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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I can remember from a very young age following my dad through the woods with rubber boots and an old single shot 410. We would wade out into the cypress ponds and when it got too deep he would set me up on an old stump while he and the lab would post nearby. Birds would rain down on their southern migration and once in a while I’d get lucky enough to shoot an unsuspecting one or two (more than likely swimming on the water).

Now that I’m a dad myself these memories come rushing back so sweet and frequent every winter I venture into the woods. I’ve stomped back into the same ponds I broke ice in 30 years ago with my old man, only now with my son on my back.

Many dogs have come and gone over those 3 decades. The dog on the right is our Gracie and on the left is my fathers new puppy Sage. The old labs of my childhood have now turned into Boykin spaniels. And I can only hope and pray there are many more memories to be made with my father and his grandson, that old single shot 410, and a little brown dog somewhere along the way.
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Cool story. Reminds me of some of my own trips with my dad.

How do the boykins do on cold days, compared to a lab?
Ours is spoiled rotten. She was my wife’s “baby” before our son came along. She sleeps in the bed and goes literally everywhere with us. She’s never had issues with the cold compared to the labs she hunts around. If one dog is shivering/teeth chattering they’re usually all doing it even the Chesapeake in the group.
I wouldn’t take her to Arkansas or anything extreme but I’m sure if your dog was accustomed to the cold they would do just fine.
 

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Lol. AR is where I hunt.

There are some days (this weekend likely, when it'll be 18 degrees) that my lab would rather not go. By go, I mean retrieve - she'd be pissed if the boat left without her no matter how cold. I'll have to push her off the dog stand, but once in the water, she's good.

Mine is by no means a house pet though. She's a bull in a china shop in the house. At one point, I had 2. A smaller female for most days, and a bigger male for those cold/icy days.

Even my 55-60 lb female lab takes up precious space on the 4 wheeler when we're going in that way, and is a load to drag over the side of the boat when we're using boats. I'd prefer a little smaller dog if it had the same speed and cold tolerance.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
There’s some cool videos on YouTube of guys up
your way that hunt them in the cold. Deff easier to get in a boat than a lab that’s specifically what these dogs were bread for in the Carolinas.
And I’m jealous man. I’d kill to have green heads down here. Back in the day my dad and uncles not only killed mallards but also geese.
Pretty much all we have in this area now is woodies inland and red heads on the coast
 

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Strange the way the flyaways change, and not always for the better.

We get no Canada's here any more. Used to kill them regularly when I was a kid. But specklebellies are everywhere.

And we definitely don't get the number of ducks we used to, but my small group still pulled off a pretty successful season this year. Better than the last 2 anyway.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Same. We have a big land lease 40k acres roughly and a crap ton of public land around us that holds a few ducks. It just takes a ton of walking to find the ponds they want to be in. The timber company we lease from went in and cut the rims out of most of the ponds which ruined the hunting in most places. Fortunately for us not many people duck hunt down here so if you’re willing to put in the miles it can be productive some years.
As you mentioned about the flyways it’s amazing to see where our banded birds have come from this year Alabama, Canada, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and a few from the east coast basically pacific to Atlantic fly way birds have ended up here.
Another weird thing, we usually kill a band or two but this year we have killed about 7 (only two on our lease) but between our friend group we have never shot that many in a single year. I assume they are just banding more birds than they did in the past?
 

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Not sure, we haven't killed a single band this year, which is unusual.

But we've changed our style up significantly over the last couple of years. My brother and I leased 1300 acres of rice fields for a number of years and ran an 18- member club. Because we could control the water, it was almost 100% flooded, so we were protected against dry years. In the early years, it would produce 3k birds/ season and the best pit would do 500-600 alone. That slowly declined over 5-6 years and the last year we had it, I think we barely hit 500 for the whole farm.

A couple years ago, we were both burned out on the headaches of dealing with landowners, club members, and it had became a ton of work for very little reward. Plus the cost of the lease and flooding on a dry year was $$$expensive. Old pits were rusting out and needed to be replaced, but hard to justify those infrastructure investments when the ducks aren't showing up.

We dropped our lease and bought a cabin on an oxbow that borders public hunting. We took the 4 best club members with us and wished the rest the best. The opposite bank of the lake behind the cabin is the boundary of 160k acres of public hunting. There's about 25 cabins that sit on the lake with us that have access to a private ramp. Even though the hunting is public, anybody else wanting to access that block of timber has to put in at public landings up or down river 5+ miles.

It's taken us a couple years to figure this place out. It's easy when the water is high - you can go anywhere by boat. But at low water, there's too much ground to cover on foot. We ferry atvs over on pontoons and ride miles back into the woods.

All that said, when we had the rice field leases, we killed a handful of bands every year. But it was a variety of species. We'd have a couple of banded specks, a snow or two, a teal or two, and maybe a mallard most years.

With the style of hunting we do now, we kill almost all mallards and a few woodies. We've not seen a band this year, but I keep thinking we're due.

I do miss the geese though, and they accounted for a lot of the bands. Especially the snows. When we had all those fields leased, my brother and I would be on the farm pretty much every weekend after duck season, cleaning up, pulling pipes, dragging out skid blinds, e.t.c. And usually that ran concurrent to the extended conservation season on snows. Since nobody was hunting the farm at that point, the snows would raft up all wk. First thing we'd do when we got there for a workday was drive around and look for fields full of geese. The figure out how to ditch- crawl to get close enough to shoot into the flock. With plugs out, we'd have 4-5 shots each, and then go thru a box of shells on cripples. Great dog training opportunity, as we'd regularly get 30-40 out of one flock. And sometimes we'd get to pull that off a couple times a day. Just out of the sheer number of snows, I think the odds were in our favor when it came to collecting bands that way.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
That just sounds like a blast sneaking up and pulling the trigger 5 times on those jokers.
I really want to do something up your way even if it’s fully guided just to have the opportunity to shoot something different with my dad one time.

The cost of those type hunts paired with the fact that these birds are so weather dependent has always made me hesitant. And don’t forget for every decent outfitter now days there’s 10-15 con artists that will take your money and put you in a crappy spot.
 

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That just sounds like a blast sneaking up and pulling the trigger 5 times on those jokers.
I really want to do something up your way even if it’s fully guided just to have the opportunity to shoot something different with my dad one time.

The cost of those type hunts paired with the fact that these birds are so weather dependent has always made me hesitant. And don’t forget for every decent outfitter now days there’s 10-15 con artists that will take your money and put you in a crappy spot.
Depending on what your budget is, I can highly recommend Slick McCollum's. It would be a once in as lifetime hunt with your dad. Greenheads in the timber, right in your face, and the accommodations are second to none. Great people to be around. I've got a picture somewhere of my trip there a few years ago. 24 hunters in 4 groups of 6. After the hunt, we had 24 limits of mallards on the deck. It was a sight to see. I think their place is about as consistent as it gets, because of their location and the way they manage the property.

But you're right, it is easy to get taken on guided hunts now days. Everybody with a bag of decoys and an atv is an outfitter and will take you on a guided hunt for a few hundred bucks. They get enough suckers every year that return customers are not essential to their business model. Same with third parties leasing fields. They'll put a pit in a field that's never held birds, throw up a rice levee so it'll hold 5 acres of water, and suddenly it's a $6500 duck hole. I kept thinking the economy would run those fly by night operations out of business, but they seem to be thriving.

I generally won't deal with anybody but the landowner or the farmer on a guided hunt or land lease. Anybody else is not in it for the long haul and you'll be lucky to get them to answer the phone once they've cashed your check.
 

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If you're wanting a guided trip with more variety than mallards, Byers farm is a good one. They hunt rice/ bean fields. Have about 4k acres and manage it right. It's a little less expensive than slicks, but they still do it up right. Nice lodge with a lot of history. I leased a cabin from them at one point.... they are honest folks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Much appreciated on the names of those guys. I’ll check them out for sure! I’ve sent some info to a couple of places my buddies have gone in the past and I will inquire of these folks too!
 

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This is a great post. My Dad trained dogs on a South Georgia quail plantation for many years; that's where I grew up and I have similar memories. He also made the transition from Labs to Spaniels, but the quail guys are using English Cockers. He can't say enough good things about them, and I've got dibs on a puppy from the next litter this guy sires. Gonna put him to work here in the LA marsh!
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
This is a great post. My Dad trained dogs on a South Georgia quail plantation for many years; that's where I grew up and I have similar memories. He also made the transition from Labs to Spaniels, but the quail guys are using English Cockers. He can't say enough good things about them, and I've got dibs on a puppy from the next litter this guy sires. Gonna put him to work here in the LA marsh!
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Good looking cocker right there! I’ve quail hunted over Cockers, Brits, Springers, and Boykins all have little differences but my final choice came down to either a cocker or a Boykin.
We use ours for a little bit of everything- quail, ducks, dove, squirrel, deer, rabbits and I’m sure she would be happy to trail a wounded turkey this spring. She tags along wherever we go and she’s pretty much on the skiff anytime i take it out.
Best of luck with the new pup!
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Boykins are great. My two year old is till learning, but he’s retrieved ducks, geese, and even a few sandhill cranes in OK.
I use a vest on him and he does ok in the cold. S LA, so I’m worried about gators as opposed to the cold.
That’s awesome bud I can say my dog has changed a lot from 2-3 it’s like she knows what I’m gonna do before I even do it. They are such good dogs. Post some pics on here this winter
 
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