Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Southern Swing...with a Mediterranean Spin!

For the last 8 or 9 years I have packed my bags at the end of Ohio's waterfowl season and headed south, following the ducks to one or more southern states for one last hunt.  I have had great hunts and made great friends in Tennessee, Missouri, and Mississippi.  This has affectionately become known at my household as "the Southern Swing", and I look forward to it every year.

This year, Roux and I continued a tradition started last season by heading back to my home state of Mississippi and joining Ramsey Russell at Willow Break Hunt Club north of Vicksburg.  I was interested to learn on our arrival that we would be joined later in the week by two of Ramsey's friends and clients from the Mediterranean island nation of Malta!  Seems Ramsey met Stephen and Patrick, international hunters and bird collectors, on a Russian duck and capercallie hunt, becoming fast friends.  These gentlemen had booked a successful Alaskan King Eider hunt through Ramsey, and were returning to Malta with their trophies via the Great State of Mississippi.  (I was reminded of Charlie Daniels' "Uneasy Rider"..."I wonder if anybody would think I'd flipped if I went to LA, via Omaha"...but who am I to judge?)  Even more interesting to me was that they were heart-set on shooting Mississippi Wood Ducks to add to their collection.  Now, I think we take these gorgeous birds for granted, and they are no more common on Malta than King I suppose it all makes sense.

When they arrived in camp Tuesday night (several days late due to notoriously uncooperative Alaskan weather and flight delays), greetings and toasts were made to a successful upcoming hunt.  It was amazing to me how quickly bonds were made and common ground was found among hunters who called their homes thousands of miles apart, despite obvious language barriers.  (I must admit, however, that their English was MUCH better than my Maltese!)  I knew they were comfortable with us when Stephen gave me crap for snoring too loud.... I didn't hear anything.

Over the next several days Ramsey and I got to hunt with Patrick and Stephen, and were impressed with their comfort (and success) shooting borrowed shotguns.  Certainly, a targeted bird was in dire straits anywhere close to these guys!  They collected and marveled at the beauty of our gadwalls and ringnecks, taking several to add to their trophy rooms.  Interestingly, Patrick had never taken a Canada goose, and one obliged him by dropping in a cypress break at his shot.  They took photos and videoed all aspects of the hunt.  It amuses me that Roux and I will be featured in these guys' vacation films, shown back in Malta, but we were happy to help.  

Trophy Gadwalls and Ringnecks headed to Malta!

Mississippi Mallards and Gadwalls!
Finally, after several days of trying different locations, we got them into the wood ducks, with each of them collecting several of these highly prized birds for their collections.  They could not have been happier.  I was thrilled Roux-ster and Ramsey's Lab, Cooper, were able to help them retrieve their trophies.  

Patrick and Stephen with their trophy Wood Ducks!
As the hunt progressed, I was amused to see how quickly they adapted to hunting "the American way" and I knew they were going to fit in when I heard "up yours" and "that's what she said" in heavy Mediterranean accents!  I nearly doubled over laughing!  It was my pleasure to meet these true sportsmen and I'm honored to call them friends and brothers in this great sport of waterfowling.  As always, Ramsey was a gracious host, and Brown Dog and I appreciate his hospitality.  We are already thinking about next year's "Southern Swing"!

Even the Maltese know...Brown is Beautiful!

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