A Million Wings: A Spirited Story of the Sporting Life Along the Mississippi Flyway

A Million Wings: A Spirited Story of the Sporting Life Along the Mississippi Flyway

5.0 1
by Susan Schadt

A Million Wings takes readers inside the Mississippi Flyway’s finest duck
hunting clubs. From some of the country’s most historic properties in the St.
Louis area to the duck havens of the Delta, all the way down to the stunning
scenery of coastal south Louisiana, this book is a true testament to the beauty
of the sporting SouthSee more details below


A Million Wings takes readers inside the Mississippi Flyway’s finest duck
hunting clubs. From some of the country’s most historic properties in the St.
Louis area to the duck havens of the Delta, all the way down to the stunning
scenery of coastal south Louisiana, this book is a true testament to the beauty
of the sporting South. Featuring a foreword by United States Ryder Cup team
captain Davis Love III, A Million Wings provides an insider’s look into the
unique culture of the South’s private hunting clubs and lodges. The tradition
and camaraderie of these famed clubs and their owners are made evident
through Wild Abundance Publishing’s signature combination of storytelling
and photography that is compelling to anyone with an appreciation for the
outdoors and all that it inspires.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“The stunning photographs and the heartfelt stories in A Million Wings
inspire people. While everybody will not play golf at Augusta National
or play in the U.S. Open, they watch. They watch and it inspires them to
play the game and to play the game better. In golf, the big clubs and the
professional game is a small part of the whole story, but it is what motivates
people to grow the game. Like Augusta National, the private retreats
featured on these pages may seem like the ultimate hunting experience.
But these are the places that do the work to keep duck hunting alive and
inspire people to gain a better understanding of the sport. They motivate
the rest of us, they are the ones who are growing the sport and I, for one,
say, ‘Thanks a million.’”
Davis Love III, winner of 20 PGA events, six time Ryder Cup competitor
and captain of Team USA at Ryder Cup 2012.

""The duck clubs of the Mississippi Flyway are legendary for both their hunting and their history. In the new book A Million Wings (Wild Abundance), Susan Schadt and photographer Lisa Buser tell their stories through interviews with members, club lore, and gorgeous images. Join in the morning high jinks at Greasy Slough, near Jonesboro, Arkansas, see the sun rise at Fighting Bayou, outside Ruleville, Mississippi, and learn how Anderson's Hole, at St. Charles, Missouri's Dardenne, got its name. Hint: It's not a good idea to complain too much at duck camp."" -Garden & Gun magazine

Product Details

Wild Abundance Publishing
Publication date:
Edition description:
New edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.60(w) x 11.90(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Susan Schadt is President & CEO of
ArtsMemphis and Founder & President of Wild
Abundance Publishing. A Million Wings is her
third book chronicling the legacy and culture of
outdoorsmen and their intense devotion to land
and wildlife. Her prior publications include First
Shooting Light: A Photographic Journal Reveals the
Legacy and Lure of Hunting Clubs in the Mississippi
Flyway, and Wild Abundance: Ritual, Revelry &
Recipes of the South’s Finest Hunting Clubs.
Award winning photojournalist Lisa Waddell
Buser has more than 20 years experience
in commercial, advertising and newspaper
photography. Buser serves a wide range of clients,
including USA Today, Food Network, CNN,
Random House Publishing Group, Nike Inc.
and Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. Among
her numerous recognitions is the 2012 Media
Orthopedic Reporting Award for photographs
published on USAToday.com. Her work also
appeared in Wild Abundance: Ritual, Revelry &
Recipes of the South’s Finest Hunting Clubs.

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Read an Excerpt

A Million Wings

A Spirited Story of the Sporting Life Along the Mississippi Flyway
By Susan Schadt

Wild Abundance Publishing

Copyright © 2012 Susan Schadt
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780615681672

While many consider duck hunting a religion, Fighting Bayou is the only hunting club
that can claim “The Benediction.” The ritual begins when members and guests gather
at the rest lake, cocktails in hand, to enjoy a social hour in the afterglow of a Mississippi
Delta sunset. Defined as “an invocation for divine help, blessing and guidance, usually at
the end of a religious service,” the word “benediction” perfectly describes the club’s
sunset ritual. Bubba Tollison, Fighting Bayou’s own “Delta poet”, coined the term and with
a story of luck, friendship, family and many, many ducks, Fighting Bayou indeed
seems the beneficiary of divine guidance.

Like many hunters Mississippi hunters,
Arthur “Skipper” Jernigan, Billy Van Devender, George Lotterhos and Bubba
Tollison grew up dreaming of hunting at Fighting Bayou, the fabled duck
hunting club near the Delta hamlet of Ruleville, a speck on the county map
known as Booger Den. Skipper and Billy, friends since junior high school,
played football and hunted together throughout high school where they
met George Lotterhos, a team member and fellow outdoorsman. The trio
signed football scholarships at Ole Miss and soon found fellow hunting
fanatics among their roommates and teammates. Billy’s roommate Archie
Manning became a life-long friend and a favorite guest at Fighting Bayou.
Bubba Tollison, Skipper’s freshman year roommate, shared his passion for
hunting and has been duly crowned Fighting Bayou’s storyteller-in-residence,
historian, spokesman and Duck Doctor.
On winter weekends at Ole Miss, the boys traveled two hours over country
roads to hunt the bean fields and cotton fields surrounding Fighting Bayou.
To shoot their limits, the friends wallowed through the gumbo of mud and
water that characterizes the rich Delta farmland. Bubba fondly recalls those
rag-tag hunts with “sounds like the Battle of the Bulge” coming from nearby
Fighting Bayou. “I knew I would never have a hundred million dollars or be
President of the United States”, said Bubba who grew up only five miles from
Booger Den, “but my dream from age thirteen was to own all or a part of
Fighting Bayou.”
By the spring of 1987, the dream was suddenly within reach. When the
owners of Fighting Bayou fell on hard times and decided to sell the property,
Traveler’s Insurance held the mortgage and contacted Billy and Skipper about
leasing it. Although it had fallen into disrepair with no food for the ducks,
they accepted the offer. Killing only two ducks in the thirty-day season that
year it became abundantly clear that the best was yet to come. After a year of
cutting wells, cleaning boat trails and instituting water management, Fighting
Bayou re-emerged as a successful club. To their amazement, Traveler’s allowed
the group to carve out the land they wanted to buy and financed the sale in
1988 at “the price of an overflowed bean field.” Still establishing their careers
and young families, it was a stretch for the group of friends to buy up the
memberships they couldn’t initially sell so one partner bought six shares.
Today memberships are highly coveted and to underscore the success of the
club Billy VanDevender recounts, “there have not been any memberships to
change hands in the last 17 years.”
Shrewd land and farm management have cemented Fighting Bayou’s status
as one of the South’s most important hunting clubs. Making their way down
the Flyway ducks are attracted to Fighting Bayou because of its favorable ratio
of wooded forest to flooded timber, allowing them a place to roost as well as
feed. The property’s 100,000 oak trees ensure that it retains its wooded feel and
583 acres of rice fields guarantee there is always plenty of food. Only half of
the flooded property is hunted and the 160-acre rest lake is always off limits.
Fighting Bayou benefits from a sophisticated water control system that allows
the property to remain flooded even during unusually cold winters, like the
2009-2010 hunting season. Conservation biologists estimate that 67-80% of all
ducks that come to Mississippi will spend some time at Fighting Bayou.
Hunting at Fighting Bayou takes place only five days a week, with rests on
Monday and Friday, to take pressure off the ducks before and after weekend
hunts. A card draw after dinner decides which groups will hunt where in the
morning. To the uninitiated, the draw appears rowdy, serious and highly
competitive, but according to Billy, “The draw is actually all about posturing.
It’s all in good fun.” While there are no guides, Brent Garrison, Fighting
Bayou’s club manager extraordinaire has been calling and caring for members
and guests for over ten years. As the members pondered his potential tenure at
their coveted retreat it didn’t take long for Bubba to convince his team, ““He
cooks better than Justin Wilson. He can go in the front of a John Deere tractor
and come out the back and fix everything in between and he can sing like
Garth Brooks. What in the hell else could you want?”
Hunting groups usually consist of two members and two guests with one
caller. While certain members of Fighting Bayou take calling very seriously,
bad callers are handled with tact. Bubba explains, “I am not going to work
my brains out to get this place ready to hunt and have my guests out there
and somebody sounds like he’s blowing a damn trombone. I’ll say ‘You don’t
have the right tone, how about letting me handle calling for you?’ ” Invitations
to hunt at Fighting Bayou are prized. Proficient callers or not, everyone who
hunts at Fighting Bayou appreciates the sport involved in waterfowl hunting
and the care that club members put into the management of this special
land. As Skipper puts it, “Everything involved in a good duck hunt—he
camaraderie, the calls—t’s just the best time there is.”
Fighting Bayou members are committed to passing along their love of the hunt
to the next generation of outdoorsmen. With emphasis on sportsmanship and
teamwork during the hunt, young hunters are also schooled in the notion,
as Billy says, “Everything that you do in a hunt means something. All of the
young boys that I’ve seen grow up hunting at Fighting Bayou have turned
out to be fine young men.” One of those young men who grew up at Fighting
Bayou is Eli Manning. Billy, Skipper and Bubba schooled Eli in their favorite
sport. “It’s been fun to see Eli mature as a hunter, to learn how to handle his
gun,” Billy said. And while he still spends some weekends at the club, as any
football fan would imagine, “he’s been pretty tied up the last couple of years.”
Members agree that because of their long, illustrious hunting careers, they
now, “get a bigger thrill out of taking a kid who doesn’t have access to a place
to hunt …maybe a kid, like we were growing up, who’s laying out in a bean
field with bags of decoys trying to kill a duck. We want to show folks what a
special place we’ve got. We’ve got a good reputation and we want everyone to
see the place because it’s real special to us.”
This welcoming spirit extends to the clubhouse, which was rebuilt in 1998 with
accommodations for 40. Members design their own rooms and those who
choose can reside in the “geriatric wing.” While the club has a ten-member
limit, extra beds mean that all family members, including wives, feel welcome.
Skipper explains, “As we’ve grown older and our children have grown up at
Fighting Bayou, it’s become a family place for us. As the kids got older and
came with us, our wives started coming too. It’s just evolved that way; it never
was a rowdy place. “
Fighting Bayou has hosted a number of non-hunting related events including
wedding receptions, rehearsal dinners, Ducks Unlimited dinners and even a
Junior League retreat. While different from some hunting clubs, the emphasis
on family life makes sense considering that Billy, Skipper, Bubba and George
have been friends, teammates and hunting buddies for over 40 years. Billy
explains that Fighting Bayou has been such a special place because it has
allowed, “our families to grow up together.”
Every dinner begins with a blessing. “Nobody eats without saying a prayer and
thanking the good Lord for this place and helping us to make it better,” Billy
said. The blessing emphasizes the importance of faith in the life of Fighting
Bayou members. Several of the group attend the same churches and all value
the spiritual and social fellowship that Fighting Bayou provides.
Fighting Bayou has grown to represent much more than simply land with a
hunting lease. Because of this, Skipper explains members “do everything that
you can do to protect it. We’ve placed nearly 2000 acres in the wetlands reserve
program and put a conservation easement on the whole property so that it
can’t be developed. It will always be like this.”
From its serendipitous beginnings to its current prominence as one the South’s
finest duck hunting clubs and all of the stories in between, members of Fighting
Bayou recognize that in the words of resident raconteur Bubba Tollison, “the
way things came together wouldn’t happen again in 150 years.”


Excerpted from A Million Wings by Susan Schadt Copyright © 2012 by Susan Schadt. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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