Outdoor columnist Dan Geddings: Hickory Top


I could hear them softly gabbling and splashing in the water beyond the reeds. I stepped carefully from the edge of the woods into the thick stand of cattails and eased out toward the open water until I could see the birds through the reeds. There were a great many mallards and black ducks swimming about in the lily pads, among the scattered cypress trees and button brush. Many were tipping up in the shallow water. They were completely at ease and had not detected my presence.

The water was about knee deep, and I was already close enough to shoot. I wanted a drake and tried to focus on a greenhead before I jumped them. I brought my gun up and stepped forward. The water's surface erupted in a shower of spray as hundreds of ducks took to the sky. I lost sight of the drake I had focused on but picked out another and pulled the trigger. That bird folded up, and another big duck just beyond him also folded. I was surprised and elated. Two with one shot!

The big flock climbed for altitude and headed up the slough toward the main lake. Even at a distance, I could see there were also teal and wood ducks in the flock. I pushed on through the cattails into the lily pads to get my ducks. The first one I got to was the mallard, and it was belly up, stone dead. Just beyond was a black duck, and when I started that way, I noticed another duck just to one side flopping in the water. It was a green-winged teal. Three with one shot! I just couldn't believe it.

I had not seen the teal fall but was glad to get him. I picked up the black then headed to the teal. Before I got to that teal, I saw another one floating in a little patch of open water. I was stunned. I was so focused on the mallards that I had not seen the little green wings on the water amongst the lilies, and I had not even seen them when I shot, nor had I seen them fall. Now I had four ducks with one shot!

I had walked the woods along the edge of the slough for a good distance. I had seen the ducks going in that direction all morning, and I knew they were ganged up somewhere. It was just a matter of finding them. I had stopped and listened several times, and eventually I heard some soft quacky duck chatter up ahead in the slough.

That morning I started out near Hickory Top Road with a group of hunters I had not hunted with before. Some of the ducks were coming in at daylight, but many just went on down the slough. There were too many hunters in the group, and I was a little out of position. I had not fired my gun. I told my friend "Fuzzy" that I was going to walk on down the slough and try to find some of the ducks that had passed us by.

It was a beautiful morning, clear, cold and with a bright blue sky. The walk was pleasant through the open hardwoods. I found the ducks at the bottom of what some locals called Belser's Pond. This area was remote and required a long walk from any direction. I had made the walk many times. The entire area is now within the Hickory Top Green Tree Reservoir Wildlife Management Area. We don't get the mallards and black ducks anymore, but there are plenty of wood ducks when the timber is flooded.

I made the long walk back to Hickory Top Road with a big smile on my face. The group of hunters had given up and moved out to the hardwoods where they had camped out the night before. They were all sleeping. Fuzzy was still up and asked if I had any luck. I told him, "I got four." He was surprised and said, "I didn't hear you shoot but once."

I reached into the back of my vest and started pulling out ducks. Mallard, black and a pair of teal.

"Did you shoot them on the water?" he asked? And I answered, "No, I busted a big group from the water, picked out one, and shot. These four dropped."

That hunt happened a long time ago on opening day before Thanksgiving. The duck season is back now, and the young guns will be after them. Good luck.

Reach Dan Geddings at cdgeddings@gmail.com.