Dick Pinney's Guidelines: Numbers of geese are improving
When we first started waterfowling on Great Bay back in the 1950s, there were limited amounts of geese, although we didn't realize this until the flocks of a hundred turned into flocks of many hundred. It was black ducks that were as numerous as fleas on a hound dog's back that provided a big proportion of our take and as time went on, the bluebill (lesser and greater scaup) rivaled the amount of black ducks. Mallards, except in the freshwater swamps and rivers, were pretty scarce.
Mixed in with the black ducks, a drake mallard would stand out like a sore thumb in a flock of blacks - that poor drake would draw the attention of all shooters in our floating blind or layout boats. They were kind of a trophy.
Even though black ducks were thought to be the wildest of ducks, with the right amount of well-set and realistic decoys, we had no trouble each year taking several dozen. Our decoy set with three layout boats covering more than 100 yards of water outwitted these birds on many days. It was the Canada geese that gave us the most trouble, even though my buddy Brad had hand carved 18 very realistic and well-oversize dekes. Seasons when our combined take of ducks often was well over a hundred, we never once had a year when our take of the big Canada geese was in the double digits.
Even though it was thrilling when a single or pair of the big geese would work to our decoys, it was a much smaller bird, the bluebill ducks, that really gave us a show. These ducks love to decoy in good size flocks, unlike the black ducks and geese. On several occasions we had flocks that had to number more than 100 work our decoys and finally just lit right in among them. The roar of their wings and then the almost-silence interrupted with the quiet purring quack of the bluebills was incredible. You could almost feel your heart busting out of your chest.
Most of the time these flocks of bluebills would just strafe our decoy set, rather than dropping in. That called for some quick and concentration on your shooting. A few times the awesomeness of them coming in such numbers and scaling in at breakneck speed over the decoys caused a lot of missing. This was no doubt caused by not having our cheeks on our gunstocks but by just watching them over the gun barrels.
One day there was just Brad and myself out in our floating blind when we decoyed in a flock of about 100 bluebills. In a kind of unsportsmanlike act, we jumped up and each shot a duck in the water but missed with our other combined four rounds when they took off. That same day six bluebills that were strung out in a line came sweeping over our decoys. We had watched them come from about a mile away and were ready. Each picking out the outside duck of the string, we shot the entire six ducks with six shots.
Stormy weather would break up the big flocks of bluebills but would provide a great opportunity to work them into a just-offshore set of dekes. The key was to start a long hook of single decoys that went downwind from where we were hiding and set the rest of our decoys in a close knit group just upwind of where we were hiding on shore.
Single birds and pairs and small bunches of bluebills that were on the move because of the stormy conditions would pick up that long string of single decoys and follow the string right into our gun's range. Often the surf was too rough for a dog to make the retrieve so the hard part was to launch our small boats and pick up the birds in that nasty chop.
Now things have changed. Black duck limits are down to one bird a day, from the previous four. But this year it looks to us like this is working, as there's a big bunch of blackies on the bay. The bluebills that were so plentiful in those early days also took a big hit. No more bonus bluebills in your limits or special late seasons but this year, as with the black ducks, bluebill numbers seem to be improving substantially. And geese! Wow there's a ton of them, as the locally nesting birds add their numbers to the migrating geese.
It looks like the good old days may be coming back.
And have a wonderful Merry Christmas!
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.
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