Hunting On The Great Pee Dee River

I grew up hunting the Little Pee Dee River and jump-shooting has always been my favorite way to duck hunt. JC Bryant shared stories about hunts on the Great Pee Dee River, and I was hesitant to try since the river is so broad and partly because I thought that the ducks would see us and take flight before our boat was in shooting range. JC shared some tips with us about how to stay hidden, emphasizing that the most important thing is to hug one side of the river as close as possible.

Trees line the Great Pee Dee River and the branches hang over the water offering plenty of hiding spots for the ducks. The same trees that hide the ducks also conceal the hunter’s boat that is slowly moving along the tree line.
Hunter Jordan and I planned to hunt the Great Pee Dee River for our first time, and we left the house at about 6 a.m. Jump-shooting can be effective at any time of day and so we did not have to leave as early as other hunters who have to be in their spots before sunrise. Our hunt claimed a deer before we even pulled the trigger and some on-the-spot repairs had to be made to the car so that we could continue the drive to the boat ramp.
We arrived at the boat ramp with dents and broken headlights and stepped out to prepare our boat. We wrapped the sides of the boat with burlap sheets and clipped pine branches along both sides of our boat. This morning was freezing cold, but we were prepared for maximum comfort. We had dog cushions on the floor of the boat with coffee in reach for both of us. A propane stove was packed in the back so that we could take a break at some point to cook breakfast. We sat on the floor of the boat with our backs against the seat so that we could be as low as possible. We would start our trip with myself in the front to shoot and Hunter steering in the back.

We pushed off from the boat ramp and hugged the bushes as we rounded our first bend on the river. Without warning, the first wood duck sprung from cover and flew in front of our boat. I shot her down with one shot and then a cloud of ducks took off farther downstream. “It was a scout!” I said as we picked up the hen wood duck and continued on. We jumped another duck who flew across the river in front of the boat, and I fired all three shots. I could not tell if I hit or not, but we saw the duck land on the other side. When we reached the other side, we found the drake wood duck lying motionless in the water and we placed him in the boat. Hunter guided the boat very carefully to keep us hidden and was able to bring us close to a group of ducks that was on the water. The sun was in my eyes, and I tried to focus, but when they took off, I fired into the trees and saw dust and bark fly. When I could see again, there were no ducks on the ground. Hunter said, “Come on Lawrence, I couldn’t have gotten you closer!”
The next duck took off and flew across the river, passing in front of our boat. I fired 3 shots, and he landed on the other side. Hunter steered us across the river to recover the duck, but we couldn’t find him anywhere. We moved up and down the bank and were within 5 yards of the duck when he took off and flew behind us. Hunter fired at the duck and missed, then said, “He deserves to live.” At that moment, I spotted two wood ducks flying straight at us from out of the sun. I shouldered my shotgun and squinted, waiting for the perfect moment to fire. I pulled the trigger and heard “click” since the chamber was empty. I pumped the shotgun but my position and frozen glove made it difficult. The ducks flew by and Hunter started shooting. Both wood ducks splashed into the river.
We moved forward to claim the drake wood duck that was in the water closest to us and then hid in the bushes to wait for the second wood duck to drift down stream to us. While we waited, a pair of wood ducks coasted in along the river with their wings cupped for landing. Hunter and I waited with our guns trained on each duck, we each fired one shot at the same time and both ducks crashed into the river. We collected all three ducks and now had six wood ducks, making the limit for two hunters. Our trolling motor did not have the power to push us back up stream, so we decided to proceed downstream only shooting at other species of ducks. We could legally shoot 3 more ducks per person, but they had to be different species.
This was a fitting time to take a break and so we pulled out the propane stove to cook breakfast. Hunter cooked in the bow while I drove us down river with the trolling motor. Hunter had 7 eggs in a mason jar, already mixed with cheese and salt. He cooked ground sausage in a cast iron skillet, added the eggs, then used tortilla wraps to make breakfast burritos. We had 3 hot breakfast burritos each. While we ate, I made no attempt to hide the boat. We rode in the middle of the river jumping ducks and watching them fly. Hunter said, “This is the kind of day that recharges me. We’re out here having a great breakfast on a beautiful day, and we already have our limit!”
At about that time, our battery died and the propeller made its last spin. Hunter looked at the maps to see how far we had to go and found that we had gone 6 miles, with 7 more to paddle our john boat. Paddling was the only option and we went straight to work. Hunter and I put our knees to the deck and put our backs into each stroke. We couldn’t dwell on how far we had to go and only focused on the task at hand, which was to keep paddling. A pair of Hooded Merganser ducks flew past us and Hunter picked up his shotgun and shot both of them down. We hoped for a boat to pass that could tow us, but we never saw a boat for the entire day.
The paddling warmed us up and soon the boat ramp was in sight. We finally loaded the boat onto the trailer. Hunter and I learned a lesson about what to expect of the distance that we covered on the river and had a chance to plan how to do it better next year. Not only was it a successful hunt, but we also made it a very comfortable trip. We were very happy to have shot our limit of wood ducks on our first Great Pee Dee River hunt.

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