This was wrong year to miss fall turkeys

I used up most of my favorite month of October having another total hip replacement and recuperating as fast as possible. I missed the entire fall turkey season for the first time since they began in a few counties in the Delta and along the Mississippi River front.

This was doubly provoking since it appears that we have had the finest hatch and reproduction in many years. I had done some riding around on the clubs before my little trip to the surgeon. It seemed that almost every time I rounded a curve there would be another drove of almost-grown poults in the road.

My friend Leon Kennedy, caretaker on our Burke Hunting Club in northwest Mississippi, tells me that it is the finest lot of young birds he has seen in the several years he had been on the club.

In some newly cleared land along some of the roads, wheat has been planted and is up to a nice stand. The turkeys are filling it up almost like they used to back in the old days.

Maybe, just maybe, I will have made enough of a recovery to try them out during the next nine-day December season. I am hooked on fall hunting almost as much as I am on hunting them in the spring.

Most local hunters right now are involved with deer, and here also we are seeing a bountiful crop of animals and lots of very nice bucks that have resulted from quality management programs.

Dyed-in-the-wool Delta duck hunters, however, are not very happy about their prospects due to the severe lack of standing water. Recent rains have helped some, but the ground was so dry that after soaking in there was not much water left to drain off and give the birds a stopping place.

The bright spot is that Delta farmers and hunters have flooded more food-producing cropland than any other group in the United States. The ducks that have come down are filling up these fine spots. In all likelihood they will remain in these nice situations at least until lots of rain falls and spreads them out all over the countryside. Having too much surface water is almost as bad as not enough. The diligent and dedicated hunters, however, will find the birds if they are still anywhere in the Delta.

By far the best tool for locating ducks that have scattered over wide areas is a fine light airplane like the wonderful old Piper Cub or the little Aeronca. Back when I was operating a fixed-base aircraft and crop-spraying operation, I never ran out of ducks.

I kept at least one airplane for many years after I sold my flying business. It was amazing how often I would find huge numbers of mallards in out-of-the-way places that rarely were seen by anyone else. They were isolated patches of rain water that covered natural or planted duck food.

Sometimes I would find the big concentrations of ducks in the very heart of cypress brakes that did not offer the ducks much in the way of food but were fine for resting before the ducks flew to feeding areas.

I vividly recall a time when it seemed that all of the ducks were gone to parts unknown. One afternoon, however, I took off searching and just a few miles east of my airport in neighboring Quitman County, Miss., I happened to see a small bunch of mallards circle and go down out of sight in the middle of a small cypress brake. Dropping down to a safe level just above the trees, I rousted what must have been at least a thousand mallards. They swarmed up in one big mass and scared the daylights out of me as they twisted and darted all around my little Aeronca.

You can be sure that the next morning at dawn I was set up in that brake and had a fine shoot on birds that had roosted there and later on in the morning came in from elsewhere to spend the day.

Surely there will be spots like this all over the Delta this season and our hunters will have reasonable success.

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