When Wild Ducks Were Plentiful


An illustration of how plentiful ducks and other wild fowl were many years ago in Kentucky is contained in the story of a Gallatin County man.  Three score years ago army rifles were common enough, but there were not many guns on the farms, and the boys had to resort to other methods of catching small game.  Ducks and geese descended to the farm ponds in the Ohio River bottoms in great numbers.  The problem was how to catch them.  Big “sugar gourds” then were common and the boys threw quantities of these into the ponds.  When the ducks were accustomed to the bobbing gourds, the boys hollowed out a couple and slipped them over their heads, leaving holes for observation and breathing.  Then the wily young hunters waded neck deep into the water and waited.  When the surface of the pond was black with ducks, all the boys had to do was reach out under the water and grab a duck by the legs, pull him under and decapitate him.  This was repeated until there was enough for the table and the neighbors. 

The modern duck hunter might find this poor sport, but standing in cold water for an hour or more was a job worth a reward.  The gourd method required as much ingenuity as the decoy-blind-pump gun method. 

The boys of that day, of course, contributed their part toward depleting the game supply and before long ducks and geese were scarce articles.  Since the enactment of the Federal migratory bird law, however, ducks are again populating the river bottom ponds, and if the policy of draining great march lands is discouraged, wild ducks and geese will continue to form a food supply for Americans for centuries to come.


From the October 5, 1928, Louisville Courier-Journal.