Dick Pinney's Guide Lines: Sea duck hunting is underrated, enjoyable

By DICK PINNEY September 22. 2018 11:56PM


Sea duck hunting is some of the most exciting and least experienced of the bird hunting community. And that is very surprising because it's a very simple method that any hunter with an ocean-capable boat can get into with little added expense and probably with some of the equipment that is already owned.

It's usually done from a boat at anchor. And we've done it from large 26-foot- long cabin boats to 14-foot aluminum skiffs with equal success.

It's hard for a died-in-the-wool waterfowler who was brought up in a duck hunters' world of hiding out in a duck blind or duck boat to sit in a non-camouflaged open boat or even a 30-foot cabin cruiser to believe that ducks will be drawn to the decoys floating just a few yards off the boat.

The funny thing about it is that a good percentage of the sea duck hunters have used nothing more than oversized plywood or pine duck silhouettes that are set on a floating base and just attached to a main line that is set within a few yards of the boat. Open boat, no camouflage, hunters in full view of decoying ducks and "here they come"!

This is a far cry from what conventional duck hunters have to do with camo clothing and boats. For the Dickster, our first attempt at sea duck hunting came after several decades of hunting regular ducks in blinds or boats that were totally camouflaged-up. We just sat there in a wide-open boat with no camo and watched duck after duck sail right into good shotgun range over the decoys. There seemed to be "something wrong with this!"

But that's how it was! The sea ducks didn't seem to be the least bit worried about a boat with decoys floating out in the tide behind it! And they seemed to want to commit suicide by not paying the least bit of attention to the two or three of us sitting in that open boat with shotguns in our laps! And to top that off, our special sea duck decoys were single dimensional! They were cut out of quarter-inch plywood and floated on a one-inch thick pine board that was roughly shaped into the shape of a "sitting duck," as the saying goes.

There was one glaring difference that we learned the hard way. A sea duck is much tougher than the inland ones and often is only wounded with your shot of pellets.

We quickly learned that when we dropped a bird that still had its head up, and a quick finishing-off shot could save us a lot of work and frustration and occasionally a lost cripple! Those sea ducks were much tougher than their inland relatives! But they were obviously not as wary and would decoy into a few floating silhouettes that were set just a scant 20 feet behind the open boat with us just sitting still - right out in the open!

We quickly learned that, dressed out like inland ducks, they were hardly palatable! But, breasting them out and skinning the fillets, they provided much enjoyment with fried-in-bacon duck breasts!

We took to sea duck hunting with some glee! But we quickly learned that Mother Nature almost always has a hidden secret. And her sea duck secret was that safe and sound ocean conditions for open water sea-duckin' were often rare, and that a perfectly calm and wind-free day could quickly change into raging sea, sometimes so bad that we had to abandon the retrieval of our decoys, and then returning to launch our boat to pick them up when the wind and sea quieted down.

Because of advanced age, and with some urging from Jane, we had to agree with her assessment that myself and my aging gunnin' buddies were past the stage of being safe out there on the open ocean.

Those were the times, my friends! We thought they'd never end. But the memories and reliving those times with my hunting buddies helps the pain.

Drop us an email at DoDuck Inn@aol.com and please stay in touch.

Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.


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