Garry Mason leaned into a stiff wind to pick up a duck decoy. Thirty-five mile an hour winds during the night had toppled dozens of decoys.
Mason, the owner of the Outdoor Legends Hall of Fame, was hosting his first “Legends of the Outdoors” Media Waterfowl Hunt in southeast Missouri near Kennett.
Attendees included Ray Eye of “Eye on the Outdoors Radio,” 590 The Fan, out of St. Louis; Jerry Antley owner of Cedar Hills Game Calls, from Louisiana; Tommy Garner, Legends board member, of northwest Arkansas; Scott Davis, of “The Urban Sportsman TV Show,” out of Nashville; and Bill Cooper, host of “Outside Again Adventures TV – Online,” from St. James, Mo.
Unusual weather for December, 70 degrees and high winds greeted our hunting party as we rode through the flooded rice fields on Mason’s UTV in the dark.
Mason delivered us to the blind and we quickly unloaded our mountain of waterfowl hunting gear and camera gear. Our party had convened to enjoy a duck hunt together and to promote Mason’s “Outdoor Legends Hall of Fame.”
Mason established the “Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame” to recognize those outdoorsmen and sportswomen who, through countless hours of hard work and devotion to the outdoors, in both hunting and fishing, have played an integral part in setting the standards and guidelines for the rest of the world to follow.
Bill Dance, Rowland Martin, Jimmy Holt, Harold Knight, David Hale, Eli Haydel, Earl Bentz, and Charlie Brewer were the first inductees in 2002. Inductees for 2016 included Lucy Mize, Fred Bear, W.R. Sauey, Mark and Terry Drury, George Thornton, Fred Bear, and Colorado Buck.
The chatter of tens of thousands of ducks and snow geese filled the dark skies as we maneuvered to get set up in the pit blind before legal shooting hours began.
Although temperatures hovered in the 70s, an arctic blast bore down us pushing waterfowl southward by the thousands. Temperatures would plummet to single digits by the next morning.
Hundreds of thousands of ducks had staged in the area over the previous few weeks. Southeast Missouri has become a mecca for waterfowl over the last 30-40 years as agricultural practices have changed.
Rice was an unheard of agricultural commodity in the Missouri bootheel when I grew up in nearby Mississippi County in the 1950’s and 60’s. Currently, waterfowl stop over to feed on the abundant supply of waste grain in the thousands of acres of rice fields available.