“Man, you ain’t ever had a black-bottom biskit?” That was the response I got when I asked Blake Burrus, of Ole South Outfitters (VIDEO),what he was talking about in the duck blind. “No, not that I know of Blake. You have to tell me what that is because I am a biskit fan and I am not sure that I am picturing what you are saying just right.” I replied.
Blake’s long white beard seemed to grow as he dropped his head and slowly shook it back and forth. “Dang boy, that’s just sad! Ain’t one honest to goodness Southerner don’t know what a black bottom biskit is.” With that, I realized that what I “thought” it “might” be, had been right, but the opportunity to connect with the old duck master had faded like the sun on cold January evening. My heart sank a little, but it was great to know that biskits were still in style with what I call the “Ole Guard”.
Mike McGhie has become a friend of mine over the last sixteen years or so and he invited me to go along with him on a “real” duck hunt. I jumped at the chance to go but was not prepared for what a real duck hunter has to do in order to be successful. As you may remember if you read “Ribbit Rambo” I consider myself a good shot and a relatively knowledgeable hunter; however, I had never been confident enough to tackle the art of duck hunting although many people including my son Austin have been encouraging me to do so for years.
Mike’s childhood friends Blake and Julie Burrus started “Ole South Outfitters” in Arkansas years ago and Mike was excited to see them again and hunt ducks. I was excited to see what all the hubbub of duck hunting was about and let me tell you, I found out. I am likely hooked for life, although what I call a successful hunt and what the “Ole Guard” would call a successful hunt are possibly two different things. Let me just say that it is work, pure and simple. The amount of preparation and effort it takes to see even one duck is enough to keep the light weights like me at bay. I never understood why it was so expensive to get “into a good blind” but now I know it is worth every single penny AND a big tip. It is just impressive how these guys operate and what it takes to make it all work.
We were slated for two days on the blinds. That means we were going to be in the woods and on the water for two days. When Mike and I met up on Thursday evening, he had his gear in the back seat of his Tundra. I needed the other half of the back seat, his tool box and the bed of his truck. He must have choked a little when he saw all the stuff I pulled out to load, most of which had no value to duck hunting whatsoever. He gave me a look as if to ask, “Are you serious?”, but as a southern gentlemen uttered no words. We loaded up and headed for Arkansas like two kids on Christmas Eve. Mike spent the time on the road to educate me on duck hunting etiquette and by the time we arrived I felt confident that I wouldn’t embarrass myself. I was wrong, just to be honest.
My son, Austin, had warned me not to pull out my duck calls unless I was absolutely sure I could keep up with the big boys. Mike had echoed that to me as had my friend Gerald Flouhouse of Charlotte, NC only a few weeks ago. Gerald added some extra advice as he told me of a novice hunter that had his prize call “tuned up” by a veteran caller. “Tuned up” means the veteran asks you to look at your nifty little expensive duck call that he is super impressed with, then when you hand it over proudly, he chunks it in the deepest part of the river! I wasn’t going to lose my calls so I kept them close, and quiet.
Over the two days I learned why someone like me doesn’t need to try to impress real duck hunters with my calling abilities. I sat in amazement as time after time Blake, Mike, and Blakes’s team of professionals called ducks into the blind area when it was obvious the ducks did not want to be there. These guys could turn them, read their patterns, make them sit down right in front of you even though there was a big ole goofy looking guy (me) standing there with reflective glasses and a shiny bald spot just glowing like a ray of sunshine. Yep, for the first day or so I was just standing there as happy as a lark, thinking all was great and smiling like a Cheshire cat with every volley of shots, until finally Blake was comfortable enough to share with me tactfully that I needed to be a little less obvious and gently coaxed me back into the cover of the blind with the kind, soft spoken, yet thoughtful statement, “Ken! Get you’re A** back in the blind and cover them dadgum glasses! Ain’t no duck gonna fly in here with you flashin ‘em like a ambulance! Dang, boy!”
I was touched, heart-warmed, and encouraged. Then I sat my butt down and watched what I was doing for the rest of the trip. Funny thing was, we started seeing lots more ducks after that. Strange. Blake may know what he is talking about. Just maybe. I looked over at Mike and could tell he wanted to laugh but he, again the southern gentleman, didn’t.
Early on the final morning we were all treated to a breakfast in the blind and some “black bottom biskits” as the sun came up slowly and the chill was still in the air. As the morning fog crept over the frigid waters, I sat quietly listening to the stories between Blake and Mike from their younger days as we waited on the first flight of ducks to break over the horizon. I hugged my coffee mug as the stories continued and sat amazed as they gingerly laughed about the time the two of them were nearly attacked by a bunch of street thugs in Memphis as they were pumping gas one night as young men.
The two had just gotten back into town after having been on a deer hunt. They stopped to fuel up and grab a quick snack. Mike pumped the gas while Blake went inside. As Blake walked back out to the truck, the two were approached and threatened by a group of local young men that were by no means asking the two to join their church youth group. The group of thugs may have reconsidered had they known that Mike was not only a master of the BBQ, but was also a master of a gas hose nozzle and Blake was a black belt in “Arrow Jitsu”. As the thugs attempted to rob the two, Mike threatened to spray them if they didn’t leave them alone. As they considered the idea of becoming soaked in gasoline and possibly ignited like a torch, Blake grabbed an arrow out of his quiver and demonstrated to the young miscreants that an arrow has the potential to do some serious damage with only a little effort. Thankfully the group decided to make a run for it. Blake and Mike drove home laughing but happy to have avoided a major problem. I would have just peed on myself, but these two thought it to be hilarious and apparently wasn’t “skeered” a bit.
The two told the stories as if they were no big deal and always left you wondering what else they had gotten into over the years. I considered myself lucky to be in their company and equally as lucky to not have been part of some of their early adventures because it seemed to me that these two had no fear of danger and likely would have had to leave me in a river bottom somewhere if I had been with them.
The entire trip was filled with great stories, great black bottom biskits, great men, and great numbers of ducks. On the final day it was heart-stopping to watch what I understand is called a “duck-nado” materialize out of the atmosphere and onto a body of water. It was if God himself ordered every duck in the air to start a downward descent to our blind. I watched a genuine work of art as Blake and his team of men and dogs worked that flight of ducks to the blind. I would have been happy to have never pulled the trigger, but I did, and we had plenty of duck meat when all was said and done. I won’t say whether I actually hit a duck or not and you can’t prove I didn’t so we will leave it at that.
When the trip was over and Mike and I headed back home to north Mississippi, I quietly considered the weekend hunt and smiled. I thought to myself as Mike listened to some really good 80’s music, “Man, this is a trip of a lifetime. I can never write it all down, but I will have share a bit of it if I can. No matter what, it is a memory I will always appreciate.”
So the next time you hear a down to earth man or woman talking about how excited they are to go duck hunting, maybe this story will help you to understand why they are so happy to be out there. I know I will always look back fondly on the 2016 trip and hope to do it again. If I don’t get to do so, it will be okay, so long as I have my memories of a few cold mornings with good friends, a few quackers, and some hot black bottom biskits. Life can’t get much better than that.
Ken Dulaney, May 2016
Bonus video from the hunt: CLICK HERE