By Wade Bourne
Illustrations By Jack Unruh
Recent heavy rains had caused the river to rise out of its banks and into the adjacent bottoms, and mallards
and other dabbling ducks were flocking to the banquet of freshly flooded acorns in the oak flats.
My host had enjoyed a sensational hunt the day before, and our prospects for this morning were just as bright, as the arrival of dawn brought big flocks of ducks plummeting into the flooded timber.
What made this hunt extra sweet was the fact that this honey hole was not on the property of an exclusive duck club or private lease. We were on Arkansas's sprawling White River National Wildlife Refuge, which is largely open to public hunting
and offers endless opportunities for those willing to work for their birds.
Public hunting areas are a cornerstone of our waterfowling tradition. The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation
was founded on the premise that wildlife belongs to everyone; therefore everyone should have access to these resources. Hunters have certainly paid their own way by funding the acquisition and management of public hunting areas through license and duck stamp
sales, excise taxes on firearms and ammunition, donations to Ducks Unlimited and other conservation organizations, and much more.
In almost five decades of waterfowling, I have chased ducks and geese on national wildlife refuges, wildlife management areas, national and state forests, military reservations, private lands open to public hunting, and many other areas. Some of these places have provided me with the best duck and goose hunting imaginable. Following are just a few of my most memorable public waterfowl hunts.