Hogs And Ducks


Why'd you do that?

by Dennis Dezendorf

I remember a morning in the early 1970s. Uncle Eddie and I were going duck hunting on Catfish Prairie, a flat lake that is part of the Catahoula Lake swamp in central Louisiana. Catfish Prairie is dry in the summer and fills with water in the winter. You can wade it with hipboots. The long grass that grows in the summer is perfect for the ducks that stop over on their way to wintering grounds to the south.

We got there early that morning, the south wind was balmy, but the weatherman had predicted a front moving through just after sunrise, bringing the wind from the north and rapidly dropping temperatures. He hinted at a threat of rain. That suited us fine. A frontal system was sure to move the ducks, and conditions on the lake were perfect.

Our family had three blinds on the lake, and Uncle Eddie chose the center blind, his favorite. We waded in the predawn, judging our direction by the far off lights of a radio tower. The blinds were separated by about four hundred yards of thick gooey black mud. When you picked a blind, you stuck with it. You could easily become exhausted wading in that morass.

The water was about six inches deep and clumps of grass caused us to stumble around in the darkness. About four hundred yards from shore, we came upon our decoys bobbing in the water and we settled in to the blind. I recall it was pitch dark. I took the left side of the blind and Uncle Eddie settled in the right side. We opened thermoses and drank thick hot cocoa. Uncle Eddie lit his pipe.

Many mornings as we settled into the blind, we would hear ducks in the water, so we sat quietly, waiting for the first glimmer of daylight. Oftentimes we would get the first shooting of the morning when we stood, just at first light, and frightened birds off the water. We sat sipping cocoa, the aroma of the pipe caught inside the brush of the blind, and felt the wind start to shift around to the north. Uncle Eddie loaded his Remington auto, and nodded his head that I should load my Winchester pump.

As dawn approached, we heard other hunters enter the lake, the measured tread of wading men carrying on the freshening north wind. And we heard something else. Something in our decoys. Uncle Eddie shifted on his seat and moved a piece of brush aside to peer into the spread. I lifted my head cautiously and peered over my side of the blind. Total darkness.

We waited silently, listening carefully, and whispering gently to one another. The darkness seemed to deepen, then suddenly became gray gloom. Uncle Eddie grasped his shotgun and stood in a half-crouch. I mimicked him. Then he stood slowly, and said, "I'll be damned."

I stood upright and looked over the spread. A hog was standing there, about forty yards away, calmly eating the heads off our decoys. We were using Styrofoam that year and that hog would eat a decoy head, take two steps and crunch another one. His butt was toward us, and I looked at Eddie with wide eyes. He winked and shouldered his shotgun, pressed the safety off, and shot that piney-woods rooter. Square in the butt.

You cannot kill a full grown, piney woods, LaSalle Parish open range hog by shooting it in the butt with a load of # six shot. It is impossible. Just doesn't happen. By all rights, that hog should have squealed once while accelerating to warp speed. But no one told the pig. He promptly fell over on his side right at the edge of our decoys. Left legs sticking out of the water. One lone shot must have entered his neck, somehow clipping the jugular vein. I recall blood shooting up over his back into the water.

We stared, horrified at that hog dying in Catfish Prairie, blood gushing from his veins and staining the water red. Uncle Eddie cleared his throat, "You want to go drag that hog off?"

"Hell, Uncle Ed," I replied, "It would take three or four of us to drag that hog."

For the next hour, we watched as ducks pitched in to every other blind on the lake. Our blind, the one with the dead hog in the decoys, did nothing. Ducks would fly past and flare at the red water. We finally unloaded our guns and waded out of the lake. We were home well before noon.

I wish there was a moral to this story. I guess there is and smarter folks can figure it out. Ever time I think about it, I get a mental picture of that pig falling over. Some days it just doesn't pay to go into the woods.


Copyright 2003 by Dennis Dezendorf

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