be in business, but there’s a certain amount of those days that belong to those kids.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, absolutely. That’s what it’s all about. Gosh, I can remember when my kids were your kid’s age and it was like, zone defense, me and mama trying to get everybody to soccer games and baseball practices and everything else kids do. And I really don’t know what we did before kids, but I tell you it wasn’t, it’s fun and rewarding.
Lamar Boyd: You’re exactly right.
Ramsey Russell: It was forgettable, whatever we were doing before we had kids. And I bring up the question to kids, it’s always interesting to me in the context of kids, you grew up thinking everybody had a Beaverdam in the backyard and then you’ve hunted and you’ve guided and you’ve done all this stuff. But how is it now seeing it all over again through young kids eyes for you? Did it had changed anything?
Lamar Boyd: It’s certainly different and I know that my kids are growing up in a time that’s way different than what I grew up in and just like, it’s different than when dad was a child. But I want to try to give them the opportunities to live a pretty simple life, to do fun things, to not worry about a whole lot of stuff and that’s what I was given and it’s certainly a different time, but I’d like to kind of freeze time for just a little while.
Ramsey Russell: Let them be kids.
Lamar Boyd: That’s right.
Ramsey Russell: Last question, Lamar, how can people connect with you and Mike? How can they connect with Beaverdam Hunting Services?
Lamar Boyd: So, Instagram, Facebook, those things, we’re Beaverdam Hunting Services, you can follow us individually as well and kind of get the bigger picture of what goes on. But beaverdamducks.com is our website, there’s a contact link there for email and then of course, you can call us and I’ll give you those phone numbers if you’d like them.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I’ll post them up at beaverdamducks.com. That’s it or Beaverdam Hunting Services in social media. I sure have enjoyed meet with you and your daddy and talking about duck hunting today on probably the most famous duck hole in America, Beaverdam, made legendary by Mr. Nash Buckingham.
Lamar Boyd: Yes, sir. Well, we’ve certainly enjoyed you being here.
Ramsey Russell: Folks, thank you all for listening to this episode of Duck Season Somewhere, we’ll see you next time.