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Deer or Duck: The Great Debate

Deer or Duck: The Great Debate

By: Ben Smith - January 25, 2024

Outdoors columnist Ben Smith says whatever your outdoor pleasure is, you’d better get out there and get to hunting.

Deer season is finally starting to wind down. The rut is all but over for most of the state. South Mississippi still has a few weeks left, but the rest of Mississippi will be done on January 31st. With deer season beginning to slow down, another season has finally started to heat up.

Even though the season will end on January 31st, ducks have finally arrived. So far, the migration of ducks is the only thing good to come out of that cold spell. What was shaping up to be, and still is, the worst duck season in any of our lifetimes is finally showing signs of life. All it took was the Midwest to turn into Arendelle, the city in the Disney movie “Frozen”, to drive the birds to Mississippi. And yes, I made a Disney reference in an outdoor column because I have three daughters and know the movie by heart. 

What do you get when you combine one of the worst droughts in Mississippi’s history along with a mild Midwestern winter? Absolutely nothing. That’s been the problem for fellow duck hunters all across the state. I know of at least a few prominent duck camps in Mississippi that have been around for over fifty years, and they all say the exact same thing, “Worst season in history.” One in particular averages over several hundred ducks killed per year, and before the polar vortex arrived they were at twenty-six. 

The good news is that ducks are finally here. Usually, my social media feeds are littered with pictures of mallards being killed in the Delta, but until about a week ago it’s been pretty quiet. Now, for the first time this year, I’m seeing more pictures of ducks than bucks. Most of that is due to the birds being here, and the other part is due to deer season slowing down. Heck, I’ve even had the chance to shoot at a few birds (emphasis on “shoot at”) recently. Even got the bruised shoulder and bruised ego to prove it. However, with the end of both seasons quickly approaching, there’s one that I enjoy more than the other.

I’ve had this argument with several friends over the years to no avail. The ol’ “duck or deer” argument. Most, not all, of the guys I hunt around would go duck hunting when it’s good rather than deer hunting, and I just can’t get on board. Don’t get me wrong, I love going on a good duck hunt. It’s fun to be out there with your buddies while not being able to feel your hands. Water up to your waist, waders leaking, and the inability to relieve yourself should the moment strike is all awesome. On a recent podcast we recorded, the question was asked, “If you could do one thing in the outdoors one more time for the rest of your life, what would it be?” I’m not entirely sure how I answered the question, but if I said anything other than deer hunting then I was lying.

For the last several months I’ve had a bad back. Two bulging discs, one pinching my sciatic nerve, have really put a damper on my hunting season. I just haven’t had the ability to go as hard as I usually do, but I’ve toughed it out as much as I could. One evening I sat in the stand for all of about twenty minutes before pain and discomfort drove me to climb down. Instead of calling it a day and going home, I decided to lay down on a ridge and prop my rifle on my backpack to shoot if needed. When I told a friend via text message what I was doing, he made the comment that I must be really mad at the deer. I responded, “No, I’m just an addict.” And there’s a lot of truth to that.

Deer hunting is just something that is in my blood. It’s not so much the killing part that I enjoy, it’s the whole experience. When you kill a deer, it becomes work. I enjoy the “watching deer” parts as much as anything. One, they are interesting creatures. Two, and this may sound pretty feminine, they are pretty to look at. I like watching ducks fly too, but I don’t get the same enjoyment out of it. 

The next thing that tilts me to deer over duck is the eating part. Duck is good to eat, but not nearly as versatile as deer. I can do way more with a deer than I can a duck. And what about the amount of meat? How many ducks would I have to kill to equal the amount of meat I get from one deer? Let’s face it, if my family depended on my ability to shoot ducks to feed them we’d all starve to death. 

Last is the overall cost. I rarely do anything without doing it big, so becoming a full fledged duck hunter would be a pricy hobby. I’d want my own dog to retrieve birds, which is not a cheap venture if you do it right. I’d want to be in some sort of duck camp because I think I’d grow tired of shooting wood ducks on the creek. Duck boat. Duck clothes. Duck mounts. You get the point. In less than a few months I’d be divorced and living under a bridge. This is the biggest reason I prefer deer over ducks. 

Whatever your outdoor pleasure is, you’d better get out there and get to hunting. By the time this column hits the press you’ll have less than ten days left to enjoy it before we enter the depression stage. And with only a few days left, let’s all be safe and ensure we’ll be able to do it again next fall. Happy Hunting!

About the Author(s)
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Ben Smith

A native of Laurel, Mississippi, Ben played baseball at William Carey University before joining the coaching staff at WCU, where he’s spent the last 16 years. He also serves as a History Instructor in the WCU School of Arts and Letters. During the Covid shutdown in 2020, he began the outdoor blog “Pinstripes to Camo”. The blog quickly grew into a weekly column and was awarded as the #1 Sports Column in the state by the Mississippi Press Association. During that time, “Pinstripes to Camo” also became a weekly podcast, featuring various outdoor guests from around the country, and has grown into one of the top outdoor podcasts in the Southeast.
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