Catfishing for Waterfowl

Guides and hunters on there way to set up for a hunt.

Water and food make Tallahatchie County ground zero for Mississippi ducks.

It’s 31 degrees outside with a stiff northern breeze kicking up adding to the wind chill. There is a dusting of snow from last night covering the ice left over from the previous weekend.

Where would you rather be? Snuggled in a good soft warm bed covered by a down comforter? Maybe you’d dream of a 10-stack of buttermilk flapjacks and a pot of steaming French roast coffee? Add a side of sausage links and hash browns? Sure.

Not duck guide Mike “Catfish” Flautt of Tallahatchie County.

“If the greenhead mallards are soaring overhead dipping in and out of the timber flaring out over just inches of recent rain waters out in a soybean field, then that is where I would be,” quips Catfish. “Been doing that in the worst of winter weather since I was a knee-high kid in elementary school.”

A duck guide resume

“I learned duck hunting and then guiding the old-fashioned way by doing it over and over,” said Flautt. “When I was a kid, me and a couple friends would take an old shotgun and go duck hunting near home in the early mornings before school.

“We would bring home our take to one of my friend’s moms, and she would cook duck and dressing for us to eat after school. We got pretty good at popping those greenheads because we sure did love that duck with dressing.

“As life goes, time turned into years. I have duck hunted all my life, and I taught my two boys, Bolton and Alben, to do the same. I was fortunate, blessed, to grow up on farm land centered around some of the best waterfowl flyways in the country, if not the world. It was the most natural place on Earth to learn to duck hunt.

“My family grew cotton, corn and soybeans. We worked hard and hunted hard whenever the opportunities came up. Along the way, we built a reputation for knowing all the ins and outs of duck hunting. I have been at it for over 45 years now and counting.”

As duck hunting goes, his resume is as good as it gets.

Qualities of a seasoned duck guide

“I think a good duck guide certainly has to know the essential basics of the trade,” said Flautt. “He has to know his ducks and how to identify them quickly on the fly, even in the worst of weather conditions.

“Selecting sites for the best hunting is critical, as is playing the wind right, having it come in over your back so the ducks will set their wings to land coming right into your set up face on.

“Laying out decoys is a science and an art. It has to be learned. We use small-water potholes, so we only set out about 40 to 50 decoys, but it has to be done right. A duck guide certainly has to be highly adept at calling and making attractive duck noise to bring ducks to the gun. Shooting skills are a must, and working good dogs goes with it all as well. Those are the basics.

“Besides all the technical or functional skills a duck guide needs to know, a big part of the everyday success of a duck guide can depend on his people skills. How does he relate to clients? Is he accommodating or standoffish? Personality plays a big role in being an accomplished duck guide. If hunters show up without waders, do you cuss under your breath or do you reroute them to a different duck hole? Are you prepared to coach and guide your hunters to a successful hunt whether or not they get a limit of ducks? A lot of wannabe guides never think of these aspects to the business.”

The duck operator

“Eleven years ago when I got into the duck outfitting business, it was just a mode of business survival for us,” said Catfish. “Farm prices tanked and revenue suffered. I needed a ‘winter income.’

“Everybody told me I needed to get into the commercial duck hunting business, so I thought I’d give it a try.”

That story is now history.

During the weekend I spent at Tallahatchie Hunts, I visited with hunters from a dozen states and one foreign country. Hunters were there from Boston, New York, Miami and Chicago.

Saturday morning they took 40 hunters out. The routine is to be at the lodge by 4:30, out of the house by 5:30 and ready to shoot by 6 a.m. Ideally shooting starts around 6:15. Some groups limit quickly while others hunt until late morning. Last year, they hunted all 60 days of the duck season.

Catfish is all about his duck hunting and living in Tallahatchie County.

“Everyday is pay day, every night is like Saturday night and everybody gets two vacations a year, each one lasting six months,” he said.

What else would you expect from a duck guide named Catfish?

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