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When Nature cooperates, duck hunting can be great.

Back in the old days, waterfowl hunting was relatively simple. A hunter donned whatever garment he owned that would keep the rain off and heat in, grabbed his one-and-only shotgun and a pocketful of shells, and headed to the nearest spot he knew would hold ducks or geese. If he used decoys, they were probably rough, wooden blocks he or someone else had carved, or maybe a few of the “modern” cork ones sold by Herters.

Things have changed a lot since then. Modern hunters have access to clothing that looks like it was designed by NASA engineers. There are GoreTex, Thinsulite, Neoprene and other fabrics of which Grandpa, in his woolen long johns and canvas gunning jacket, could never have imagined. He’d probably also find a semi-automatic shotgun with a synthetic stock and interchangeable chokes hard to get used to. Motorized decoys, portable blinds and GPS units would would probably seem like science fiction.

In fact, some folks who don’t know better might suppose that technological advances have stacked the deck so much in favor of the hunter that ducks and geese don’t have a chance. Nothing could be farther from the truth. No matter how sophisticated sportsmen and their gear are, nature more often than not determines the chances of success.

A hunt that occurred on the Pamlico River a number of years ago is an example. A cold north wind caused a distinctive chop that splashed against my waders as I set out decoys in the pre-dawn darkness. Afterward, settlling into my blind, I noted that the wind had shifted to the northwest and was steadily building. Not only that, but the temperature seemed to be dropping as the sky turned gray, then pink.

As it got lighter, I could see the dark outline of my decoys bobbing on the waves. Or at least most of them were bobbing. Something seemed to be wrong with those closest to shore. Going out to investigate, I discovered what it was – they were sitting on the bottom, tilted to one side on their keels. I picked up a half dozen or so, moved them to the outer edge of the spread and got back into the blind. Shortly I noticed others, the ones now closest to where I sat, were also keeled over. As I moved the culprits farther out, it occurred to me that the water was dropping out of the river like someone had pulled the plug, apparently being pushed by the wind which, by now, was roaring.

A couple of hours and several more decoy adjustments later, I realized I was fighting a losing battle. The water, which had lapped against the front of my blind when I arrived was now fifty yards out. My closest decoys were so far away that, if a duck did land in the spread, he’d be out of shotgun range. By the time I’d finished picking up my decoys, I could walk 100 yards or more straight out toward the river channel without getting my boots wet.

It was terrible conditions for duck hunting. The scaup, canvasbacks and other diving ducks stayed out over the middle of the river, apparently as baffled by the conditions as I was. It was a good lesson, though. It was an example of how Nature ultimately controls things, no matter how experienced, smart or well-prepared the hunter is.

Some outdoor scenes leave no doubt in the existence of a higher power.

Some outdoor scenes make it impossible to doubt the existence of a higher power.

I have observed over the years that people have different ways of professing their belief in a higher power. Fundamentalists may “give testimony” through loud preaching and exaggerated gestures. Those with more structured beliefs might participate in worship services that involve formal recitations and clergy-led introspection. For some, religion is highly personal, an interaction between only themselves and The Almighty in quiet moments.

Many outdoorsmen fall into the last category. They feel closest to Their Maker when they’re watching the sun rise over a barrier island beach on a warm spring morning, or sitting quietly as a doe leads her fawn through sun-dappled woods. Some give insights to their beliefs by comments they make in casual moments or stories they tell. Sometimes an anecdote shared around a campfire or in the woods may indirectly reflect the teller’s belief in the hereafter. A friend told me the following while we were sitting in a deer stand.

It seems a deer hunter who was a life-long atheist was out in the woods one day when a 1,000-pound whitetail deer stepped into a clearing. “Good God!” exclaimed the hunter. Suddenly a voice from Heaven boomed down, “I thought you didn’t believe in me.” The hunter looked up and replied,”I didn’t, and up until now I didn’t believe in 1,000-pound deer either.”

Anglers can also be reflective in contemplating the Good Book and all it entails. For example, they might ponder the following question:

What did Noah do to pass the time while he was on the ark? He fished. But he didn’t have much luck – he only had two worms.

Amen Brother

Eufaula, Alabama – Members, guests and supporters of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association (SEOPA) gathered in Eufaula, Alabama Oct. 14-17, 2015 for the organization’s 51st annual fall conference. SEOPA’s membership includes many of the most talented, well-known and prolific outdoor communicators in the country, and the group is considered by many in the outdoor industry as the premier regional organization in the country. This talented group met for four days to hone their skills, learn more about the industry, and network with fellow communicators and industry representatives.

In addition to a wide variety of workshops, clinics and seminars, an important part of each SEOPA conference is the prestigious Excellence in Craft (EIC) Awards. These awards are presented each year to members whose work represents the “cream of the crop” in outdoor communications. EIC categories include newspaper, magazine, book, electronic publications, photography, video and audio programming, entrepreneurial projects and special recognitions.

At the 2015 SEOPA gathering, New Bern, NC outdoor writer, Ed Wall was presented with the first place Excellence in Craft Award for an Electronic Publication story. The award-winning article, titled “The Fishy Smell of Spring’s Arrival,” appeared in the New Bern “Sun Journal’s” online edition on Thursday, June 5, 2014. It described the art, science and magic of smelling bream beds in springtime ponds and other waterbodies.

Wall was also recognized by the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative as that organization’s “Outdoor Communicator of the Year.” That award was for a three-part series on the decline of bobwhite quail populations in North Carolina and efforts being made to bring those iconic game birds back in their native range. Those articles ran in the “Sun Journal” from 12/25/14 to 1/8/15.

SEOPA EIC award winnersDSC_5585

Ed Wall – front row, second from left

Getting Started cover - 1

Hunting with a retriever, whether for mourning doves, ducks, geese or any other game bird, is not a competition between hunters or dogs. It’s quiet moments spent scratching a close friend’s ears while he rests his head on your leg and you both scan the horizon for approaching birds. It’s the sudden, intense thrill when a flock of doves appears as if by magic, dipping and swerving as they sail over a picked corn field. It’s the involuntary crouch you assume when the “twee-twee” of widgeon sounds directly over your duck blind and your dog peers upward to locate the source of the noise. It’s the incredible sense of satisfaction and love you feel when a dog you trained plows through a river’s chop to retrieve a wing-tipped mallard that fell beyond the farthest decoys, or returns after a long search carrying a dove you feared might be lost in thick cover.

The competition in hunting is between hunters and the game they pursue, and well-trained retrievers are their staunchest allies. Many hunters would no more think of going hunting without their Chesapeake, Golden Retriever, Lab, Boykin or other fetching dog than they would without their favorite shotgun. The role those dogs play in the process depends to a great extent on how they’ve been trained and that is the purpose of “Getting Started.” It’s designed to facilitate a hunter in preparing a young retriever for the field or, if he wishes, for formal hunt tests such as those sanctioned by the American Kennel Club (AKC). The latter are not competitions per se but rather measurements of a dog’s ability at various points and an indication of where he and his master are in their training.

“Getting Started” is dedicated to those retrievers – Beau, Duke, Murphy, Kipper, Moses and scores of others – and to the men and women who love them. It was based on notes made by John Weller, one of the nation’s top retriever trainers, over decades of producing quality retrievers, including national champions. It utilizes a format that takes a trainer through hypothetical but realistic scenarios and explains how to train for different behaviors in various situations. It is, in its essence, a work book that will help a hunter and his favorite hunting partner get the most out of their days in the field.

A limited number of copies of “Getting Started” are available from the author for $9.95 (incl. shipping and handling). Send a check or money order to 3045 Red Fox Rd., New Bern, NC  28562. The author can also be contacted by email at edwall@embarqmail.com or by phone at 252-671-3207.

Book Cover - 1

Cane poles and coffee cans full of red worms; early morning in a hunting camp with gentle rain drumming on the tin roof; a bird dog, floating ghost-like through a stand of long leaf pines; tales and saddle sores, missteps and milestones you love to recall. Those and other topics comprise “When the Bobber Jiggles,” a new collection of tales and reflections of life in the outdoors by award-winning author, Ed Wall.

Reading “When the Bobber Jiggles” is akin to sitting by a campfire with an old friend recollecting how things used to be and ought to be. And, on occasion, stretching the veracity of a story to the breaking point. “Hunting With Henry,” “Bear Hunting’s ‘Other’ Challenges,” “Old Fishermen May Be an Endangered Species” – these are a few of the chapters that make up the 142-page, soft-bound book. They will take the reader back to places close to his heart in some instances and tickle his funny bone in others. Whether he is a hunter, fisherman, boater, camper, or just someone who enjoys messing around in the back forty or on a secluded waterway, there are situations to which he can relate.

Published by River City Publishers, “When the Bobber Jiggles” is written in a format that allows the reader to enjoy a chapter or two, put it aside, then pick it back up and not miss a beat. He will undoubtedly want to go back and revisit some short stories and reflections. Copies (personalized if requested) are available for $12.95 (plus $3 shipping and handling if mailed) from the author at 3045 Red Fox Rd., New Bern, NC  28562. Ed Wall can be contacted for more information or special orders at 252-671-3207 or by email at edwall@embarqmail.com.


Ed Wall has a Master of Arts degree from East Carolina University with a specialty in Recreational Geography. His Master’s thesis was a study of licensed, commercial shooting preserves in eastern North Carolina. That topic was selected because it would satisfy the university’s requirements and also allow the author to spend a lot of time messing around with bird dogs and quail hunters, two groups for which he has great affection.

For thirty years, Ed taught Science while coaching football, track and cross country at the high school level. During that same time, he was writing for various outdoor publications, beginning as a gun dog columnist with the Carolina Adventure magazine. Ed is a member of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association (SEOPA) and has produced the weekly outdoor page for Freedom Press and Halifax Media newspapers in New Bern, Jacksonville and Kinston, NC since 1997. Other outdoor periodical credits include Wildlife in North Carolina, Southern Sporting Journal, Fur-Fish-Game, Field Trial Magazine, Fly Fisherman, North Carolina Sportsman, American Field and Ducks Unlimited Quarterly. He is the author of “Getting Started: A Workbook for Started Retrievers,” published by Atlantic Publishing Co. in 1998 and, most recently, “When the Bobber Jiggles – Tales and Reflections of Life in the Outdoors.” Recognitions include SEOPA Excellence in Craft awards in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015.

Married with two children (one a Wildlife Commission technician, the other a dolphin/sea lion trainer), Ed is a native of Johnston County, NC and a long-time resident of New Bern, NC. He is a product of eastern North Carolina’s tobacco fields, back roads, black water streams and pork barbecue. When not writing or playing golf (very poorly), he can generally be found hunting, fishing, boating or romping with his dogs. Visitors to this site are invited to come along as Ed explores the backwoods and byways of the southeast and occasionally other areas. The express purpose of many trips will be to bag a whitetail deer, trick a tom turkey, catch a mess of bluegills or do battle with a bragging-size red drum. In some cases, though, it will simply be to consider the merits of a really neat sunset, remember an old friend who shared his love of the outdoors, or maybe spin a tale or two. Come on aboard. Stow your gear under the bow, grab something refreshing out of the cooler and let’s head downstream.

Ed Wall - 2014

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