by: John Loe
“So we’re gonna to set up here tomorrow,” explains my Dad, showing my Grandfather and me the spot on the satellite photo tacked on the camp wall.
“How far is that from the dock? 30, 35 miles?” my grandfather asks, characteristically weary about how far his son and grandson are taking him.
“Yeah, maybe a bit farther, but I scouted it yesterday afternoon, and the birds were so thick in there you couldn’t shoe horn in another pair! And after they got up they went right back down, and there’s a perfect spot to put the boat with the sun directly behind us,” my Dad replies eliminating any chance for a chance for a less aggressive strategy.
“Alright, so we need to leave at 4 to be on time,” I inform.
“Yep, 4. I’m off to bed after one more, it looks like Miles might actually have to pass the ball here,” my Dad says while grabbing the red wine and gesturing at the big screen showing LSU facing 3rd and 8.
That’s how our evenings go in the Loe family hunting trifecta.
After a great decade of hunting in the 1990s my father, grandfather, and I found ourselves without a steady place to hunt ducks. The previous land had lost its magic, like many famed Louisiana duck leases, due to dramatic saltwater intrusion. After experimenting for a few years without consistent success, we settled on hunting public land accessible only by boat.
Hunting public land involves some major barriers that scare off a lot of hunters: many of the better areas are accessible only by boat, permanent blinds are banned, and one must deploy and retrieve decoys each day. Without question, hunting on public land dramatically increases the work involved.
That’s why we quickly learned that having a great dog and great gear make it possible to have an enjoyable experience and not exhaust oneself. Our Wildrose finished retriever, Broom, is a 4 -year old yellow male. Broom is our second excellent hunting companion from Wildrose. Our first, Maggie, is still happy and healthy at 14, but after picking up about a thousand birds and ducks, she does her retrieving in a heated swimming pool. Broom at 4 is ready to go and in the prime of his career. Like a running back at the top of his game, Broom is fast, bold, and confident; but he still knows who’s in charge and how to take direction.
Often our days start out with temperatures around freezing and crossing open water in small boats is usually a necessity to find the birds. That’s why we use Predator Gear Drysuits, a product we invented after years of hunting public land. Predator Gear Drysuits make hunting in boats and cold climates safer since unlike waders they can’t fill with water after being overtopped – in fact you can’t get wet all. Unlike waders with ill-fitting boots that are tough to walk in and neoprene that doesn’t breathe, Predator Gear lets you wear lace up boots making walking easier. And the durable and highly breathable material keeps you from getting hot when the sun comes out, no more pooling sweat inside old waders.
“Throw the anchor on that corner of the bank.”
“No not there, THERE!” my Dad corrects me over the engine noise.
“Alright it’s hooked, pull the skiff in and let’s get going.” I yell back at him, never one to take direction gladly.
After the scouting, the long dark boat ride, putting out decoys and hiding our hunting skiff in the natural vegetation, the action finally begins.
“Ok, here they come, looks like 6 pintails from the left, 10 o’clock,” I inform.
“Yep, got em” my Dad slowly turns his head to my side of the boat blind.
“Boom! Boom! Boom” My Dad and I unleash the fury from our trusty Berettas 390s.
“I got 2 over here,” I say with a smirk knowing I got 1 more than my Dad.
“1 shot 1 duck for me! But then I lost them in the Roseau, so fast when they’re going downwind and you’ve already shot at ’em!” my dad says putting a happy face on the outcome.
“Grandy you didn’t shoot? Too fast for you?” I ask, already knowing the answer.
“Nah, I’m gonna wait till the sun’s up more, I’ll let you two have the early action.” At 89 he still loves the hunt but has slowed a bit, so the later big duck activity in the bright sun is more his game these days.
“Let’s wait a few minutes before picking them up, this is prime time,” I say stuffing shells into my gun.
“Broom!” I release our star player, he leaps off the bow of the hunting skiff, rocking it slightly, then he lunges across the shallow mud flat after the farthest Pintail.
“You sure don’t have to coax him out there, even after making him wait a while,” my Dad says.
“Yeah, it’s in him, plus after pushing the boat over that mudflat on the way in here and putting out all the decoys, can you imagine us having to retrieve that bird? Whew, exhausting” I say, pointing at Broom chasing after the Pintail on the far left that is quickly being spirited away with the current.
“No way I’d be getting it, that’s for sure,” my dad acknowledges. “Especially when it’s just Grandy and me, we couldn’t pick up the birds without Broom. With him, no big deal. He picks ‘em all up every time.”
Take it from me – if you hunt on public or unimproved land a Wildrose Retriever and a Predator Gear Drysuit will make your days less work and more fun.
Isn’t that what it’s all about?