Editor’s note: This is the third in a series about the opening of the 2011-2012 duck season.
J.A. “Bud” Oliver will be in a duck blind Saturday — for the 65th straight year.
And he’ll be looking for ducks and jewelry.
“Bands, duck bands,” the 88-year-old World War II veteran said Friday shortly after returning from a Veterans’ Day celebration in downtown Baton Rouge. “That’s what makes (duck) hunting more exciting that it already is.”
Waterfowl “jewelry” are the bands fixed on the legs of migrating birds. Ducks and geese are the main targets, but the U.S. Geological Service, the federal agency that collects the banding information, employs federal and state bird biologists to band doves, woodcock and pigeons to determine flight paths and survival rates.
Oliver has 15 bands, all from ducks, threaded on a cord. He could wear them like a necklace, but never does. They’re too valuable to him to put on any public display, but breaks out in a giant smile whenever he’s asked to talk about them.
Like that one morning he said he’ll never forget when he was in his favorite spot in the Atchafalaya Spillway and set some sort of duck-hunting record.
“I took three banded mallards in just a few minutes,” Oliver said as if he was talking about something that happened yesterday.
“I killed one and noticed it had a band, then another with a band, and finished out a limit with another big greenhead (mallard drake) and it had a band on it, too.”
Dutifully, Oliver forwarded the numbers on the bands to the USGS thinking, he said, that taking three big mallard drakes — a limit on Nov. 26, 1986 — with bands on their legs from the same blind that the birds were banded in the same area.
What made this jewelry haul even more astonishing is the report Oliver received from the USGS early in 1987.
“It showed one of the mallards was banded in Saskatchewan, another in Manitoba and the other in Maryland,” Oliver said.
“You expect to see mallards from Canada (Saskatchewan, Manitoba) , but these were banded a thousand miles apart and wound up in same place in Louisiana on the same day.”
All but one of the bands was taken from drakes, and 12 of his bands came from mallards.
“It’s quite a collection and it’s full of memories,” Oliver said.
“And I’ll keep on going as long as I can pull the trigger.”