Mallards, millet, and cottonmouths

photo (24)The things a man will do for a duck.

Almost on a whim, I purchased a 50 pound bag of Japanese millet to take down to my farm in Malvern, Arkansas and spread around a few of my duck holes in the flooded timber bottoms. I had heard and read dozens of reports of the plant being a great attractant for ducks, and I figured it couldn’t hurt to try.

Visions of mallards fluttering down danced in front of my eyes as I parked my truck as close as I could to my normal entrance to the bottoms. I was snapped out of this stupor as my driver side window was instantly covered with mosquitos and horse flies when I stopped.

“I think I’ll use some bug spray,” I said to myself.

I got out of the truck and hefted the bag onto my shoulder, turning and walking toward the entrance. As I got closer, I saw something I wasn’t prepared for — a wall of poison ivy, seven feet high and 20 feet deep. I knew that if I didn’t enter from this direction, I would have to go around to the backside of the bottoms, which would turn my 100 yard walk into a 400 yard walk. I looked at the wall of itch-inducing irritant and decided I could walk a little extra distance.

I made it around to the opposite end of the bottoms and once again hoisted the bag of millet onto my shoulder. I was quickly understanding that horse flies did not care if I had bug spray on, as my ears were constantly getting bombed by their buzzing attacks.

After sliding down two steep inclines, and through multiple thorn bushes, I was finally in the bottoms. What stretched before me was twenty acres of knee and thigh-deep weeds and grass, with a spongy, muddy bottom.

photo (25) I found a deer trail and started following it toward my favorite duck holes. The 95-degree heat was starting to wear on me, no thanks to the extra 50 pounds I had on my shoulder. Frogs and spiders were scuttling everywhere, and I wondered why I hadn’t decided to wear my snake-proof boots. This question was emphasized in my mind when I stopped to rest for a second, and as I was about to put down the bag, a cottonmouth slithered over my foot.

I got closer to my chosen holes and saw another 150 yards of chest-deep weeds. I had to draw the line somewhere, and this was where it would be drawn. I ripped open the bag and started spreading the seed around a small hole that I had never even hunted. With the horse flies biting my ears, the sweat burning my eyes, and the sack of seed seeming to get heavier and heavier, I was ready to get the ordeal over with.

50 pounds lighter, I made it back to my truck and jumped into the cab, cranking up the AC. The sweet dreams of mallards had turned into nightmares of snakes, spiders, and poison ivy, and all I could think was that it was a long, long time until November.