Last month’s duck-blind murders of two waterfowl hunters on Reelfoot Lake was shocking for two reasons.
It was shocking because such violence is virtually unheard of.
Secondly, it was shocking how some media portrayed the violence as almost routine, using the tragedy to disparage Reelfoot and duck hunting.
“Reelfoot Lake Notorious Hunting Spot,” proclaimed one headline.
“Duck Hunters Have to Face Reckoning,” read another.
One story suggested “blind-burning, fist-fights and boat-ramp justice,” is routine at Reelfoot Lake and other hunting areas.
I’ve fished Reelfoot Lake for some 40 years. I’ve vacationed there with my family. I’ve been on Reelfoot during waterfowl season and I’ve consorted with duck hunters.
I’ve never witnessed a single altercation. Never even heard of one. Not one.
Reelfoot, nestled in the northwest corner of Tennessee, is not only the most scenic and tranquil lake I’ve ever been on, but the people are equally peaceful. Everybody I’ve met there over four decades – locals, fellow tourists, fishermen and hunters – are among the nicest folks you’ll ever know.
It’s sad to see the lakeside community and duck hunters negatively portrayed,
Long-time pal Steve McCadams, who has hunted and guided waterfowlers on nearby Kentucky Lake for over 50 years, agrees about the media’s misguided portrait.
“It has cast a dark cloud over Reelfoot Lake and duck hunters in general,” he says.
In his half-century among waterfowlers, McCadams says he has witnessed occasional disputes over blinds and shooting rights, but never saw an act of violence.
Same here. I’ve seen fussing over who got to launch first at a boat ramp, but nothing more serious.
Nobody knows what made a 70-year-old man putter up to a Reelfoot public duck blind on Jan. 25 and fatally shoot two young hunters who were in the blind with a third older hunter.
The shooter either jumped or fell into the freezing water and his body was later recovered.
His motive remains a mystery as the investigation continues. What we know with certainty, though, is that such incidents of violence involving hunters are almost unheard of. The only other similar fatal shooting on record happened 17 years ago in Wisconsin in a dispute over a deer stand.
Yet some claim that’s to be expected “when hunters armed with guns get into fights.”
That’s absurd. There are millions of hunters, almost all of whom are safe and responsible.
Someone who murders two people in cold blood not a hunter. He’s a psycho.
Reelfoot guides, restauranters and resort owners – some 4th-generation – are struggling like all businesses to survive during the pandemic. From eagle-watchers to waterfowl hunters and fishermen, tourism is their life’s blood. The last thing they need are misleading reports that cast doubt on the area’s safety.
Simply put: you’re safer among duck hunters at Reelfoot – or among hunters anywhere -- than you are walking the streets of most big cities.
Don’t be afraid to visit Reelfoot Lake. It’s a safe, serene Tennessee treasure.