By Max Flowers
In order to have the best hunting, land management must be a part of your yearly routine. Through years of trial and error we have mastered the art of enhancing existing wetlands and swamps into productive waterfowl grounds. One of the projects this year was a seven-acre low ground swamp that had the hardwood; cypress, ash, tupelo and existing tree species harvested three years back. This beaver swamp holds water at the same depth all year long and had an average of three feet of water, so fish species had become present. I witnessed something I found pretty cool I thought I would share.
To drain a swamp we install water control structures and culvert pipes. This is done to ensure a dry seed bed prior to planting moist soil plants. We had installed our culvert with custom beaver guards at the start of June. The drain out was good and took approximately four days.
In the early morning hours, while working on another wetland a mile away, I kept noticing V after V of Snowy Egrets flying west. With the amount of time I spend outdoors, this was something I had never seen. There was a heavy flyway and they all had the same thing on their mind. Not one group was off track – they all flew west. Within 10 minutes I had counted over 100 and it went on for hours.
After I finished up on that particular farm, I went back to the drained out swamp to be sure that the pipes had not been clogged with debris. It had been 7 days since I was last there. Approaching the low ground in the truck, I had to figure out where the egrets were headed. Stepping out of the truck, I could hear the egrets fighting. The amount of noise they made was profound and I knew exactly what was going on. The existing pools of water in the lowest spots had concentrated the fish (channel cats, brim, bass and chain pickerel) into an Egret food trough. As I approached the low ground around six to seven hundred egrets and herrings lifted, sounding no different than a train barreling through the swamp. As I got to the culvert the mud was no longer black but white with feathers. The remaining egrets tried to fly away but couldn’t get airborne because they were loaded down with fish. They were literally laying down in the mud. They had eaten themselves beyond escape. The remaining birds had fish tails sticking out of their mouths with no more room for any fish. Their calls were not exiting their beaks but bouncing off fish internally, which was pretty funny. I couldn’t believe it; they could not move. I could walk up and pet them and there was no attempt of running or flying. When you got to a certain distance they would try and throw the fish back up for a chance at being mobile. Some succeeded, some did not. It was something I will not forget.