I don’t have to hunt the old way, but I got to tell you, it gives me peace in my soul. It’s just hard to describe unless you are doing it. That’s why I still find pleasure in going out in my hand carved dugout pirogue made from a 5,000 pound cypress log the same way my ancestors did. And it will last forever. I have already willed it to my young grandson. It’s one way I pass it along to my family and anyone who wants to know.
I wanted to do everything like my ancestors, the old French people. When I go hunting, I’m 100% efficient. I make everything. That includes the duck call, which is a tradition I want to preserve.
In the old days, the hunters shot ducks for meat. Families shot ducks for supper and market hunters shot them to sell. It wasn’t for sport. And things like boats, guns and shells were not plentiful. When you could find them, they were expensive. Back in the early 1900s, shells were 35 cents a box, $7 a case. That sounds cheap but in those days, it was a lot of money.
I have heard from numerous old hunters about going hunting with only a handful of decoys and even less shells. They said if you couldn’t get a mess of ducks with three shells, you shouldn’t be hunting.
So, hunters made their own gear when they could and they didn’t waste anything. That’s what I’m trying to pass down. How to do everything by hand and not let anything go to waste. We even save sacks full of duck feathers so people can use them to make pillows.
We make our calls from cane. River cane is the best. I can tweak the homemade soundboard to get different sounds. I think you can get a little bit more out of it the way I’m doing it. I can even tweak the sound of the calls, blowing them for a few mallards that stay in the yard. They come in the shop and help me make calls.
I didn’t plan on making calls. I just started making them for myself, then a neighbor wanted one, then 10 more people wanted one and it just took off. It’s a word of mouth deal. The calls work. That’s the main thing. But it’s saving the heritage, too.
I love the old guns. The Winchester 1897s are my favorites. I have been handling these guns for 40 years and my heart is full knowing the history behind the guns. You see it’s not all about pulling the trigger. This is hunting tradition at its best.
The pirogues are something special. It was very common back in the 1940’s down here. I love hunting out of a dugout made from a tree right from the swamp. I’ve seen that all my life. If you had a dugout built around 1940 it would have cost you about $35. Some were made for sale for an income. Mine is made for traditional sake and to keep this legacy alive. A dugout pirogue now a days is around $5000, a big change from 1940. These are about the best paddling boats I ever paddled. This is me, I still use the same tools I used 15 years ago.
I’m doing all I can to make sure it will survive another generation. I love doing it. I love sharing my Louisiana heritage. I hope you will learn it and share it, too. As long as I can stay healthy I’m going to keep doing it.
Editor’s Note: We will be sharing a series of articles from Dale Bordelon, a resident of Effie and owner of Bayou Beast Duck Calls. He lives the life of a Louisiana duck hunter and is dedicated to making sure the old ways are passed on and not forgotten.