By 01/26/2015 Read More →

Duck Hunting with Big River Outfitters

022It was still dark outside as we loaded our guns and gear into the boat.  Allen backed the boat into the Tennessee River.  Danny, Allen, Kat, Ed, Matthew and I made our way to the shore of the river and boarded the boat.  Danny announced that it was a short ride to the blind as we backed away from the shore.  The January air was cold and I kept my head down as we made our way up the river towards the blind.  The boat motor died down and I turned around to see the decoys surrounding the blind.  I smiled at Ed and Matthew as pure happiness warmed my heart.  Finally, the day had arrived and the time had come, after months of waiting we would soon be duck hunting with Big River Outfitters!

big riverBig River Outfitters is a new waterfowl guide service founded in 2014 by Jason Hill, Allen McKinney, and Danny Schaefer.  Three men that share the love of hunting ducks and the traditions of the sport came together and Big River Outfitters was born.  Offering many years of experience in hunting and guiding,  Danny Schaefer best describes the group with the following quote,  “We are like a great gumbo, lots of different ingredients that come together in a great recipe of graciousness, tradition and the love of duck hunting”.  Big River Outfitters is a family friendly guide service located near Camden, Tennessee.  They have two blinds located on the Tennessee River.  The main blind has room for a total of nine people and is equipped with a kitchen, a heater, and a restroom facility.  The mobile blind has room for three to four people and can be moved to different locations on the river to offer better hunting opportunities.  If the ducks are not flying near the main blind, hunters can take a boat ride to the mobile blind and hunt from it.

Ed, Matthew, and I began our duck hunting adventure in the main blind.  We chose our spots, loaded our guns, and prepared for daylight.  Danny explained the safety rules and shooting zones.  Allen prepared homemade donuts as we waited and watched for ducks.  The bufflehead ducks were usually flying in pairs and made their way quickly past the blind, flying up the river. on the boat They have a different flying pattern from the mallard ducks that I am used to seeing.  The bufflehead ducks fly a few feet above the water.  I never saw ducks fly so fast and so low.  A few groups of canvasbacks flew over but were not interested in turning back towards the blind.  Danny tried calling them but it was late in the season and the ducks were spooked from being hunted for the last few months.  The buffleheads continued to fly past the blind and we missed a few opportunities because we were not ready.  Danny suggested that we move to the mobile blind after breakfast and we agreed.  We enjoyed delicious egg sandwiches for breakfast and afterwards we loaded our gear onto the boat to make our way to the mobile blind.

The mobile blind is smaller than the main blind and Danny explained the shooting zones as we settled in and prepared to hunt.  We didn’t have to wait very long to begin shooting from the mobile blind.  It was in a prime location on the river for the way the ducks were flying.  The bufflehead ducks kept flying by and finally I hit one.  Allen brought the duck to the blind for us to look at it. bufflehead He was much smaller than a mallard duck and was black and white in color, I admired his beauty.  I traded Matthew positions in the blind so that he could hunt on the end with hopes that he would also harvest a bufflehead duck.  Matthew missed some ducks and then he shot a coot.  Allen brought the coot to the blind for us to look at.  Coots are ugly.  It was Matthew’s first time duck hunting and I will admit, I teased him about shooting the coot and missing the ducks.  Matthew is my youngest nephew and he is a very good shot, I was surprised that he missed the ducks.  Shooting at ducks is a lot different than shooting at deer though.  After hunting for a few hours, we loaded into the boat to go back to the main blind for lunch.  Allen handed us plates with a barbecued brisket sandwich, loaded baked potato salad, and cole slaw.  It smelled delicious and just as we started to enjoy our lunch the ducks decided to fly in to the blind.  We quickly put our plates down and Danny went to work calling.  We ducked down into the blind until he called the shot, and then we missed.  And we missed again.  And the ducks flew away.  We were all disappointed that we failed to drop a single bird.  The disappointment quickly faded as we ate our lunch and traded stories.  Danny gave me a lesson on using my duck calls and Kat gave me some tips also.  We decided to go back to the mobile blind.  We hunted out of the mobile blind until late afternoon and we did not harvest any more ducks.  We tried, but we missed.  Matthew would have hunted until dark but we decided to call it a day and head for the shore.

creoleWe drove to the guest house and got cleaned up.  Supper would be served at Allen’s home at six-thirty and we did not want to be late!  Danny had told us that they had planned a special menu for us since we drove from Pennsylvania to go duck hunting with Big River Outfitters in Tennessee.  We arrived on time and were welcomed into Allen’s home for supper.  We sat down and Allen served a plate of boudin.  Danny explained that we were about to experience a Cajun style meal served during Mardi Gras.  We tasted the boudin and loved it!  Allen then served sausage creole over white rice.  The sausage creole was a spicy broth with sausage and vegetables.  We enjoyed the sausage creole.  055Our first experience with Cajun style cooking was a positive experience!  Tanya was excited for us to finish our meal because she prepared a King Cake for dessert.  Danny told us the story of the King Cake and how they bake a small baby inside the cake.  The person that receives the slice of cake with the baby in it will have good luck and also has to provide the King Cake for the following year.  Tanya’s King Cake was beautiful!  She sliced it and served it to us.  We enjoyed the tasty creation and waited for somebody to find the baby.  Danny announced that he found the baby in his piece of cake!  He will be in charge of proving the King Cake for next  year’s Mardi Gras meal and he will enjoy good luck throughout the year.  We told stories and enjoyed the company around the table.  It was time for us to head back to the guest house for the night in order to get some sleep.  Sunday would be another day of duck hunting with Big River Outfitters!

matthewducksWe went directly to the mobile blind on Sunday morning and Allen placed some more decoys around it before daylight.  The sun came up and a group of redhead ducks flew over and Danny called the shot.  Ed and Matthew shot three out of the four ducks!  Allen brought them to the blind for us to look at.  Redhead ducks are very handsome ducks.  I was so proud of Matthew and Ed for shooting the ducks!  Matthew stated that shooting ducks was a lot harder than he thought it would be and Danny said, “If it was easy, it would be called killing ducks instead of hunting ducks”.  A simple statement that has remained in my  memory.  The weather on Sunday was not very good for duck hunting.  The ducks were not flying but I was having a great time anyway.  We told stories and I tried using my duck calls again.  Kat tried to give me some more tips, but it will take some more practice until I can call as well as she does!  We traveled back and forth between the main blind and the mobile blind, but the ducks were not cooperating.  It was sunny, sixty degrees, and the wind was barely blowing.  It was not a good day for duck hunting.  We enjoyed the warm sun compared to the freezing temperatures we had been experiencing in Pennsylvania.  We observed a group of pelicans on the river.  There were a few ducks that came close to the main blind, but we missed them.  One thing that we all learned on this trip is that when you are duck hunting,  you must be ready at all times because you never know when a duck will fly in!  We decided to quit hunting at three o’clock.

100We loaded our equipment into the boat and said good bye to the blind and the Tennessee River.  We drove to Allen’s home and prepared to clean the ducks.  Danny taught Matthew how to breast a duck.  Matthew cleaned turkeys and pheasants in the past but he never cleaned a duck.  An assembly line formed and the ducks were breasted and the meat was packaged.  It was a good feeling to provide food for our families.  We are looking forward to having a family get together at my brother’s home and cooking the duck meat for everybody to enjoy.


105We really enjoyed our trip to Tennessee to go duck hunting with Big River Outfitters!  It was a long drive from Pennsylvania to Tennessee, but we are already planning on doing it again!  We made new friends, tried new things, and had a lot of good times!  Friendships and memories were made that will last forever.  Good people, great conversation, delicious food, and ducks are the perfect ingredients for the recipe of a successful hunt.  I would like to thank Danny and Allen for having the patience to deal with new duck hunters!  I highly recommend Big River Outfitters to anybody planning a duck hunting trip in their future.  Thank you for reading and happy hunting to you all!

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Amy Sward

About the Author:

Hello, my name is Amy and I have lived in Central Pennsylvania all of my life. I was born into a family of outdoorsmen, hunting and fishing have always been part of my life. My dad started taking me hunting with him when I was a little girl. He also taught me how to fish for trout in local creeks. The first day of deer season and the first day of trout season were like holidays in our household. My grandfather enjoyed trapping and as a teenager I often went along with him to check the traps. Raccoons, red fox, and grey fox were harvested from the traps in the woods and muskrats were harvested from the traps by the Juniata River. I have many fond memories of trapping with my grandfather. I have enjoyed hunting small game and hunting whitetail deer in rifle season over the years. This year I am branching out and trying some new things. I went duck hunting in January and enjoyed it very much. I went spring gobbler hunting in May and loved it! I purchased a crossbow and will be entering the woods for white-tailed deer during archery season for the first time in October. I enjoy sharing my love of the outdoors with my family. Camping and kayaking are popular activities. I love to hunt and fish with my three nephews and my grandson. My two granddaughters enjoy fishing and hopefully they will show interest in hunting in the future. They love to go spotlighting for deer, and hopefully someday they will love to go hunting for them also.
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