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South Georgia Fowl - Ben Cole
South Georgia Fowl - Ben Cole

Georgia isn’t known for an abundant or diverse Waterfowl population, although the  statistics are against the Hunter, hunting wood ducks in the cypress swamps is exhilarating.  While in college I met a fella by the name of Chandler Rowe, who became my best friend and brother, at a Ducks Unlimited meeting.  We were looking for locations to place wood duck boxes to promote population growth. As time passed Chandler and I began spending more and more time in the blind together, trying to figure out how the birds were using the swamp.  

The wood duck is a very colorful bird, displaying an array of colors throughout their feathers.  Generally these birds fly deceptively fast, weaving through the timber at speeds that are not easy to follow.  Countless hours were spent building blinds and scouting in hopes of bagging a few woodies. As the sun arose over the Swamp, rays of sun drifted through the trees enticing the birds to be vocal.  Just before shooting time, the timber erupted with droves and droves of wood ducks working our way. Birds were landing all around us; however we were just a few minutes shy of shooting light, forcing us to hold our fire.  With a simple tick of the watch steel shot began to fly and feathers rained down like snow. Excitement rang out as we walked to collect our bountiful harvest. Just as we nestled back into the shadows of the blind another group began working our area.  Without hesitation they dropped in as if we were not there, which filled our daily limits. So we headed back home to prepare the meat for jerky, which is delightful.

As dawn turned into night we sat around the fire talking about the hunt, sharing different stories and reflecting on our successful time afield.  Before long Chandler and I began talking about the next morning's hunt. Things such as, what area to hunt, decoys needed, and if we wanted to target geese or woodies.  After talking it over we decided to hunt an area that was known for both and headed for some rest. With daylight quickly approaching we hurried to set the spread before the morning flight.  As usual, the woodies were up bright and early flying by before shooting hours. It’s wasn’t long before we had several of these swamp kings in the bag and were waiting on the geese to fly. Out of nowhere I heard a goose faintly honking in the distance.   I quickly rummaged through my blind bag searching for my call to answer what I thought was a lone goose. Periodically I would cluck in response to its call until it made its way close to our location. Every wing beat brought them closer and closer, thus making us quiver with anticipation.  After three quick blasts these birds sailed down through the timber landing basically in our laps. We all ducked to avoid being struck by one of these giants. All I remember thinking was I just landed geese in a timber hole, which was a first for me. While the morning hunt drew to a close our friendship grew stronger.

Friendships forged in the hot, humid duck blinds in South Georgia are ones that never fail.  There is a special brotherhood that is developed over hot cups of coffee and the smell of spent gun powder floating through the morning air.  None the less, hunting in the south, is one of the most memorable adventures of my hunting career. There is something about a wood duck that will always captivate my mind, whether it is their beautiful colors or trying to lead them through the timber without shooting a tree.  One thing to remember is that hunting isn’t just about the harvest, it’s about the brotherhood.

Ben Cole
Fripp Contributor

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