Author’s note: I asked a Labrador retriever that I met this past week in Arkansas to do a guest column. I think he did pretty good and he worked really cheap.
Hey, everybody, my name is Jett.
I am a Labrador retriever and I work at the Stan Jones Mallard Lodge near Alicia, Arkansas. I’m usually pretty busy all during the duck season here and me and my hunting buddy Ricky Meeks take folks out almost every day duck hunting.
This week a group came in with the gun company Remington and there was a guy with them, Larry Case, that said he was a gun writer and he asked me if I would do a column for him about duck hunting and the Stan Jones Lodge. To be honest (Labradors are always honest, you know) I thought it was kind of strange, but after I got used to hitting the right letters on the computer keyboard, it wasn’t too bad. (I may have gotten a little mud and a feather or two on the desk.)
The day always starts early here, not early enough for me, but the hunters think it is early. Long before the sun comes up the guides get the hunters in a vehicle, usually with a lot of decoys and other gear piled on top and sometimes pulling a boat or ATV trailer with more gear piled on top of it. Duck hunting takes a lot of gear in the form of boats, waders, gun cases, decoys, lots and lots of decoys, coats and hats and gloves and I don’t know what all. The guides and hunters seem to spend a lot of time fooling with all of this.
I just wish they would get in the truck and let’s go hunting. But I don’t say anything; I just sit and watch and wait to be told to get in the truck. (Labradors are very patient, you know.)
Finally, finally, we get to the duck blind where we will hunt and everybody piles out and I know there will be more waiting as Ricky and the other guides have a lot of preparation to do. The decoys have to be spread in front of the blind just right; these ducks are not dumb and if everything does not look right when they approach the blind, they will not come into gun range. The hunters are milling around while the guides do all this, in the dark. The hunters seem to have a little trouble moving around in the bulky waders, especially this guy Larry Case, but I don’t say anything; that wouldn’t be polite. (Labradors are always polite, you know.)
The sun starts to peek over the horizon and I know the time is close. I tremble in anticipation and some of the hunters say I must be cold, but the guides know I am simply shaking with anticipation and pent up energy; this is what we Labradors have been born and bred to do for hundreds of years, waterfowl hunting. Finally the shooting time arrives and the guides start to work their calls; feeding calls and mallard chuckles fill the air. I watch the sky as well as I can and wait. Finally I hear the whisper of wings over the blind; the tense hunters wait like me and when the guide says “Take “em!” the roar of the Remington shotguns breaks the morning calm. I hear two ducks hit the water and now I am ready to jump out of my skin, but I can’t move until Ricky gives me the order “Back!” When he does I spring down the steps on the blind and hit the water. The water is cold but I don’t notice; I’m after those ducks. We are in flooded timber today and the water isn’t very deep so I lunge toward the ducks in great bounds, grab the first, a Greenwing Teal drake, and race back toward the blind. I give the teal to Ricky as fast as I can and fly back out into the water to find the other duck, which turns out to be a big green headed mallard drake.
The hunters are talking about the shotguns they are using on this trip, the Remington V3 semi-automatic, Waterfowl Pro. There is a lot of shooting in some wet and muddy conditions and I don’t hear any complaints so the gun must be working well.
The morning goes by with lots of ducks and shooting. I can’t figure out how the hunters miss so much, especially this guy Larry Case; I mean he is supposed to be a gun writer, you know. Every time he misses, I give him a few eye rolls, but I don’t think he notices. Sadly the time comes to load up and head back to the lodge. I don’t want to leave but the hunters are talking about the breakfast back at the lodge. Sometimes that is all they seem to talk about, the food at the lodge. They say they have some fancy chef there and the food is just incredible; well, I believe them but I don’t see much of it; sometimes I get a few scraps and they are wonderful.
Most of the time the hunters that duck hunt in the morning go for an upland style hunt in the afternoon. I don’t usually go on these hunts but I have a little buddy that is a dog on the staff for these hunts. His name is Ike; he is a Boykin spaniel and he goes on all the hunts for pheasants and chukar patridge. Ike is very lively and animated so all of the hunters love him; he rides on the bus with the hunters to get to the areas so he gets a lot of petting and attention. (I would be jealous, but Labradors don’t do that, you know.) Ike says that the upland hunts are a lot of fun, the hunters get a lot of shooting, and best of all he gets to retrieve a lot of birds; he really likes that. Ike’s hunting buddy is Nate Dunivan. Nate is in charge of the Upland hunts here at the Stan Jones Lodge and he has a big job keeping everything in order for these hunts as well as working Ike and the other dogs on the upland hunts, Bonnie, the German Shorthaired Pointer, and Speck, the English Setter. Sometimes I think Ike brags a little too much about his buddy Nate, but I don’t say anything. (Labradors wouldn’t do that, you know.)
Well, Mr. Case told me not to go on too long with this article, but I already have. I just wanted to try to tell you what a wonderful place the Stan Jones Mallard Lodge really is. There is great hunting, great guides, and wonderful food with hunter fellowship around the supper table at night.
Maybe you should come down and hunt with me and Ike and see for yourself!