Those words can hold meaning with broad interpretation depending on the number of zeros in your bank account and, in Southern parlance, “who your daddy is.”
I’ve always been a fan of the modest camp, requiring little more than a cot and indoor plumbing, my penchant for the latter coexisting with cold fronts and piquant table fare. “Would you like to take your Scotch by the fire” gives me less visceral contentment than, “Don’t worry about the mice, they don’t eat much.” Posh lodges with visiting chefs and mahogany boot lockers give me the willies. I have never felt comfortable having others wait on me unless the situation dictates otherwise, and even then, I prefer to pour my own drink.
For me, going to duck camp means driving across Mississippi to a small dot on the map with a name nobody who grew up more than 50 miles away would recognize. Our bunkhouse was built in the early 1900s to serve as a church before being repurposed as a barn and later to its current evolution. We can sleep four comfortably; eight if everyone is friendly. Amenities include a kitchen, bathroom with a shower, fire pit and a kennel. This past year, our gracious host traded a few chickens for a competition-grade smoker, adding yet another luxury. It’s simple, with canny delta charm that provides respite from the cold and a place to stretch out before chasing specklebelly geese in the afternoon. What else do you really need?
The owner of the farm, Martin, and his son Samuel are regular and welcomed fixtures in camp. Samuel is a sandy-haired, quick-witted young man who has grown up running combines after school while other children his age are playing video games. During duck season, he has a single-track mind: kill ducks. Often, Martin and Samuel will be alongside us, standing in the cattails or huddled in a blind, as we wait for shooting light. Samuel always gets first shot of the morning, hoping for a long-sprigged pintail to cross his barrel in the pre-dawn light. Everyone watches the sky for low flyers that might work to the call, as V-shaped bands of migrators push south at orbit level. We shoot a fair number of ducks but never get that serious with numbers like some other places do. I will not say it’s not about the killing, because honestly, I wouldn’t wake up to stand in freezing knee-deep just for giggles.
We are there to call and kill ducks, but that’s only one part of the whole. Our camp is like a two-month-long family reunion, with Martin, his family and friends we’ve met through the years rotating in and out to share stories, cocktails and a place in the blind. We don’t go to duck camp for just one act but rather the entire play.
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Realtree waterfowl editor Brian Lovett has been an obsessive duck and goose hunter for more than 30 years, chasing his passion on the Dakota prairies and the marshes and open water of his home state of Wisconsin. He's been a writer and editor in the outdoors industry since 1991.