In fog so thick you could barely see your hand in front of your face, Bill Blakely’s War Eagle boat raced through the thick stands of cypress trees covering Reelfoot Lake. This ride took trusting a guide to a whole new level. But sure enough, we arrived at Blakely’s duck blind unscathed.
Reelfoot Lake is located in the northwest corner of Tennessee just a mile or so off the Mississippi River. The shallow, timber filled 18,000-acre natural lake is a sportsman’s paradise. It’s unquestionably one of the best crappie fishing lakes in country. But come winter, Reelfoot turns into a duck factory. Hundreds-of-thousands of birds dump into the lake each season as they migrate along the Mississippi. Hunters from all over the country descend on Reelfoot each year to experience not only duck hunting, but duck hunting culture at it’s finest.
Reelfoot is an experience like none other. The cypress tree filled lake has a unique beauty all its own. The combination of this scenic appeal, the sheer number of ducks, fishing, southern fried food and a local economy based on an outdoor lifestyle is enough to draw duck hunters to Reelfoot from hundreds of miles away. But then add in the fact that Blue Bank Resort is a premiere lodging and dining destination, and that your hunting with Billy Blakely, the unofficial “King of Reelfoot,” and well, duck hunting trips just don’t get any better. On this trip, I was excited to introduce my friend Jeremy Stephens of Delta Waterfowl to the Reelfoot way.
Billy Blakely’s life revolves around fishing and hunting on Reelfoot Lake. It’s all he’s ever known.
“I started guiding for Blue Bank in the 9th grade, and been doing it ever since,” Blakely said.
He has 40 years of experience on Reelfoot and it shows, in both his knowledge of the lake, how the ducks work and his ability to please his clients. When you spend over 50 days a year in duck blind, you have to figure out how to make the experience about more than just shooting ducks. So Blakely built the duck hunting Taj Mahal.
My normal duck hunting routine is hauling bags full of decoys into flooded fields where I set them out in the morning and gather them back at the end of the hunt, after standing in freezing water for the hours in-between. It’s a tough, labor-intensive process. This recent hunt with Blakely was a bit different.
We pulled his boat into the blind. Yes, you read that right. We pulled his boat into the blind, opened the door and stepped in. Blakely flipped a switch and the lights came on. To my amazement there’s a full-sized stove in the corner and a heater on both ends. There are eight shooting stations. Blakely mans the far left end where he controls the spread of electronic Mojo decoys, a custom made splasher and a jerk rig of 2x6s for making waves that add motion to the 1,600 decoys filling his “hole.”
There is a lot of competition on Reelfoot, with blinds spread out about 200 yards apart throughout most of the lake. So calling is important here. Blakely and his assistant guide, Dustin Butler, bellow on their ducks calls. It works. Right at legal shooting time ducks were circling us. Blakely and Butler started calling and ducks began dropping in on us. After an intense volley of gunfire, greenheads splash down in the coffee colored water. (more…)