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The Wild, Wacky World of Waterfowling

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For Whom the Dog Tolls

Dogs called "tollers" once were used to lure ducks into shooting range. For some unexplained reason, ducks feeding offshore would approach a dog as it bounced playfully back and forth on shore. Hunters hidden in a blind would throw a ball or stick for the dog to retrieve, and this would go on until the waterfowl swam close enough for the hunters to shoot. The Nova Scotia duck-tolling retriever is a breed developed for this use.

Tolling Ducks

Live ducks and geese called tollers also were used at one time to toll, or lure, their wild counterparts into shooting range. Their use became illegal in the 1930s, but prior to that, many hunters maintained large pens of tolling fowl that were sold throughout the country. The birds were trained to call and to tolerate a leash. A strip of leather was sewn about the leg in a figure-eight fashion to facilitate handling. The ones that were slow to cooperate soon found their way into the soup pot.

Champion of Champions

Only one person has won all five major competitions held at Stuttgart, Arkansas' World's Championship Duck Calling Contest. That lady, Pat Peacock, was also the first woman to serve on the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission. In 1950, at age 12, Peacock won the Junior World title. In 1951, she took the first of five straight Women's World Titles. In 1955, Peacock won the Arkansas title and the first of two straight World's Championships, and in 1960, she capped her duck calling career with the Champion of Champions crown. (In 1956, Peacock also won the first ever Queen Mallard beauty contest!)

Diving Champ

When it comes to diving, no other waterfowl can hold a candle to the long-tailed duck, or oldsquaw, which is known to dive as deep as 200 feet. The long-tailed duck also spends the most time underwater relative to time on the surface. When foraging, it is submerged three to four times as much as it is on top of the water.

The One and Only State Duck

In 1974, the wood duck was designated the State Waterfowl of Mississippi. No other state has chosen a duck as its official state bird.

Sounds Fishy

According to a 1957 issue of Ducks Unlimited Quarterly, a trout tagged by Wyoming fish and game department personnel, and a merganser banded in the same state, turned up together in a most unusual situation. A California biologist making a wildlife food study obtained the merganser after it had been shot by a hunter. In the bird's stomach was a tag from one of the Wyoming trout.

Against All Odds

Dr. Stan Chace of Alturas, California, seemingly defied all odds way back in the fall of 1962. Chace bagged a banded Canada goose in October, and shot another banded Canada in December. When he compared the bands, Chace found them to be consecutively numbered—the first 518-31661 and the second 518-31662. The birds were banded three years earlier at Goose Lake.

Legal Briefs

And finally, no compendium of waterfowling trivia would be complete without sharing the story of Rogers, Arkansas attorney Ben Lipscomb who went duck hunting in January 2005 and got lost in flooded Arkansas backwoods. According to the Associated Press, the Arkansas State Police sent out a helicopter to search for him. Lipscomb saw his would-be rescuers fly over a couple times. Although he tried to attract their attention, his waving was ineffective. Covered head-to-toe in camouflage clothing, Lipscomb was equally invisible to ducks and aerial searchers. Clearly, the desirability of blending into the scenery needed rethinking.

Soon after this thought occurred to the lost man, the crew of the helicopter saw something white fluttering in the woods. Lipscomb was rescued after he swallowed his pride, removed his white underwear, tied the briefs to his shotgun barrel and waved them at the pilots.

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