Father-son duo spends holiday duck hunting on Reelfoot Lake
Posted: Friday, January 2, 2009 8:54 pm
By JOHN BRANNON
Messenger Staff Reporter
When Luke Melton of Hendersonville expresses his philosophy about duck hunting, you almost expect to hear a chorus of amens in the background.
“A bad day in a duck blind is better than a good day at work,” he says.
Melton, 25, and his father, Charlie, 57, spent New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day duck hunting at Reelfoot Lake.
The elder Melton, a 1970 graduate of the University of Tennessee at Martin, has been duck hunting at Reelfoot Lake since his college days. His oldest son, Luke, and his youngest son, Brian, 22, have been tutored in the fine art of duck hunting since they were young boys.
“It’s a great heritage and a tradition for us,” Melton said. “I love the sport and I love the people involved in duck hunting. Finest people you’ll ever meet. You have a problem or get in trouble on the lake, they’ll help you. Duck hunters are just special folks.”
The father-son duo rented a room in a motel at the lake, arriving in Samburg Tuesday in two pickups, each towing a trailer and boat. Melton said he rents a boat trailer for the duration of the duck season, and the expense is spread out over several weeks. Otherwise, he said, he spends between $200 and $300 a trip on lodging, food, gas and such.
Melton said he usually hunts with both his sons, but Brian, a student at Middle Tennessee State University, couldn’t make this trip.
Which was OK because it was a sort of special time for Luke. He proudly announced he’d just graduated from MTSU.
Melton grins and nods agreement. “It was my Christmas present,” he said. “I know how excited I was when I graduated from UT Martin. I had a brand new degree in criminal justice, and I got me a job in law enforcement. I worked for TBI a while and later went into the construction industry. Now I own my own business. I’m a paving contractor.”
Melton and his son report that low water in the lake and elsewhere has had an adverse effect on duck hunting this season. “We have a pit in a rice field, and we’ll hunt from one o’clock ’til sundown,” Melton said. “We’re not seeing many ducks, not as many as we used to, anyway. I think the ducks come and stay a while but get up and leave. When the water’s low, it concentrates the ducks. Then when the pressure’s on ’em by shooting, it’ll move ’em out.
“Hopefully, it’ll improve. Just need some good rains to fill up the lake again.”
But hard times or not, he added, he and his sons are devout and devoted duck hunters. And if you’re willing to get up early, break some ice and sit in the cold for hours, you’d better enjoy what you’re doing.
And he does.
“You’ve got to enjoy doing it,” he said. “It’s a hobby for me. I work a lot during the summer, so this is my recreation. I just enjoy going duck hunting. My boys do, too. Winter is my favorite time of year. We’re about half way through duck season. I’m going to hunt all I can, right up to Jan. 25 (when duck season closes), and then it’s back to work for me.”
During their hunt on New Year’s Day, Melton and Luke bagged nine ducks and a goose. They clean their fowl and put the meat on ice for future dinners. Their favorite is strips of duck breasts marinated overnight and wrapped in bacon and grilled to tempting tastebud perfection.
“Reelfoot Lake is a special place,” Melton said. “So many people would love to have an opportunity to hunt here. There’s so much waterfowl history here. The people here should be proud of what they have right in their own back yard.”
Published in The Messenger 1.2.09
duck hunting, Reelfoot Lake