Towards the end of an epic, old school duck hunt in historic Beaver Dam Lake’s Clover Hole, Mississippi, Ramsey chats with hunting companions Mike and Lamar Boyd, Dale Bordelon and John Gordon. What’s the historical significance of this lake and duck blind location?  What does hunting here mean to everyone and how’d they pay tribute to its storied past? And there’s a first for everything, even while recording Duck Season Somewhere podcast. Tune in to find out!

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Duck Hunting at the Popular Beaver Dam

Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere, you all ain’t going to believe where I am. If the audio sounds a little off, it’s because I am sitting in a duck blind on world famous Beaver Dam, made popular by Nash Buckingham, who a lot of you all are probably familiar with, got a crowd in the blind today. Ducks Unlimited here doing a little bit of filming for their YouTube channel. Mike, I sure do appreciate being here, what a heck of a morning, man.

Mike Boyd: It’s been a great morning. We’ve honored to have everybody here today, it’s really been a surprise that we’ve had as many ducks work as well as they have. Of course, I knew the guys were capable of shooting the ducks, but we just didn’t know how many we could get in close. But they worked really well today.

Ramsey Russell: They worked like new ducks. They worked like ducks that hadn’t heard a call or shotgun or something, I was just pleasantly surprised, it reminds me of the good old days. Call to them and they circled down wind and give them a little something, here they come, they really set up beautifully today. Is this a pretty typical bag for this blind to shoot the species we did?

Mike Boyd: I think maybe our mallard take today for a cloudy day has been a little higher than what we would expect. Generally, on cloudy days we tend to shoot more gadwall, but we’ve had really good mallard groups work today and that was a little surprising. But it goes back to what you said. I mean, these are some fresh birds that have obviously moved in here, maybe that front pushed them last night after that rain. But yeah, it’s been really better than I was expecting and I’m happy that you all were here for that.

Ramsey Russell: It was 75° when I left Brandon, Mississippi to drive, about a 3 hour drive up to this part of Mississippi and when I got here, it had cooled off 20° and started to rain, thank goodness it ain’t raining, but clouds are still with us, but it didn’t make a difference. We got a good north wind, it’s probably, what, 50°, 55°? I wonder if these birds just pushed out somewhere, they had to.

Mike Boyd: I just believe it is. Of course, Arkansas opened back up yesterday and I’m sure they stirred that pot a little bit, but I still think it’s more of a weather related thing than anything. But saw more teal yesterday than today, we have shot a few teal today, but mainly been big ducks.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah. Tell me about the blind right here. This blind has got to be how long 30 foot?

Mike Boyd: It’s 30 plus. I would say with the guide box on this end down here, it’s probably pushing 35ft.

Ramsey Russell: So even if it was raining, it don’t matter.

Mike Boyd: It doesn’t matter. Only place you’re going to get wet is on the way in and on the way out. So once you get in here, you’re pretty good shape, but Lamar and I made a decision a long time ago, if we’re going to do this every day, we might as well be comfortable. Plus, having a blind like this, you can build some safety features in.

Ramsey Russell: Like what?

Mike Boyd: I mean, for instance, and I know your listeners can’t see it, but if you’ll just visualize that the front wall of the blind, we’ve got a wall that comes up about 4ft or 4.5 feet and above that we’ve got these wire cattle panels that we cut holes in and then we wrap them with the tube rubber hose and that just keeps the guys from over swinging on their neighbor next to them.

Ramsey Russell: I thought you had these rails and stuff up here so people like Dale wouldn’t fall in the water.

Mike Boyd: Well, I mean, they do a purpose now.

Hunting the Sweet Spot for Over 50 Years

This is the only place I ever hunted.

Ramsey Russell: What hole are we at? Now we’re down on what Nash Buckingham referred to as the South Trails.

Mike Boyd: Right.

Ramsey Russell: Did he ever talk about this hole?

Mike Boyd: What is this hole? This hole is known as the Cloverleaf Hole. And of course, it looks different than it did when Nash was hunting here because it used to be, even as a young person, I remember it was lying with buck brush. Other than that, it’s pretty much the same. But there were a lot more aquatic vegetation mats down in here and that’s where the trail part came in with their south end trail term, because there were literally places that you could not go. I mean, there were trails that you had to stay on down here, but then you had these open holes like this, which just was an invitation for the birds to work in here. But the beavers, they took care of the buck brush out here and it’s gone now and for some reason we’ve lost a lot of the floating mat of vegetation. But it’s still good.

Ramsey Russell: Oh, boy, its good. You can tell the way the ducks, you can see them out considerably when they’re coming in over, but you can see them lock up, they know this hole is here. It just looks like an opening of cypress to me, but there’s holes everywhere, I kind of sort of see. But they don’t see that from wherever they are, they see this.

Mike Boyd: Exactly. And for some reason they’re attracted to this. 150 and 200 yards over here is a similar situation, but they’re not attracted to that, it’s a mystery to me.

Ramsey Russell: Did you hunt this spot growing up?

Mike Boyd: I did. This is the only place I ever hunted.

Ramsey Russell: You’ve been hunting here, this hole, this spot for how long?

Mike Boyd: Over 50 years.

Ramsey Russell: Right here. Well, you had said this morning as we were coming in and I asked you about the blind, you had said there were the remnants of another blind here from way back.

Mike Boyd: Way back, absolutely. And this is the only spot I ever hunted. In 1949, my dad told me when they moved here, there was a blind that was rotted down in this spot right here. So say it takes 10 years for a blind to rot down, may take longer than that. So 49, you’re back to 39, you’re not going to have to go too much further before you get to Nash when he was really bouncing around down here. Yeah, a lot of history in here.

Ramsey Russell: When that club that he wrote about was here, back in those days, did they hunt the whole break?

Mike Boyd: They hunted pretty much the whole break.

Ramsey Russell: Do they have control of the whole break or were there other people coming in and hunting?

Mike Boyd: I just don’t know if they had an agreement with the adjacent landowners or if they just, nobody was hunting back then. Because a lot of guys didn’t hunt for some reason and I don’t really know the answer to that, but I do know that they hunted all the way down on this end and all the way as far as they could go on the north end, which the Owen family owned the majority of the north end. But yeah, they hunted all down in here. They may not gone too much further than this hole because of the vegetation, I don’t know. But I know for sure they hunted down here a lot.

Ramsey Russell: Well, how big is Beaver Dam?

Mike Boyd: It’s about 1500 acres. So it’s big, it really is. It’s long and narrow, it’s probably, I’d guess 8 miles long.

Ramsey Russell: Well, it used to be the Mississippi River, a million years ago.

Mike Boyd: That’s right. Yeah, exactly. It was an old river run and it’s definitely imprinted on those ducks, I mean, they use it. It’s one of the few places I’ve ever seen that you can pressure every day, and it still is resilient. And there’s times just like any other place where you get stale birds and you don’t have much weather and you’re not getting new ducks, it’s just like those spots. But I’ve never seen a place that takes a pounding like this.

Ramsey Russell: That was not the case today.

Mike Boyd: Not today.

Ramsey Russell: You said you grew up hunting here, you’ve been hunting here for about 50 years, back in 40s your dad said there was a remnant of a blind, did you all then build another blind right here?

Mike Boyd: We did. Right where the old blind was. They tore that frame out.

Ramsey Russell: What was it like? Describe that blind you grew up hunting back.

Mike Boyd: It was a very small blind compared to this. It actually ran from this tree right behind you over to that tree outside the dock.

Ramsey Russell: Tiny.

Mike Boyd: Yeah, it was like a little 3 X 3 –

Ramsey Russell: Did it have a roof and all that stuff on?

Mike Boyd: It had actually just some 2 X 4 nailed up across the tree. And you remember the old jute bagging they used at the cotton gins, so it had some jute bagging over there on the roof. And then I remember there was a piece of tin in the floor, a short piece of tin had a charcoal bucket on it. And we would make a fire and I would freeze to death, but I loved it. But it was nothing elaborate at all. We didn’t buy lumber to do it, it was just lumber from the floor.

Ramsey Russell: You had it laying around.

Mike Boyd: Exactly. It’s just like the decoy weights we talked about one time. They were spark plugs and combine anything, a nut, whatever would hold a decoy. Same thing, didn’t invest any money in it, but there was plenty of old cypress lumber laying around. That’s all you needed, something to hide behind. But yeah, it was just a real simple situation. We had an old Arkansas traveler boat paddle out here in.

Ramsey Russell: You all did paddle?

Mike Boyd: Yeah. No motors or anything back then.

Ramsey Russell: Life was a lot different back then. Well, what inspires you? You’re running clients here, you got a bunch of clients, but this is a whole lot different blind. I mean, you got a kitchen over here, coffee every morning? Here we go. We just need one duck, we got a flock fish to fall in here, don’t miss, Dale. Go ahead, John. Well, that was the first duck ever shot on this podcast was a greenhead to wrap up a 6 man limit. Mike, we were talking about your kitchen back here, do you ever cook breakfast?

Mike Boyd: We do occasionally, not every day, we make coffee pretty much every day.

Ramsey Russell: That’s a good coffee, too.

Mike Boyd: It’s not bad, it’s old percolator coffee, just like the old days, but that’s pretty appropriate, too. But yeah, people seem to like it. We make hot chocolate, but some mornings we might heat up some cinnamon rolls or cook some sausage biscuits or whatever.

Ramsey Russell: I was looking forward to eating some molasses cake.

Mike Boyd: Well, supposedly there was some to be had, but we didn’t have it with us.

Ramsey Russell: Which brings me up to one of the biggest surprises, I was wondering if these ducks in Mississippi would understand that Cajun accent. And they did.

Mike Boyd: They did. They didn’t have any problem.

Ramsey Russell: They didn’t have no problem, did they Dale?

Dale Bordelon: No. Don’t look like it.

Ramsey Russell: Dale, what do you think about this morning’s hunt? Tell me about your experience. What was it like coming to Mississippi to hunt a cypress break very similar to what you hunt?

Dale Bordelon: Well, I always wanted to come here at Beaver Dam with all the rich history and all and I knew it was going to be exciting to be here, but to tell you the truth, what we just done is way better than I ever figured.

Ramsey Russell: How so? What about this blind? You ever hunted a blind like this? Tell everybody what you hunting in.

Dale Bordelon: I’ve hunted nice blinds, but this is about nice as you get. And then Mr. Mike, when we pull up, he makes a fresh pot of coffee, can’t beat that.

Ramsey Russell: That’s some good coffee, ain’t it?

Dale Bordelon: Good coffee, good company, good people, this is hard to beat. I’m a big duck hunter, but this is one I remember for many years, I’m going to tell you.

Ramsey Russell: We ain’t really had just a tremendous amount of real weather, here we are in what December 11th.

Dale Bordelon: I left the house yesterday, it was 80° and about an hour and a half down the road, it got to like 50°, 60° on my truck and I called my wife, she said it was still 80°, I couldn’t believe that. Just that little bit, about a 5 hour drive just that temperature change.

Ramsey Russell: It’s a beautiful and historic property, it’s always got duck. But really I just wasn’t thinking limit, I was thinking, oh, if we shoot some duck, we have a good time, we’re going to visit, we’re going to drink coffee, we’re just going reminisce and all that good stuff. And so right about when bam, we shot those gadwalls, I’m like, all right, we didn’t get skunk and then it just kept coming. And at one point I had 10 ducks strapped up back down yonder by the dog ramp and I don’t know, by the time I finally got Char dog off and got it all counted, we’d done doubled and it just kept going from. And Mike, you were talking about earlier saying, man, I’ll show you, man, this was the perfect pace hunt. Sometimes you get into hunts that are so fast and furious, it’s chaotic and I don’t like it. I got to work a dog, I don’t want ducks falling while she’s on the mark and stuff like that. I thought it was just a perfect pace. What about you, Dale?

Dale Bordelon: Exactly. I told Mike this morning, it’s just fast enough to keep you entertained.

Ramsey Russell: Had time to tell stories in between.

Dale Bordelon: Not much. It was pretty good. Mike said, they kill a lot of ducks on a good sunny day and I told Mike, I sure hate to see a sunny day as all the good shooting we had today them ducks decoy good. You can’t do this at home. We kill a lot of ducks at home, but not like this. This is a treat, I tell you.

Ramsey Russell: Everybody’s got them cane calls you brought, but you brought a bunch of different kind of cane calls, Dale, you brought one that was like a quiet one, the one you showed me last night, you told me you tuned it for a matter you got in your backyard.

Dale Bordelon: Yeah, I got a hen running loose in my yard, some pets and I kind of tuned my calls listen to them to help me, that’s the real deal.

Ramsey Russell: Is that the quiet call you got on your lanyard there?

Dale Bordelon: No, that’s in my box, this is just a regular hen.

A Quiet Call

It’s quiet, but let me tell you what, when a duck is 80, 100 yards looking with his head down, it’s a game changer.

Ramsey Russell: I want to hear the difference, like while recording. Because I know folks want to hear the difference in what you call your – what do you call that quiet call?

Dale Bordelon: I just call it a quiet call.

Ramsey Russell: The quiet call. That’s a memorable name.

Dale Bordelon: I’m going to tell you, back home, when them ducks get to Louisiana, they pretty much shot up so bad, there’s not many places you can call. I noticed over here –

Ramsey Russell: They’re stale and they’re educated.

Dale Bordelon: I noticed over here, Lamar called, he’s a very good caller, I showed his hunting onto him and he’s a hell of a guy, but you can’t call out at them maybe when you see a bunch, but the ducks we killed, I hunted all my life you got to be soft. And we hunting in something like this, it’s mostly a lot of buttonwoods and if ducks, they common in that cover, but you can blow them out so easy blowing loud. And we’ve learned that through over the years.

Ramsey Russell: Blow your regular call and then blow your quiet call.

Dale Bordelon: So here’s my regular call I blow, like to get that attention. Now, if them ducks come in while we hunting and we hunt some small tight holes, they want to work, I go to this call and it really helps put them on the water. It’s quiet, but let me tell you what, when a duck is 80, 100 yards looking with his head down, it’s a game changer.

Ramsey Russell: A duck ain’t just, he don’t have the lungs that me and you got, I mean, he’s not terribly loud.

Dale Bordelon: My ducks, they call about 4, 7 notes, that’s it on average. So I try to do what they do and it works for us.

Ramsey Russell: How many ducks you got in your backyard?

Dale Bordelon: I’ve been having ducks for about 45 years.

Ramsey Russell: And no 2 sound alike?

Dale Bordelon: No.

Ramsey Russell: You were telling the story of me and John last night about how one of them sounds terrible.

Dale Bordelon: I got one hen, she’ll call 3 or 4 notes and it’s as ugly as you ever heard. And the next hen will call 7 or 8 notes, just as pretty – there’s not a duck call that can copy that. But they come to all them calls.

Ramsey Russell: So one of them done found something to eat, if she calls, all comes to it.

Dale Bordelon: I’m going to tell you something, old duck hunters know this, your call don’t have to sound perfect. You just got to know when to do it and how to do it and any call can kill a duck. So the big thing is don’t call a lot and just know when to call and I think you’ll do good. You got to be over the ducks want to go, that’ll make anybody look like a good caller.

Ramsey Russell: Some of those ducks we shot this morning, because I was kind of outside, back from under the roof working a dog and the way the winds coming out of north, they would kind of fade and get upwind and it’s like they wanted to keep going into the wind, we called, they dropped back. If they started working, I can see, if they were right above us, that means they were going to keep going north. But if we could get them swing downwind finally, oh, boy, here they come. We’re going to get them.

Dale Bordelon: And you and Lamar was on each side and you all good callers, and you all had them lock and it made a difference, them calls you all had over here. You all turned them ducks and bought it right in front of us. Of course, we all called, but they responded good. And again, Mike said, boy, you already see a sunny day, I couldn’t imagine because they worked so good today, I’m happy with a cloudy day.

Ramsey Russell: I am, too. Mike, do you ever remember if Nash Buckingham, did he ever talk about the clover hole in any of his stories?

Mike Boyd: He did. There’s one in particular and it may have been mentioned in other stories, but I believe it was in Mark Wright, there’s a story called Old Saul. And it’s really a good story and I’m not going to say any of the details of it because I’ll probably mess it up because I hadn’t read it in a year or 2.

Ramsey Russell: But kind of, sort of what was it about? Well, I’ll go read the story.

Mike Boyd: So there was a guy that was a guest down, best I can remember and Horace, old Saul is set in the cloverleaf hole here, but it’s told, as Horace telling this story to Nash about a guy that he brought down here. So Horace is telling of a guided hunt that he was a paddler for this guy. And the guy evidently had a bet or something, but it had to do with Solitaire, the game, card game.

Ramsey Russell: Really?

The Limb Dodger

That is a historically significant structure and it should be honored.

Mike Boyd: Yeah. But I remember the guy had to get back because he had something he had to do in Memphis, but there was the limb dodger, the train was blowing the whistle down there about mauled or wherever and so they had to get back to the clubhouse because he couldn’t miss that train, he had some kind of meeting or something he had to be at. But anyway, he kind of told about the guy talking to him and shooting that morning and all that, but it’s a good story.

Ramsey Russell: You talk about the limb dodger now, we can’t be a quarter mile maybe from the bank where we launched today and that can’t be half a mile, maybe half a mile to the rail.

Mike Boyd: Yes, that’s right.

Ramsey Russell: If you got old Highway 61, a rail right there by, why they call it the limb dodger?

Mike Boyd: Well, according to Nash, because the railway would overgrow and so there’d be limbs hanging on –

Ramsey Russell: There was no agriculture out here back then, just woods.

Mike Boyd: Yeah. And limbs be brushing the rail cars as they went through. But it really was a game changer on their ability to get to Beaver Dam because this was pretty much wilderness country back after the Civil War.

Ramsey Russell: That’s hard to believe, isn’t it? As close we are to Memphis and Tunica and the casinos and everything else this day and age, this was middle of nowhere back then.

Mike Boyd: It was in the middle of nowhere. And it was disease and flooding with mosquitoes and yellow fever and malaria, all that stuff. But those guys first came down on, they’d catch a little steamboat from Memphis and they’d come down to Austin, which was the county seat at the time, which was out there on the part of the river that is now the Tunica cut-off. And they would get off at Austin and Dr. Owen would have made arrangements, they would have contacted him and told him they were coming, he would have made arrangements for a guy to meet them with a mule drawn wagon and they would come across the north end of Beaver Dam until they got over to the road that went south, which would have been old Highway 61. And they would have come down to where the present day clubhouse is. And for the first few years, they just pitched tents and I think they were just not wanting to make a big commitment until they saw if it was good or not. Well, it was good. It was incredibly good from the stories. But they were in existence for a long time and Nash’s dad was actually one of the original members.

Ramsey Russell: That’s right.

Mike Boyd: And so Nash grew up hunting here, but the stories that they tell about the numbers of ducks, geese, swans are just unbelievable.

Ramsey Russell: When I read those stories books, first time had not been up here to this part of the world and I just imagine when they stepped off the old limb dodger and got on horses or got in butt board that they rode for miles, but they didn’t. They literally just crossed old Highway 61 and there was Horace’s house, it can’t be 50 yards off the road and it’s still there right now.

Mike Boyd: It’s still there.

Ramsey Russell: That’ll be a historical market. Did you say, last night, it’s one of the oldest buildings or one of the oldest dwellings still in Tunica County?

Mike Boyd: Well, there’s the Cook Shack, isn’t that what they call it, Lamar?

Lamar Boyd: Yeah, basically. It’s next door.

Mike Boyd: It’s next door and it is one of the – I was looking at an old photograph in one of the Buckingham books the other day and that shack was in the background of that picture. And that picture was taken early, 1900s. So it’s been there a long time and I’d always been told that’s one of the oldest buildings in Tunica County and I believe it. But, yeah, I really wish that Horace and Molly’s old house was on the National Historic Register.

Ramsey Russell: It should be.

Mike Boyd: That is a historically significant structure and it should be honored.

Ramsey Russell: It should be. Well, something else we were talking about at dinner last night, around that same era when Nash Buckingham was young and growing up and coming down here with his daddy to hunt Beaver Dam Pre Migratory Bird Treaty Act, we’re talking about a long time ago. And around that same era, they were having real big market hunting conflicts with sportsmen just across the river over in Arkansas, in the sunken land and Big Lake and things like that and they didn’t have that problem here. I wonder why. I wonder if it’s accessibility. Because Nash Buckingham would have talked about it, I’m sure, if they had conflict. Apparently, they had it to themselves.

Mike Boyd: They did, pretty much. There’s no mention of any conflict whatsoever. No market hunting that I’m aware of, I don’t know what the difference was. Maybe it was accessibility, I have to believe it was, but I don’t know.

Ramsey Russell: I mean, right there on the rail, you figured they’d get them ducks to market real quick if they could get back up in here or something.

Mike Boyd: Absolutely. I don’t know, that’s a good question.

Ramsey Russell: John Gordon, you all are down here filming, you’ve hunted here before, hadn’t you?

John Gordon: Many times. Fortunately, I’ve been blessed to be in this blind a bunch.

Why Duck Hunting?

For me, waterfowl hunting became everything. And watching the sun rises, being in different places with great people, it’s just become something that’s just my life.

Ramsey Russell: What’s the significance? What are you all filming for and what’s the significance of it?

John Gordon: This is for the new DU Nation YouTube series. At this point, we’ve got, I think, upwards of 20 short films on it right now and it’s really taken off and it’s more of a lifestyle series than just waterfowling. It’s Ducks Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited members fish and they hunt for all different kind of things. We just got back from Illinois, where we did squirrel hunting with a dog. Yeah. So it’s really cool and it allows us to really capture some more fast paced, organic content and folks should check it. They’ll see, this hunt is incredible.

Ramsey Russell: Why is it important to you or the Ducks Unlimited to demonstrate a hunt like what we did this morning? A historic piece of property, but you called me last week and said, wear wax cotton, I go, it’s all I wear.

John Gordon: Well, it’s just kind of, Beaver Dam, right?

Ramsey Russell: We brought over pump shotgun, man, what a treat.

John Gordon: I got my old Model 12 heavy duck, you had a Model 12 going this morning, Dale shooting his Model 97, Mike with his Model 21 Winchester, those were the guns that really were the pioneers of waterfowl hunting. They’re the guns people had in their hands back in the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s. So it’s cool to bring it out here, a place with such history to it that those old guns really belong here. So the idea was, people love to see it and people love the history of duck hunting, I’ve really seen that take off in the last 10 years. People are really interested in seeing more about how things have evolved.

Ramsey Russell: I had a conversation not too long ago with a PBS crew that did not duck hunt really good people, but they weren’t anti-hunters, they just were non-hunters. And they asked me the question, why do you hunt? And why do you choose to interact with nature by shooting it? That’s a fair question for us.

John Gordon: It’s fair.

Ramsey Russell: How would you answer that question, John? Not to be put on the spot, because I’ve been on the spot. And I’m like, it made me ask myself, why do I shoot stuff that I “love”.

John Gordon: And it’s the truth. Well, for me, I fell in love with it, I just fell in love with watching ducks fly when I was a little kid, Satartia, Mississippi, freezing to death, waders were 5 that were five sizes too big, my uncle and his buddies and just seeing how they interacted with each other and how they were such great friends and watching those ducks on the wing, I just knew this was something I was going to have to do for the rest of my life. And I grew up in a hunting family, but that wasn’t it. For me, waterfowl hunting became everything. And watching the sun rises, being in different places with great people, it’s just become something that’s just my life.

Ramsey Russell: No, back when whoever built this blind back in the 40s, whoever built the blind preceding that blind, so forth, all the way back in Nash Buckingham duck hunted here, everybody hunted, all society hunting, if you didn’t hunt, you went to the corner market and bought you supper, which was wild game. Now, before color television and before we put a man on the moon, let alone individuals flying to Mars and when I got asked that question, which I’m coming back to this blind right here, why do I hunt? Why? It was kind of hard to articulate because I always have and it’s what I know and it’s who I am. And I do feed my family duck, but I feed my culture and I feed my tradition, I feed my spirit. And it ain’t the trigger pull, it’s everything else. This morning, if we hadn’t fired a shot, I don’t think nobody complained.

John Gordon: No. We were having a great time from the jump. Just like last night, going out to the commissary and having a cheeseburger and talking about all this, that’s part of it, to me, it’s all of it, not just the shooting of birds. That’s become a minor part of it, it’s all of it together, it’s the entire experience. And for me, a big part for me, I’m looking at your dog, great dog, by the way, I love her.

Ramsey Russell: She likes her job.

John Gordon: She’s into it, man. And the dogs have become such a huge part for me. I love to watch a great dog work, to me, it adds so much to the hunt.

Ramsey Russell: Did you ever read any Nash Buckingham?

John Gordon: I have. I’ve got the Shooting as Gentleman, so that’s a story collection –

Ramsey Russell: That belongs on every duck hunter?

John Gordon: Yeah, pretty much, I think so. He was really good at describing and articulating this whole world in a time that was very different from now, it was a different time, different culture. But he really painted that picture better than maybe any other waterfowl writer I ever read, you can see it through your eyes.

Ramsey Russell: It’s interesting to me that preceding the Migratory Bird Treaty act, they limited themselves to only 50 at a time that you could shoot all you wanted, they put a limit on themselves.

John Gordon: I mean, Nash was the first Ducks Unlimited communications guy.

Ramsey Russell: That’s right.

John Gordon: He was the guy that really was putting the message out and Nash thought it was really his duty as a hunter and conservationist to get involved with DU and really send that message out. And so we owe a big debt of gratitude to Nash Buckingham for putting that out there and really getting people in a much different time. Now, you just take it for granted, there’s so much content flying all over the place. I mean, he was having to put stuff out in newspapers and magazines and everything and people were having to read it content. So he played a big role in the early days of Ducks Unlimited.

Ramsey Russell: But even the context of 50 ducks per man, not 6, 50. His stories kind of the hub is the ducks, but the stories are about the people and the land and experience and the dogs and the paddlers, everything, the ducks were just a very minor part of his story, an essential part, but a minor part of what he was really writing about. The same thing that we’re all sitting here sharing in the blind today, the fellowship and just those whistling wings coming through the timber.

Beaver Dam Hunting Stories

Well, my family doesn’t go back, but the land does.

John Gordon: I wrote an article about Beaver Dam in Wildfowl magazine back in 2012, is when it got published in November. So I did a lot of research because I really wanted to have the story straight. And what was fascinating to me more of than anything, it was 1878 when they first got down here, the first 4 guys, right? The yellow fever epidemic had devastated Memphis in 1878 in the summer, I can only imagine those guys were just looking for some sort of way to get out of that city and try to feel normal again after all. Basically Memphis half the population was gone after that summer, they either died off or they left, these guys were all prominent businessmen in Memphis and you just had to know that summer was – they think COVID was bad, that had to have been a total disaster for what they were trying to do. So I think they came down here, I tried always trying to connect the dots. I was like, how did they know Dr. Owen? And I talked to a local guy here, we sat down at the casino, had a meal and everything and talked about it. One of his relatives, Mattela Seldon was one of the first 4 people that came down on the steamboat and he owned land over in Austin. So he must have come down here and met Dr. Owen at some point and Dr. Owen has got to been the one probably contacted him by telegraph or whatever and invited those guys to come down here after that summer, which had been such a hardship on everybody to come and hunt ducks. And that’s how they ended up.

Ramsey Russell: I just had a thought, Mike, you were telling me this morning while the coffee was getting going on your stove there, you were telling me about the old land abstract. Your family goes way back on this piece of property way back. How far back do they go?

Mike Boyd: Well, my family doesn’t go back, but the land does.

Ramsey Russell: That’s right.

Mike Boyd: And so this abstract that somebody put together and God bless them for doing it, I don’t know who it was, it wasn’t my family. I think it was gifted to my grandfather when he bought the place. It actually goes all the way back to the 1830s and so I have a record of everything, basically, that legally happened to this piece of property from then till now.

Ramsey Russell: How long is that abstract?

Mike Boyd: Oh, I don’t know, it’s probably – well, there’s at least one page for every year. And I don’t remember what the last date is on it, but I think it’s past World War II, so it’s over 100 years of record keeping on it. It may be 150 pages long. You can get bogged down and not understand the legal jargon in it, but you can get the gist of it.

Ramsey Russell: That’s right.

Mike Boyd: And to see what happened in the early days and what was interesting was that and I didn’t know this, but I was told this, that it goes back to the Indians. And the Indian women evidently held a big position of power with the land. And so on some of those tracks that were sold, the women’s names are on there, not the men, which really was kind of counter to what I really thought it maybe it would be, I didn’t know what role the women played in that society. But then you have the Civil War, what happened during the Civil War and I think a lot of this land was forfeited for whatever reason, I think they passed some law that took the land from the owners, but they got it back after the war somehow. And then even up through World War I, World War II, it’s just interesting to kind of see the history of the land that we live on and we make our living on now. But, yeah, that’s a prized possession for me.

Ramsey Russell: When your family got started here, they were cotton folks.

Mike Boyd: They were cotton, soybean farmers. Of course, my grandfather always joked about soybeans, there wasn’t any money in soybeans and he said, yeah, he likes soybeans. He said, you got to stir the dirt a little bit, plant them, a lot of times you don’t even have to cut them.

Ramsey Russell: Somebody was telling me a story last night that one of you people, one of the first land buyer, whoever bought this land way back when, didn’t want to pay for this water right here because he couldn’t plant on it. Do you remember the story?

Mike Boyd: Well, yeah. Well, what I was referring to was when my grandfather bought this farm, this was just the northwest corner of the property. He had no idea of the historical significance of it, he was not a duck hunter. I don’t know that the man ever went duck hunting in his life. He turkey hunted, he deer hunted, he squirrel hunted, but he had no idea of any of this had any significance. And really, through the years, a few of my family members have hunted, but I guess maybe I took it more seriously than any of them did. But yeah, it was just kind of wasteland to him to tell you the truth. It wasn’t fishable when I was a kid because of all the aquatic vegetation that caused the South End trails. But over the years, it’s opened up and there’s some good fishing in it now. But yeah, it was just 90 acres that he paid for, they really didn’t get a whole lot out of it.

Ramsey Russell: And I heard it. You told a story, I think, at the commissary last night or somebody did, maybe back in his era or maybe your daddy’s era, that something about a combine pulled up or cranked up and just a cloud of ducks got up, 10,000 ducks got out of water.

Mike Boyd: I’ll tell you what this would have been in the late 70s. I had graduated from college and I was back farming and we pulled into what we call a schoolhouse field over here, which is where Lamar’s house sits now and it was the end of October. We pulled the cotton pickers in there and one of the cotton pickers we had was a John Deere hot drum picker, had a gasoline engine in it and had the loudest fan you ever heard on it, the suction fan, to suck the cotton up into the basket, it sounded like a fire whistle. And when they went in there and Coon drove that picker, you remember me telling you? So Coon was on that picker and when he engaged that fan, the lake just erupted with ducks, end October now, it was full of ducks and it really surprised me that there were that many birds down that early. But, yeah, I remember that well.

Ramsey Russell: What do you say about that many ducks?

Mike Boyd: Well, I mean, it was a surprise to all of us, but he was the only one beside me, I think that even took notice of it because he loved it like I did.

Ramsey Russell: Had he seen more ducks than that, even back then?

Mike Boyd: Oh, I’m sure he know. I don’t know what Coon’s history was with the Fant family before we got here, but I know that he was good to me and I know I probably worried this stew out of him, but anytime I wanted to go hunting or fishing, he was always available to take me. If he wasn’t working on the farm, if they weren’t planting or cultivating or whatever, he always had time for me.

Ramsey Russell: He might have been an old fashioned pattern like Horace if he’d been born 100 years earlier.

Mike Boyd: Yeah, exactly.

Ramsey Russell: Because he called, he hunted, he knew this land like that.

Mike Boyd: Exactly. I mean, he was a good outdoorsman, he was sharp, he knew what the game did, he knew what you could do and he was really a good outdoorsman. Something that really was funny to me was earlier this past year, I was fishing with my buddy Bill. And when you fish with Bill, you have a lot of time to talk because you’re going to be out there 6, 8 hours, which is a good though. So we talk about everything under the sun and I’ve known Bill for a long 40 plus years. And so we were talking about the old days and he loved the Tunica cutoff because in the 60s, he’ll tell you, there wasn’t a finer lake fish in mid south in Tunica cut off. And I said, did you ever know? Because he used to go down to Ted, Madura’s fish camp, that’s where he launched his boat down there and he was really close to them, and they were good to him. Well, I remember when I was in junior high and high school, a lot of nights during the planting season when we would leave to go home, Coon might go home for a few hours, but then he would go out there. So we were just fishing. I just asked, just on chance that he remembered or knew or met him, I said, did you ever meet a guy at the cutoff named Coon out there at Madura and Ted Pores? He said, yeah, I knew Coon.

Ramsey Russell: Really?

Mike Boyd: I said, you got to be kidding me. I said, he is a guy that taught me how to duck hunt and he said, that’s unbelievable. He said, yeah, I love that guy. And I said, he was a great guy. So isn’t that funny that –

Ramsey Russell: It’s a small world, isn’t it?

Mike Boyd: I had known Bill for 40 years and I had no idea that he knew this guy. Anyway, we got a big kick out of that. But yeah, Coon was all right now, I’m telling you, he was a good dude.

Ramsey Russell: Dale, I’m glad you didn’t get lost on drive up here. You called me yesterday and you said, is there another bridge? I said, yes, there’s Greenville Bridge, well, you said you left early because your Frenchman sometimes get lost.

Dale Bordelon: Yeah, they make jokes about us Kunais. I left an hour early in case I’d get lost, but I made it on time, I was here before everyone. But every time I come to Mississippi, I cut across in Vicksburg, hit 20, so that GPS bought me onto 20 on this side of the river and kept going. And I had to call one of my friends and he didn’t know if that was a bridge or not. So I called you to make sure I didn’t want to go that way and I have to turn around.

Ramsey Russell: Well, I knew if you missed it, she’d bring you across at Helena or Memphis, St. Louis.

Dale Bordelon: Well, I didn’t want to go that far. But I made on time, it was good, but I’m going to go back 61 all the way to Vicksburg, that’s the easiest route.

Ramsey Russell: When you talk about, I hear these conversations and I’m reminded of the paddlers, like Horace back in the day and the folks that were coming out here, how they hunted this with the little boats, probably like pirogue, like what your people use, it. Must be very similar. You’re all about that era and that life and perpetuating it.

Dale Bordelon: That’s a little lake by my house when I grew up, it’s about 3500 acres and it’s nothing but little rings and trees and woods, all those French people had was pirogue, wooden pirogue and I grew up with those people. And as far as I knew, as a young man, that was the only lake in the world because I never was exposed to a whole lot. So that’s how I started hunting when I started duck hunting, me and my partner had some good pirogue and we’d paddle to the blinds or we’d go jump shoot at Catahula, it was all in. So, yeah, I can relate to it, that would be a nice paddle, I told Mike from his house to here, it would be a beautiful paddle and I probably would hunt like that just do something for your soul, it’d be relaxing. It’s nice with a nice boat and all, but I can relate to that. I love hunting in pirogue.

Ramsey Russell: The world is just so fast and crazy and busy, everybody, every single human being I know, just try getting somebody on the phone because you drive and we’ll chat for a few minutes, everybody’s busy. And be able to just sit back and paddle and relax and shoot an old pump shotgun and just try to step back, even just for a morning in a duck blind means something, doesn’t it?

Dale Bordelon: Absolutely. I know you all know this and I told Mark this, every year for my birthday I take my pirogue and I go paddle, an old place that I haunted as a kid or my daddy hunted. And it’s a day I spent just by myself going reminiscing and when I get back home, I can’t get mad at nothing. My heart is so content, it brings me to another place that is very enjoyable, the solitary and all that. I’m Just an old pirogue pilot, I guess you can call. I’m an old soul, I guess.

The Sweet Stuff: 100 Year Old Recipes

They make that South Louisiana below Lafayette, St. Martinsville it’s very popular. 

Ramsey Russell: You showed up last night with a heck of a dessert. Tell me what you brought and where you got it and all that good stuff. What was that you brought last night, we ate.

Dale Bordelon: It’s a syrup cake.

Ramsey Russell: Syrup cake.

Dale Bordelon: They make that South Louisiana below Lafayette, St. Martinsville it’s very popular. And they got steamed syrup meal and that vicinity.

Ramsey Russell: Like a cane syrup.

Dale Bordelon: Right.

Ramsey Russell: That’s what stain is, kind of like molasses, but it’s similar.

Dale Bordelon: That steamed syrup got a certain –

Ramsey Russell: Do you think they make it with sugar cane?

Dale Bordelon: Yeah. And it’s got a certain taste that they had years ago, now you eat syrup from the grocery store, it’s all good. But this has the old taste from 1910.

Ramsey Russell: My grandmother bought it.

Dale Bordelon: So the old people back then didn’t have the stores and all the luxuries, they had syrup meals, so they made syrup cakes. And coming on this trip, I have a friend of mine that he bought some calls from and his wife, we friends on Facebook and he’s a friend of mine, she made us want for us to have over here.

Ramsey Russell: Thank you very much, if you’re listening. Yeah, it’s like a 100 year recipe, it’s a big deal.

Dale Bordelon: It’s an old recipe and I’m going to get the recipe from her just to have, I think you want it.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I wanted it, good stuff.

Dale Bordelon: I think you want to try to go to Steen’s for get a little podcast with them?

Ramsey Russell: I would love to. Yeah, I think I’d like to.

Dale Bordelon: It’s a very historical place, I can tell you that and a very historical town, Abbeyville, that’s an old French community. Got an old college, church, it’s a beautiful setup.

Ramsey Russell: Kind of when we put this hunt together, all of us in this duck blind this morning, we decided we were going to kind of go old school, bring the old pump shotguns that John was talking about. And I’ll be honest with you, I got that little Benelli 28 gauge on the back seat of truck because I love it, but now shooting that Model 12. When I grew up, that was my first 12 gauge. I had 20 gauge and my grandfather was still using his 1100, my dad be working, I’d go hunt that afternoon, I’d take his old 1100 out. And that’s how I learned to shoot pump. But that’s a long time ago, Dale, that’s 40 years ago. I put that thing on the backseat, I’m like, I ain’t believing, I got to go shuck some shell, it’s been too long. How old habits come back to you.

Dale Bordelon: Okay, listen to what I’m going to tell you, though. I’ve been shooting old guns because I like the old ways and everything old, we shot all these old guns this morning. Want the new gun or synthetic guns that’s not dying, if you like that, it’s good. But them old guns that’s not work harder, the Model 12, 21 Winchesters, they don’t make a better gun than none of those guns and we proved that this morning.

Ramsey Russell: I’m glad to have it Model 12, we don’t know what happened. My grandfather, when my uncle and my daddy were 15 had given them for Christmas a pair of Model 12 one apiece and consecutive numbers. And when my daddy passed, we broke the house down trying to find it, we don’t know if he walked off or he sold it or what he did. And I told that story one time at a buddy of mine up in Michigan, Zach and his Popo knew where a pile of them were and when I was up there, they showed them to me and that’s how I ended up with one of those. And I’m proud to have it, it’s a great shotgun.

Dale Bordelon: You shot very well with it this morning, besides claiming that ducks I was killing.

Ramsey Russell: Now, one thing I noticed, Dale, you’re just like Mr. Ian. I noticed you shoot a lot better when we shoot at the same duck.

Dale Bordelon: I’ve seen that myself. It’s all fun, boys.

Ramsey Russell: I’ve had a good time. And Mike, I appreciate you putting this hunt together, I really do. It was a rare treat, it was my first time to hunt this part of Beaver Dam and it was a long time. And we were talking on the drive in, I’ll say this, too, it’s an old cypress break and of all the habitats and all the type stuff, I hunt, I love to hunt marsh, love to hunt flooded timber, I love to hunt cypress. I think it’s my favorite habitat of ever hunting, I don’t know why.

Mike Boyd: It is not a prettier setting for a duck hunt.

Old Habits Die Hard: Hunting the Same Duck Hole for 50 Years

Of all the years you’ve been hunting, Mike, is there just one morning that stands out above all else, besides this morning?

Ramsey Russell: Every time you come to a cypress break like this, it’s like stepping into an old church. It’s amazing. Do you ever get tired of it? I mean, 50 years you’ve been hunting this duck hole, this one spot.

Mike Boyd: This one spot. And I enjoy going over to dockery and hunting some, too, but this is where I always come back to. It’s hard to beat.

Ramsey Russell: Lamar, if your daddy’s been hunting here for 50 years, you’ve been hunting here your whole life, then?

Lamar Boyd: My whole life, yes. Killed my first duck here.

Ramsey Russell: Do you remember? What was that?

Lamar Boyd: Drake wigeon, right here. 2 blinds ago, but in the same spot.

Ramsey Russell: Really? How many blinds have been in this spot since you’ve been hunting?

Lamar Boyd: 3. So when I was born, there was a blind here, I hunted for several years, then we rebuilt, probably when I was in elementary school. And then I built this blind or helped dad build it 12 years ago, 13 years ago, something like that.

Ramsey Russell: You all did a fine job. I’ve hardly been in a more comfortable blind, it’s set up perfectly well.

Lamar Boyd: Like dad said, if we’re going to be here every day, you might as well be comfortable.

Ramsey Russell: Might as well be comfortable.

Lamar Boyd: Those last few days of the season, you get a little tired.

Mike Boyd: Birds didn’t flare off thought.

Ramsey Russell: No, the birds don’t flare. You all do a good, man, it must take you all a week to brush this blind.

Mike Boyd: Takes them a week.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah. Takes them a week.

Lamar Boyd: I got to give a lot of credit to Garrett, he’s the guy that does a lot of this work for us though.

Ramsey Russell: He does a fine job. Either one of you all got any fondest memories of hunting this location? Of all the years you’ve been hunting, Mike, is there just one morning that stands out above all else, besides this morning?

Mike Boyd: There’s several, but I have to go back to when Coon would take me out here, bring me out here and we’d sit and the patience that that guy exhibited, because I missed a ton of ducks, I had old 311 Stevens, 20 gauge. And he’d stay as long as I wanted to stay and he would also paddle me around the trails and we’d pull up and he’d say, there’s some mallards up here, get ready. And he would get so close with that Arkansas traveler that he would take that paddle, and he would bump the gun on that boat and jump those ducks up in front of me so I could shoot them.

Ramsey Russell: Really?

Mike Boyd: Now, that’s amazing.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah, it is.

Mike Boyd: That he could take a kid and do that, but he could. So, to me, that’s probably some of my best memories.

Ramsey Russell: Nash Buckingham was a heck of a shot, he did a lot of decoys and stuff like that, but somebody was saying he probably did a lot of – probably rode them trails back in those days and probably did some jump shooting like this.

Mike Boyd: Absolutely.

Ramsey Russell: That was just the way you did it. There was even a club, we’re talking about Hank Burdine this morning in the blind and he used to be a member of the old Swan Lake Hunting Club, down in Washington County and they had boats custom designed, that’s how they hunted, was riding those riding those trails and jump shoot, isn’t that something?

Mike Boyd: It was something. It was a method of hunting back then that you don’t see anywhere.

Ramsey Russell: I wonder, before decoy, like, I listened to a podcast, I think, yesterday or the day before and one of our mutual friends, Dr. Caputh was talking about how historically, they really didn’t use a lot of decoys down here. It was cover and you called to them a splash of water, whatever you did, the birds came in and you didn’t need decoys.

Mike Boyd: Yeah. I don’t remember any stories of these massive decoy spreads or anything else, I think you’re right. They might have thrown a few out there.

Lamar Boyd: Of course, they had calling hens too, they had live decoys, I don’t think you need but a few of those.

Ramsey Russell: No, sir.

Mike Boyd: That’s probably pretty effective.

Ramsey Russell: I’ve been fortunate to hunt over live decoys in the Netherlands and it makes a difference, it really does. It doesn’t take much. I tell you what, if that was still legal, we probably just need a half dozen ducks out there tethered in the decoy, that’s all we would have needed.

Mike Boyd: Yeah, absolutely.

Ramsey Russell: But I sure do appreciate you all’s hospitality. It was a rare treat and a heck of a morning, Mike, Lamar.

Mike Boyd: Well, it was a pleasure to have you all. I’m glad you were here, I’m glad we got to spend some time together and hopefully this is not the last time.

Ramsey Russell: Next time, we’re going to have to pin something to Dale’s shirt to remind him to bring that cake out to the blind, that’s all we talked about last night, was eating that molasses cake, eating that syrup cake with our coffee and we get up there, we get the coffee, go like, where’s the cake? I didn’t bring that.

Mike Boyd: I believe we can handle that.

Ramsey Russell: I’ve sure enjoyed it. And I appreciate you being here too, John, thank you very much.

John Gordon: It was great, man, always a pleasure.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah. Folks, live from the duck blind at Beaver Dam Lake in Tunica County, Mississippi. You all been listening this episode of Duck Season Somewhere with Mike Boyd, Lamar Boyd, John Gordon and our longtime buddy, Mr. Dale Bordelon. Thank you all for listening to this episode of Duck Season Somewhere, we’ll see you next time.

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