New columnist John N. Felsher debuts with ducks.
Beyond the cypress trees slowly converting this ancient river channel into a swamp, distinctive quacking reverberated through the shrouding fog as the sky began to brighten on this chilly Mississippi Delta dawn.
Inside the blind overlooking an opening in the swamp, hunters tensed for action with guns at ready as they peered through shooting holes. Quacking grew louder as we tracked the progress of the birds. Finally, about 20 colorful mallards burst through the fog over the decoys.
Eons ago, the unpredictable Mississippi River spasmodically changed course, leaving behind numerous former parts of its own channel as oxbow lakes. Now, Beaver Dam Lake sits eight miles east of the main channel south of Tunica. Since Beaver Dam Lake no longer connects to the river, sportsmen can only access it through private property.
Beaver Dam Lake sits squarely in the Mississippi River Alluvial Valley of the Mississippi Delta, one of the most critical wintering waterfowl habitats in North America. The Delta runs about 200 miles along the eastern bank of the Mississippi River and spreads across nearly 7,000-square-miles covering all or part of 19 Magnolia State counties.
“The Mississippi River is a big interstate for migrating ducks,” explained Mike Boyd with Beaver Dam Hunting Services. “Ducks have been coming here for eons.
Beaverdam Lake has been a good duck hunting spot for a long time and it’s still good. It’s one of the few places that I’ve ever seen where people can kill ducks every morning out of the same blind. When a cold front comes through, we get many birds migrating through the area.
One of the best known and most beloved outdoor writers of his time, Theophilus Nash Buckingham, (1880 to 1971), enthralled generations with his hunting tales. Nash hunted many places and wrote about them, but none probably mattered more to him than his beloved Beaver Dam Lake.
“God made Beaver Dam Lake, but Nash Buckingham made it famous,” Boyd quipped.
Nash’s father helped found the Beaver Dam Ducking Club in 1882 so Nash grew up hunting the swampy, 1,500-acre oxbow. In the 19th century, sportsmen rode steamboats down the river from Memphis, later trains, to hunt the Mississippi River oxbows.
Beaver Dam Hunting Services operates blinds placed in cypress brakes at the south end of the lake. One blind sits on a pothole dubbed “The Cloverleaf Hole,” so named by “De Shootinest Gent’man” (Buckingham) himself!
“Nash hunted this area quite a bit in his early years,” Boyd said. “Later, he frequently hunted the lake with Horace Miller. The original Beaver Dam Ducking Club clubhouse was destroyed in a storm years ago, but Miller’s old house still stands. Nash brought the life and vernacular of that day alive.”
Do-it-yourselfers can find many public places to hunt throughout the Delta. The Sunflower River flows through Sunflower Wildlife Management Area (WMA), part of the Delta National Forest, about 10 miles east of Rolling Fork. Not far from Sunflower WMA, Howard Miller WMA offers good duck action. Waterfowlers can also hunt the Mahannah and Muscadine Farms WMAs.
John N. Felsher is a professional freelance writer, broadcaster, photographer, and editor who lives in Alabama. An avid sportsman, he’s written more than 3,300 articles for more than 170 different magazines on a wide variety of outdoors topics. Contact him by email.