One Season, 12,000 Miles, New Species, and Lifelong Friendships

This year I’ve had the amazing opportunity to take many hunting trips with Major League Fowl. Starting the season on an early teal trip to Louisiana in September, Colorado for elk in October, Florida for divers in November, Kansas, and Oklahoma in December for geese and ducks, then ending the season this last week with sea ducks in Boston and divers again in Florida. Some trips consisted of endless miles with friends but a few were solo trips to meet partners of ours with Major League Fowl. I’ve met countless people and have done my best to get to know each of them on a personal level while sharing the blind.
September:
A hotel with bloodstains
A trip planned last minute turned out to be one of the best hunts I’ve been on. The start of it consisted of rounding up friends who could afford the guide fee, hotel cost and trip to Gueydan, Louisiana. Gueydan is located in southwest Louisiana and just under 10 hours from Athens, Georgia. Known as a hunter’s paradise, it’s full of flooded rice fields and sugar cane. The hotel was the cheapest one we could find and had blood stains (not a joke) in the room.  The first day started with an 11-man limit of teal in two hours. Our group of 11 guys split into two blinds. My group drew the unlucky rice field and after an hour of shooting light, all we had on the books were 3 teal. We knew something wasn’t right. After we all agreed to try a new blind, we packed up our decoys and went to a new spot. Before we could even get all our guys in the new blind, ducks were landing directly in front of us. We took some photos and headed to take some showers. After cleaning up at the hotel, we went to watch Georgia football beat Middle Tennessee State at a local seafood restaurant full of good Cajuns. The next morning was a quick success full of ducks, memories and a banded drake teal. We had achieved what we came for and left early to get away from the 80-degree temps and bird-sized mosquitos.

November:
A sleepless night on an island waiting for shooting light
Hunting redheads on the coast of Florida is one of the most fun hunting adventures I’ve been on. This is what we were in search of when departing Georgia late one evening in November. The first split of the duck hunting season was about to open and my good friend, Anderson Johnson, had good intel on a spot in Florida to hunt divers. We arrived at the boat ramp at 10 PM. With fresh coffee in our cups, it was time for us to help hold the point on an island for some other friends who had been there since 3 P.M.  After a quick boat ride, we set up camp and put some wood on the fire. By this time, it was close to midnight and all 10 of us were fast friends. About half us knew each other beforehand. Campfire stories were told while bacon was cooked over an open fire on the beach. Shooting light was quickly approaching. We set up our blinds so well that we knew we could fool any divers that came by. With hundreds of decoys out and birds all in the area, limits were reached in just a few hours. This particular sunrise over the decoys in Florida was unbelievable. After a sleepless night, several cups of coffee, and a tiresome day, we trekked our way to the closest Mexican restaurant we could find. Good margaritas were a requirement. Afterward, we found a hotel and got some rest before making the trip back to Georgia the next morning.

December:
2,900 miles driven in 9 days…solo
Trip 1: Oklahoma
         Podcast after podcast after podcast. That’s the header of this trip after driving 40 hours in 9 days. With that being said, it was well worth it. You see this trip was in the works for about 3 years. My business partner and I have had the privilege of getting to know an awesome group of guys in Oklahoma. Cooper Rogers, Caden Rogers, and Trent Lewallen are a group of best friends, avid hunters and overall great people from Western Oklahoma. We had come to know each other through Major League Fowl and social media for the longest time and been trying to make a trip work for us to all hunt together, but we just couldn’t ever swing it until this year. We set a date to meet at their family’s land in Elk City, Oklahoma and hunt for the weekend. I made it through Alabama and Mississippi before staying the night with a friend’s family in Arkansas. I woke up early the next morning to a great breakfast from this family I had just met the night before. They told me all about their family and beliefs over some eggs and coffee. It was now time to embark on the trip to Oklahoma. After a 5-hour drive and truck stop pack lunch, I made it to Elk City. Introductions were made between the four of us, but we all felt like we knew each other since we were kids by now. After scouting and finding a good field for the next morning, we went to a local high school game then got some rest for the morning. The scouting quickly paid off with just shy of a 6-man limit of lessers (geese). We were hunting just a few hundred yards of the Texas border. We set out to scout that afternoon for pintail (they knew that’s what I wanted to get after the most) and found several great spots. The last morning was unreal. We quickly had a 6-man limit of drake pintails with a few bonus greenheads. My time in Oklahoma was up and I knew I had to get on the road and get to Kansas in time to find a hotel to stay in. Truth be told, we didn’t need to harvest anything in Oklahoma for it to be worth it. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with an awesome group of guys and their families.

Trip 2: Kansas
Kanas was next. I was hitting the road to a state I had never been to with a pintail in the cooler to be mounted. Eager to get some rest, I put the 4runner on cruise control and scouted through AirBNB and hotels.com to find a place to put my head. Turns out it makes the decision-making process very easy when you only have one cheap motel to choose from in the middle of nowhere Kansas. One lesson I almost learned the hard way is to fill up every chance you can when you’re in Kansas. Even if you’re at half a tank. You never know how many hundreds of miles you’ll drive with no gas station or civilization. My destination was Cawker City, Kansas. Population of 469 people but thousands of waterfowl. I’ll never forget the moment I pulled up to guide house I was staying at. A kid walking by had just gotten out of school. He noticed my out of state tags and said, “You must be here to hunt. There ain’t shit to do here otherwise. I wish I hunted.” I quickly became fast friends with the guides of Paradise Plains that I was staying with. Their clients for the time I’d be there was a dog training company called Wild Rose Kennels. The hunting had its highs and lows but the company was great. I was there the week before Christmas and it was full of meeting top-notch people and hunting ducks, pheasant, geese and quail. I could go on and on about this week, but the takeaway is how much I enjoyed getting to know the awesome people at Paradise Plains and Wild Rose Kennels. After staying an extra day (which paid off with a 10-man limit of mallards), I made the 16-hour drive back to Athens. It was so cool to be able to drive through the amazing scenery of the Midwest all the way down to Georgia. I even was able to make a stop at the St. Louis arch and break up the drive with seeing my sister and her family in Dalton, Georgia.

January:
9 P.M in cape cod with 5-degree temperatures and no place to stay
Trip 1: Massachusetts
         Sea duck hunting is usually either on an outdoorsman’s bucket list or something they have never heard of. For myself, it’s something I’d been dreaming of for the past three years. There are many places to do this, but two of the top places are either Alaska or Massachusetts, specifically Cape Cod.  Cape Cod is a hook-shaped peninsula in Massachusetts known for quaint villages, lighthouses and seafood shacks. A good friend of mine, Alex Warfel, and I departed on our flight one Sunday morning, only to return two days later. From start to finish it was a trip like no other, both good and bad. When booking our flights, we didn’t know one of the worst storms of the year was about to hit the east. Boston was about to be hit the worst. After our flights were booked, we weren’t looking back. After a delayed flight, 1 hour on the runway for deicing, upgrading our SUV to 4×4, and driving through a snowstorm in Boston, we finally arrived in Cape Cod at our self-check-in AIRBNB. The Airbnb itself could start a 20-minute story, but the short version is that a strange woman inside wouldn’t let us in, caused an alarm to go off, and the away homeowner asked us to sneak in through the side window. This was all at 9 PM with 5-degree temperatures. We told the homeowner (who wanted us to sneak inside his side window with a strange woman inside) to get lost, and headed to a dive bar for drinks and to watch the Patriots win in overtime, allowing them in the Super Bowl. We finally found a hotel at 11 PM, got some rest and woke up at 3 to meet our guide. Unfortunately, the -15-degree wind-chill caused boat problems at the ramp and we had to head back to the hotel. We took some quick naps and went out for an afternoon hunt. Most guides would have given us a pamphlet of fun things to do in Cape Cod, but Eider Outfitters wasn’t going to let us Georgia boys go home empty-handed. There’s only so much you can do though when its negative 15-degree wind chill and 30 MPH winds. We had to head back at dark. The birds got the best of us this time but we had another day to chase them. Our guide and now friend, Nate Olson, was literally doing all he could to put us on Sea Ducks. He scouted for hours the next morning and was able to get us on an amazing hunt on our last day. With only a few minutes for photos, we had to race back to Boston (in the heat of traffic) because our flight was in a little over two hours. After returning the SUV, literally packing up our guns in a gas station in Boston (getting very weird looks- I guess guns aren’t as common in New England as they are in Georgia. Oh well) and running through the airport (also getting checked by TSA for having a knife on our carry on (oops), we made on our flight with a few minutes to spare. This sure was a hunt and experience we will not soon forget.

Trip 2: Florida
         The last rodeo of the season was in Florida to chase divers. Just two days after arriving back from New England, it was time to embark on a 7-hour drive to West Florida. Five friends coming from Athens, Atlanta, Jacksonville, and Statesboro rented a house to hopefully get on some redheads.  It was a trip of slow hunting but fun nevertheless. I was able to get much-needed business done and thoroughly enjoyed spending time with my friends over seafood, mornings on the beach (but with waders on instead of bathing suits) and boat rides to scout. It really was surreal being able to hunt in Massachusetts on Cape Cod Bay one day, the next day in the Atlanta Ocean, and two days later being in Florida hunting the Gulf of Mexico.

5 months, 14 states traveled through, 7 states hunted and 12,000 miles in the books
         These past few months have been the opportunity of a lifetime with stories to tell for many many years. I also really enjoyed living at my current house in Athens, at a small one-bedroom house on 180 acres. I was able to harvest a very mature 9 point and pass on many bucks to let grow another year. I often worked from home and enjoyed the beautiful land and cattle around my house. Time spent with guys in the blind is always my favorite part of hunting and I was so fortunate to meet many new friends in these short 5 months.
Written by Josiah Holt (josiahholt17 on instagram)

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