Tony Soileau cut his teeth hunting ducks from conventional blinds in the Cypress Creek Hunting Club in Evangeline Parish.
Then, five years ago, he began to feel crowded — hemmed in.
He started deer hunting on his brother-in-law Paul Landreneau’s property, still in Evangeline Parish. But the duck bug hadn’t left him.
He kept seeing ducks traveling at tree-top level that looked like they were landing about a half-mile away.
“One day, I jumped in my truck,” Soileau said, “and drove around, looking for where the ducks were going. I found the spot.
“It turned out to be owned by an absentee owner who didn’t even know he owned it, having gotten it as part of a business deal settlement.”
The tract was 70 acres of woods with a lake in the middle of it. The previous owner had built levees to create habitat friendly for wildlife, and ducks would sleep and feed all night in the rice fields that surround the plot.
With daylight, the birds would move to the secluded lake in the woods to loaf.
Soileau made up his mind to do what other smart-money hunters are increasingly doing: buy the property rather than paying endless leases on it. Negotiations were tricky, but by summer Soileau was able to close the deal.
The first order of business was the repair of the lake’s degraded levees. By August, that was done, but Soileau put the property on his mind’s back burner during the first part of that hunting season.
When he finally got around to checking it, the lake held thousands of ducks — “black clouds” to use his own words.
After he found the ducks on his property, he began hunting them from his fiberglass pirogue.
“While trying to shoot a duck while I was picking up another one from the water, I flipped the pirogue,” Soileau shuddered. “It was freezing cold. I thought I would get hypothermia.”
So he went looking for something more stable in which to hunt.
“Big, cypress pirogues are stable but weigh 500 pounds. I also had a young son who I wanted to hunt with me,” Soileau said. “The man who repaired my levees saw all my ducks. His son asked to make a few hunts. In turn, he knew Jude Barber, host of Duck Down Waterfowl, a Louisiana-based waterfowl hunting DVD company.
“Jude needed a place with a lot of ducks to film the stability of NuCanoes, one of their sponsors. When I got to the property, I found three men dancing in NuCanoes for the camera.
“I thought, ‘That’s got to be the most stable pirogue — canoe, whatever you call it — that I have ever seen.’ I started researching it, and then went to Pack & Paddle (a Lafayette kayak outfitter) at Jude’s direction and talked to John Williams, the owner. He confirmed that the NuCanoe is the most stable kayak he sells.
“From there, it was a matter of converting it into something I could hunt out of.”