A Duck Boat Story

Justin TackettI’m driving through Loreauville, La., as I get a note from Chris Jennings with Ducks Unlimited. Chris is reminding me (again) that I’m supposed to write a number of blogs for the Opening Day site.

I think I wrote 2 over 6 months last year…about 20 less than I agreed to. I’m gonna do better this year!

The reason I’m in south Louisiana is because I’m bringing home a brand new boat. An 18 x 48 Pro Drive. This one is hot off the welder and I’m so excited, I’m like a kid at his first Tee-Ball game.

Looking at this boat, takes me back to the day Roy Splawn finally said, “OK.”

Mr. Splawn owned Splawn Marine in North Little Rock, Ar.

Not long after I got out of college I got a job at Little Rock Roofing Supply. My job was to ride out to a job site and spend all day carrying Squares (Shingle Bundles) up a ladder to roofers. I spent all day, every day for almost a year getting screamed at by roofers for $5.50 an hour. My Dad always told me “If yer gonna be dumb…you gotta be tough.”

Anyway, I didn’t think too much of that position with the company. To be honest, I was probably under-qualified, but I figured there had to a better way to bring home $176.78 a week.

So, about the time September rolled around, I developed this plan while walking up and down a ladder all day with 60 lbs of shingles on my shoulder. I would get me a boat and go back to guiding duck hunters. I had guided in high school and in college. I figured with just a little luck I could make in 30 days what it would take 6 months to make at my current executive position.

The problem was I didn’t own a boat and I promised everyone back home I was gonna stick it out and get a real job and be a responsible human being. My Dad had duck boats, but I couldn’t ask for one without telling a horrible lie. Since I’d tried that method unsuccessfully in the past, I figured I should think of something a little better.

I don’t know if ya’ll are aware of it, but nobody will let you borrow any money on a gross salary of $12,000 a year. So, as I walked around that boat shop that early September day, I noticed a slightly used “Dura-Craft” in the corner. She was a sexy shade of duck-boat green, 14 feet long and 36-inches wide with a brand new 20 horsepower, pull-start Merc on the back. Rippin’ Roy wanted $2,800 dollars for it. Trailer was separate.

I had a 1980 CJ-5 with holes in the floorboard, a shotgun, a couple Olt D2’s, $71, a few pairs of jeans, some T-shirts and a yellow labrador. That was it.

I begged Ol’ Roy for almost 3 months to let me pay off that boat. One day, in the middle of this weekly beggin, I told him my plan to become rich as a duck hunting guide, he followed me out to my Jeep and asked me about those “rings” on my call string.

He began to explain that he had a good customer that was a duck hunter and he’d be interested in finding a few as a gift for him.

I was only 23 at the time and I probably didn’t have more than a dozen myself, of which only 2 or 3 were actually mine. I grew up hunting with the most famous duck hunter in my part of Arkansas, his name was Mr. AZ Turner and he was a logger in the spring and summer and a duck hunter in the winter. Mr. AZ had hundreds of bands and he’d been flipping me a band or two every year for a few years. So, I had a few. Mr. AZ had since passed and if it would help me go hunting, I knew he would have been all for it. Right then and there I offered up the entire collection as a down payment plus $100 cash money.

Ol Roy laughed for 5 solid minutes. He took two bands off the lanyard and my money and told me to, “back that thing up.”

I left that very day with that boat. It took Rippin’ Roy almost 3 years to get all his money. But, he got it.

It was a good boat and had it not been for Roy Splawn. Mr. AZ and that mystery customer I’d probably be climbing a ladder somewhere right now.

DogsInBoat

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11 Responses to “A Duck Boat Story”


  1. 1 OLIN LEE September 1, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    GREAT STORY JUSTIN. I HAVE A 31 YEAR OLD SON WITH A DEGREE IN BUSINESS AND MARKETING FRO SOUTHERN MISS, WHO INCIDENTLY
    WENT THERE ON A GOLF SCHOLARSHIP. HE STARTED A LAWN AND LANDSCAPE BUSINESS SO HE COULD DUCK HUNT 60 DAYS A YEAR
    HE TOO IS DUCK CALL, DOG, GUN, DECOY , AND BOAT POOR. WE HAVE A CAMP ON THE MISS. RIVER BELOW NATCHEZ. HE HUNTS ALL OVER AND HAS CLOSE FRIENDS IN STUTTGART.

    AS I TOLD ONE OF MY FRIENDS THE OTHER DAY, WHO LIKES TO MAKE HIS THOUGHTS VERBAL, ITS YOUNG MEN LIKE MY SON AND YOU THAT WILL KEEP THE WILDLIFE ASPECT OF THIS COUNTRY GOING

    THANKS AGAIN FOR SHARING

    OLIN LEE

  2. 2 Shooter September 1, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    I can relate, I starting hunting ducks while working through college at about the same rate of pay, fortunately I was not carrying shingles but at a local Sporting goods store, which saw most of my paycheck. The good thing about that was I also got connected to some good guys who had more experience then me and a boat to hunt from. After several years of showing up for a ride in the morning only to find everyone still asleep from all night parties I decided it was probably time to get my own. I think it was a 1973 Lund 12ft 16″sides with a 80’s 3hp Merc. Got the boat at a garage sale for $40 picked up the motor for $100 and a trailer for another $100, several trips to the hardware store and some manufacturing turned her into the “Quacker Box” – Note to self don’t take out a 12ft 16″ boat with 3hp loaded with 2 guys and decoys in gail force winds… Luckily my buddies who had awakened from slumber had also towed me back when the motor died from being overworked.– Young and dumb. I was given the ultimatum after several of those occurrences to get rid of that rig. EBay – and south she went to whomever had dreams of their own opening morning, I believe $500 took it. With that sale and a summer came the hunt for the next rig, a 16ft Alumacraft waterfowler, with a 20hp beavertail mod motor. More sturdy and stable but underpowered and unreliable as it turned out in the end as well. Several fabrications of folding blinds over several years lead to a permanent blind build after surfing the net and having to have one. I had one season on that before I wanted something bigger and faster. A bad economy lead to a new boat as I was able to pick up a 1852 Extreme V TMT boat this spring, I worked all year to finish that, topped it off with a 36 Prodrive and Avery quickset, several test runs have proven she’s ready for action and I can’t wait to shoot something. – Although I haven’t been hauling shingle up the ladder I’ve been moving up the ladder with duck boats. Enjoyed the story, Looking forward to a great season.

  3. 3 Richard September 1, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    Remembering our roots keeps us mindful of what is important. Sometimes it is thin threads that tie our paths together. Enjoyed the story, hope our paths cross someday!
    Sincerely,

  4. 4 Jeff Fletcher September 1, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    Good story about Mr Roy! We loved that man. He could always recognize character and I guess he saw it in you. Way to go!
    Jeff Fletcher
    Lonoke

  5. 5 Alonzo Knowles September 1, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    Hi Guys,
    Great site ! And Happy opening day ! An Avid waterfowler, entering into my 30 th season today. 3 geese in the bag this morning hunting solo with my black lab Basil.
    Could you use an additional Blogger from Traverse City , Mi?
    A sponsor and commitee member for over a decade, I’m in touch with the local talent and feel I could bring some good info and great stories to the Table!
    Take’em !
    Alonzo

  6. 6 Bob Beilfuss September 2, 2009 at 1:03 am

    Hey Justin,
    That was a great story for a blog and I look forward to reading more this fall. I’m sure your going to hear this alot, but how is Yella doing?

    I’m in need of a Waterdog fix. My Black Lab Nellie actually watches the show. I never had a Lab that watched TV.

    Kepp up the good work.

    Bob Beilfuss
    Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin

  7. 7 John Stanton September 2, 2009 at 2:06 am

    That story has the makings of a diehard waterfowl hunting guide. Justin was willing to go the “extra mile” to chase his passion! It reminds me of my first time waterfowling as a youngster taking my first duck- a green-winged teal. At that very point and time, I was bit by the waterfowling bug! Best of luck afield this season Justin!

  8. 8 Ken September 2, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Great story alot of us can relate to. That first boat, gun, or dog is always a memory. I enfoyed reading it and look forward to more. I have a Tracker 17 foot bass boat that I am addapting for duck hunting to. The project has provided for what I hope is a good memory for me and my 13 year old sun.

  9. 9 frank September 2, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    I liked the blog. it reminded me on how I got started .I friend has asked me to go for years and when I finilly did.I loved it so much that I went out and got a boat a new gun (so I wouldn’t have to barrow one ) and got a dog so I would lose any birds. And the freindship that we share has ownly grow stronger. God bless him for that life changing experience, past it on.

  10. 10 3blacklabs September 3, 2009 at 2:49 am

    Justin
    Just goes to show that one shouldn’t give up on their dreams. If you really want it you have to go after it . I think we all started out as poor duck hunters. I remember my first decoys when i was a kid. My Grandfather gave me a half dozen rubber decoys that I could carry in my hunting jacket. I had a single shot 12 gauge. They worked for me because that is all I had.
    Keep up the blogs and I really enjoy everything you do in hunting and the dog training.

  11. 11 Andrew Duncan September 3, 2009 at 3:01 am

    What a great story, and what a great opportunity! I dream of the day when I can hunt every day of the season and have a job that involves hunting ducks, the passion of my life! I am always looking for that one opportunity to allow me to do so, congratulations on taking advantage our yours as well all know it has worked out amazingly! Best of luck this year and I look forward to hearing you again at Mack’s fall fest.


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