I suppose it’s normal, when you get older, to revisit more frequently those special times and events that define who you are. One such activity that put an indelible mark on my life will seem insignificant to some who never experienced it, nor would they care to. I’ll explain.
When I was growing up on the rural route near Goldonna in Natchitoches Parish, hunting in fall and winter was as natural then as driving through the Burger Doodle for a burger and fries is today. There were neither deer nor turkeys to hunt in the woods where I grew up but beeches and oaks growing along the creek banks harbored plenty of squirrels. For real excitement, I knew
I could head down to the slough and more than likely, I’d be able to get a shot at a few wood ducks.
I’m not sure if in the 1950’s, I knew the proper name of wood ducks, the colorful little ducks that made their living in the sloughs and back waters down in Saline swamp. They weresimply “squealers”, deriving their name, I assume, from the high-pitched call they made as they careened through the timber on their way to shallow areas in the swamp to feed.
From the time I was old enough to tag along with my dad, we hunted squealers practically every morning before school. In no way did our early morning squealer hunts resemble duck hunting today. There were no blinds; no decoys; no dogs; no calls. We gathered at dawn with other fathers and sons to pass-shoot squealers at the Sand Flats, a narrow spit of sand dotted with blackjack oaks that lay on the east side of Saline Bayou.
For as long as I can remember, wood ducks flew across the Sand Flats after leaving their roost on their way to a feeding area. I’d like to think that they still fly the same route today. I’m sure they flew across other areas along Saline, but since blackjack oaks don’t grow tall, the ducks generally flew lower over the Sand Flats. I don’t recall killing very many squealers on these
early morning forays, but the anticipation that I might was temptation enough to prod a teenager from a warm bed, morning after morning, for less than half an hour of wing-shooting action.
As I grew older, we took squealer hunting to another level. Instead of shooting for half an hour at the Sand Flats, we pulled on hip boots and drove as far as the old truck would take us down into the swamp, down to where Fordoche creek spilled out of its banks across the lowlands under the hardwoods to create a shallow green-tree reservoir.
Just about every morning during Christmas vacation from college, I’d join my brother, my dad, and two cousins to wade out into an old brake where squealers came to feed. On rare occasions, a mallard or two would drop in but for the most part, wood ducks were all we saw.
A couple of years ago, I was privileged to relive this experience once again when I joined three other members of our hunting club before daylight for a squealer hunt. One member had seen ducks pouring into a particular portion of our flooded woods several days in a row while he sat on his deer stand. On this particular morning, we gave the deer a rest, pulled on waders, laid aside deer rifles and picked up shotguns. We splashed our way to the flooded woods, spread out 75 yards or so apart and were waiting when the first “whee-o-wee” echoed through the flooded oaks.
The shooting was fast and furious and within 45 minutes, it was over. We collected seven squealers, one short of a two-bird-per-hunter limit and were back at camp by the time the sunbroke over the horizon.
For a few fun-filled exciting minutes, I was down on the old brake with my brother and cousins, waiting in flooded timber at daybreak, listening for the first squealer to announce its arrival.
I don’t know when I’ve enjoyed a hunting experience more. On second thought, maybe I do. Perhaps it was the last time I shot squealers down on the old brake back home.
BLACK BAYOU – No report this week. Contact Honey Hole Tackle Shop 323-8707 for latest information.
BUSSEY BRAKE – No report. For latest information, contact the Honey Hole at 323-8707.
OUACHITA RIVER – The water is rising with current and fishing has been slow this week. No reports on crappie or bass. For latest information, contact the Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707.
LAKE D’ARBONNE – A flood gate has been opened to release water that is quite high. Even so, the ACT tourney was held last week with a bunch of nice crappie being caught along channel edges and on the flats. Winning total in this catch, weigh and release event totaled 208 fish 1 pound and over. No report on bass, bream or catfish this week. For latest information, call Anderson Sport Center at 368-9669 or Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707.
LAKE CLAIBORNE –Crappie fishing continues to be fair to good with jigs and shiners picking up some fish in deep water. Bass are fair to good with some weighed in during a tournament in the 7 pound bracket. No report this week on bream, stripers or catfish.. For latest information, call Kel’s Cove at 927-2264 or Terzia Tackle at 278-4498.
CANEY LAKE –Jigging spoons and tail spinners are picking up a few bass and yellow bass bouncing these lures off the bottom in deep water. Soft plastics and deep diving crank baits have been producing some around humps just off the channels. Crappie fishing continues to be best fishing the deep tops on shiners or jigs. No report on bream or catfish.. For information contact Hooks Marina at 249-2347, Terzia Tackle at 278-4498 or the Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707.
LAKE POVERTY POINT – With cold, windy and wet weather, there have been no fishermen out this week. For latest reports, call Poverty Point Marina at 318/878-0101.
LAKE YUCATAN – The water is on a slow fall but because of inclement weather, there has been no fishing on the lake this week. For information, call Surplus City Landing at 318/467-2259.