Duck enthusiasts from all over the region flocked to Big Sandy on Saturday hoping to hear their names drawn for the opportunity of first dibs at choosing the best duck blind on Kentucky Lake. However, this year was different with new blind drawing rules designed to undercut the selling of blinds.
There were 1,969 registrants, according to one of the organizers, Mike Stockdale. That number was significantly lower than last year. Many speculated it was due to the adjustments made the annual drawing.
Stockdale who has been at the last 50 drawings said this year’s participation was down from 2,657 last year. The record sits at 3,011 in 2001. Stockdale said the first drawing took place in 1970. He showed off his card from the very first drawing on Saturday while giving a radio interview.
This year’s big winner was Richard K. Williams from Big Sandy. He chose blind #5 in Big Sandy. There were 73 blinds drawn.
Hundreds of spectators attended the annual event for the food and fun. Booths featuring the best in duck-hunting apparatus’ and hunting gear were scattered throughout the Big Sandy City Park. Ron Lane broadcasted live on WRJB.
More than 20 Tennessee Wildlife Resource Officers worked the festival. Several officials from Nashville were on-hand to oversee the newly regulated drawing.
This year, there were two drawings. During the first drawing, the hunter called had to bring his total sign-on’s with him listing them, so they were no longer eligible to be drawn. Then that hunter was entered into another barrel. After all 73 names were drawn, the second drawing got underway. The second round was for the actual blind itself.
There were mixed reviews for Saturday’s event. Santana Walters said, “Granted it did decrease the attendees compared to usual, but it also weeded out the people who do not actually hunt, but just go down there to sell. Our crew was luckily able to snag two blinds this year compared to us only drawing one every three to four years. While it was unorganized, it has benefited actual hunters instead of sellers. It is a step in the right direction.” In contrast, Wayne Woods said, “(It was) unorganized. Just trying to make it more aggravating for the hunters. Rather they draw online like they do deer hunts, instead of this mess.”
No matter which side the hunters weighed in on, the annual Kentucky Lake Waterfowl Festival brings in revenue to Big Sandy and surrounding communities. Big Sandy Mayor Autumn Ratliff said, “This festival is a great event for our town. It brings so many people from out-of-town into our little slice of heaven and that’s what it is all about. I hope that it grows each and every year.”