There are plenty of people who can think of something better to do in sub-zero temperatures than sit in a wet duck blind hunting, but not the hearty crew that heads out on the annual Grand Ole Opry duck hunt. Traditionally held while the artists who still tour are on their holiday break, the group hits the woods shortly after Christmas and spends a few days bonding over hunting, history and country music.
In author Kay West’s book, “Around the Opry Table: A Feast of Recipes and Stories from the Grand Ole Opry,” former Opry general manager Bud Wendell says, “We had fun hunting, but most of all, it was about being together, telling stories. Tex Ritter was the master storyteller, everyone would gather around him. Those were wonderful times.”
Now, more than 40 years since it began, the hunt has moved locations a few times and the lineup of hunters and musicians has also changed a few times, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the camaraderie. And recent Opry GM Pete Fisher tells Kay, “It’s most importantly a chance to spend time together. The younger artists are so impressed with the older members. To hear their stories, it’s such a gift, a great experience, a way for them to connect with the Opry’s past and move it forward.”
This year’s group was once again a mix of young and old, as some of country music’s finest young voices, including Blake Shelton, Craig Morgan, Chris Janson and newcomer Luke Combs braved the cold and enjoyed the conversation with legends like John Conlee and Diamond Rio’s Marty Roe.
Luke shared a photo on his Instagram page of the group, which also shows Opry president Steve Buchanan, and wrote, “What a great couple of days on the @opry hunt. Thanks y’all.”
We can’t help but notice the absence of one familiar face on both the Opry and the hunt: Montgomery Gentry’s Troy Gentry, who passed away last fall in a helicopter crash. Not only was Troy an avid outdoorsman and hunter, he was also a great friend of Craig, Blake and Chris, and had participated in the fun event in previous years.
There aren’t likely to be a lot of images or video to come from this highly-anticipated annual event, but it’s understandable. These high-profile hunters don’t get too many chances to be like regular guys, enjoying each other’s company and the great outdoors without it being a media event. But we do love seeing that this annual tradition is being continued and honored in such an amazing way. And we also hope that Chris and Luke pass this event along to the other young artists that follow in their footsteps, because can you imagine the stories that Blake and Craig will be able to tell one day?