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Piney Creek duck hunt lives up to its reputation
By Bryan Hendricks This article was published today at 3:54 a.m.
PHOTO BY BRYAN HENDRICKS Wiley Meacham (left) calls to a flock of mallards while North Carolina judge Talmage Baggett (right) watches Monday during a hunt at Meacham’s farm in Lee County.
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Lee County Mallards
Wiley Meacham and friends enjoy a morning duck hunt near Monroe. (By Bryan Hendricks) [View Full-Size]
MONROE — I have hunted mallards within yards of perhaps the most famous “kitchen” in Arkansas. The kitchen’s centerpiece is, of course, the table. One would expect such a table to be made of mahogany or bird’s-eye maple, or maybe pecan or burled walnut, but no, it’s just an ordinary plastic card table with folding legs. A wooden table wouldn’t last long in this kitchen. It belongs to Wiley Meacham of Brinkley and Don Thompson of Little Rock, owners of Piney Creek Ducks Inc. The Piney Creek area is an undeveloped part of Meacham’s farm that’s managed especially for green timber duck hunting. They hunt only in the mornings, and generally they hunt just one hole, so the entire place is basically a giant rest area for mallards. The “kitchen” was my first exposure to this place. I saw a photo of it nearly 15 years ago in the Arkansas Duck Hunters Almanac written by Steve Bowman and Steve Wright. It showed a group of waderclad hunters standing around a table in the middle of the water eating cheese and sausage on crackers. On Monday, I joined Thompson, Wiley Meacham, Steve Meacham, Talmage Baggett of Fayetteville, N.C., and Billy Peel of Mabelvale for a duck hunt in this revered forest. A man with a name like Talmage Baggett couldn’t be anything else but a judge. He presides over the 12th Judicial District in North Carolina and has an accent that would win any actor an Oscar. When I told him I had once been editor of North Carolina Game and Fish magazine, it was like old home week. A hunt at Meacham’s is “Cadillac” hunting at its finest. The area around the duck hole is graveled, so you don’t sink into the mud, nor are there any roots to send a hunter sprawling. The boat delivers each hunter to a bench. Ducks began flying shortly after we arrived, and a couple of groups landed and left before shooting time. Precisely at shooting time, the Meachams and Baggett blew the mallard version of
“Reveille” on their calls. Thompson said Steve Meacham’s nickname is “Sugar Lips” because of how sweetly he calls down greenheads. Within seconds, the first group landed. They didn’t do the usual routine of circling and scouting. They just sailed in, cupped their wings, turned into the wind and fluttered through the treetops. Mallards landing in timber resemble cars on a NASCAR track trying to avoid a pileup. They come in with their butts pointed down and their necks craned forward and down, all the while pitching from side to side to avoid other ducks in this controlled free-fall. “Take ’em, boys!” Steve Meacham yelled. The bulk of the flight was still in the air, just below the treetops, when the volley commenced. Stricken ducks dropped like giant hailstones as the others frantically tried to reverse course and gain altitude. More ducks came, but they grew warier in the gathering light. Seven or eight circled, and 10-12 others joined them. This attracted even more ducks. The main body circled high and well out of range while “scouts” buzzed the hole at treetop level. More scouts buzzed from different directions, as if they were looking the place over from a grid. Then the scouts dropped below the trees and flared back above the trees. The main body tightened its circle, and the first scout ducks plopped into the hole, two and three at a time. When the main body finally committed, ducks came down in waves. Meacham ordered us to shoot, resulting in yet another hailstorm of fallen ducks. It happened two more times just like that. By 6:58 a.m., all six of us had our limit of four mallards. We could have done even more. Between flights of mallards, a group of about 20 greenwing teal landed in the hole. Teal are Samurai ducks. They don’t do a controlled free-fall. It’s a pedal-tothemetal free-fall. They hit the water so hard they bounce. But the place they hit is never good enough, so they always rise and land a couple of feet away. “Take ’em!” Steve Meacham yelled. Nobody fired. The teal flittered around nervously and finally launched. ”All right, take ’em now!” Meacham yelled.
Still nobody fired. “Well, don’t take ’em then!” he muttered, frustrated and mystified. Nobody comes here to shoot teal, Wiley Meacham explained. This place is all about mallards. Several pintails came in with another wad of mallards. A pintail is always a welcome addition to any bag, but we held fire for fear of getting another mallard. Shortly after, I got my first view of the “kitchen.” It’s just a few yards behind the duck hole. In addition to the table, another table has a two-burner Coleman stove. Other tables contain utensils and other kitchenware. Trash cans lined with plastic bags are strapped to a tree, so nothing goes in the water. There is also a small wooden cabinet with a camouflage curtain across the front stocked with various liqueurs. A few of the guys had a single Dixie cup of spirits after the hunt, and then Wiley retired to his wooden recliner, also in the water, to puff on a celebratory cigar. Steve Meacham prefers Swisher Sweets, a proven mosquito repellent. Next to the recliner, appropriately, is a wooden cutout of a Christmas tree. “Wildman Wilson shoots a Christmas show down here every year,” Wiley Meacham said. “We string up lights in the trees and garlands and do it up real pretty. You have to have a Christmas tree, of course, so this is it. It’s always a big deal.” This morning’s hunt was OK, Meacham said, but the twinkle in his eye betrayed the understatement. It had been a great morning by anybody’s standards. They expect them here. For me, just eating from that table that captured my imagination all those years ago made it that much better.
Sports, Pages 29 on 11/25/2012 Print Headline: Best table in house