While we had great success during the first three weeks of the season, regardless of the warm temps and mild weather, the cold snap during the second half of the season was just killer. Come the 16th and our first few cold nights, the birds started to pour in and the weather was perfect – cold, overcast and spitting rain for several days. Scott and I, just like we always do, made sure we had days open so that we could enjoy some hunting ourselves…and we had some of our best hunts in years.
1/16 – Today I hunted with Mark and friends – we had good conditions, low clouds, a bit of rain…but the wind didn’t blow. We set up on a point and we picked away at the birds, knocking down a Bluebill and a scoter and missing a black duck, a couple of gadwall and a couple of scoters….and unfortunately, we watched literally thousands of puddle ducks pouring into a bay forming a huge raft. I have no doubt the birds were fresh and just moving into town.
We picked up the dekes and I moved us over – within minutes we had a drake wigeon on the water which we unfortuantely were not able to recover…within just a couple of hours, we had several groups of wigeon decoy right in but weren’t able to connect. The real kicker was the final bird though – an awesome, mature Green Wing Teal.
1/18 – After a short day off, Scott and I ran out in the cold, spitting rain to look for a mixed bag. We set up in a hard rain and waited literally 90 minutes for the birds to start flying….and when the rain let up…within minutes we had scoters pouring the decoys – by the hundreds. In less than 15 minutes we had our two man limit of 8 scoters (6 drakes). For the rest of the morning, we watched groups of scoters pour in in giant groups – we estimate we had over 800 birds come within 35 yds and probably over 2000 come within 50 yds. The volume was incredible and it went on into the afternoon when we decided to finally pick up. It was one of the best seaduck shows I have ever had – and i have incredible video of it! (to be posted later!)
We finished out our limit with three bluebills and a bufflehead (not in the picture). We really prolonged the hunt, trying to bag a few puddle ducks – we had wigeon, gadwall, black ducks and teal working us all morning – but the wing shifted on us and it started pounding the shoreline we were using – the puddle ducks simply wouldnt land in the chop and instead we watched probably 100 puddle ducks, in total, pass us by and land 300-400 yds behind us in various locations.
What an incredible hunt! Look soon for the scoter video!
1/19 – Today Scot and I headed out with our friend John (Aka, the canon) looking for some of the action like the day prior. Welp…we found it. While we didnt have 1000+ scoters come int othe decoys, we had them coming small groups all day long and it didnt take us much to get our sea duck limit…in fact, john limited out early, finding 3 scoters, 2 buffies (a true double) and a hen wigeon. I also found my first wigeon of the year – a nice drake that dropped out of the atmosphere at 12 noon. Besides all the seaducks, the many buffies we turned downed, we had several groups of bluebills (and some singles) and were buzzed by black ducks and a few wigeon all day long…
We had amazing action again today and we did what we are famous for – incredible variety. Seaducks, buffies, bluebills and wigeon – now that’s an icredible mixed bag!
3 guns – 11 scoters, 3 buffies, 2 bluebills, 2 wigeon. KILLER.
Two very different birds bagged within 2 minutes of each other…
MY first wigeon of the year…
1/20 – We decided to scout a new area this morning, trying to ZERO IN a puddle duck hunt for the next week. We used one of our layout boats and bagged a pair of wigeon (out of a flock of 12 or so) and a scoter before we decided to bag the hunt – its hard sitting in a cold layout boat while not in a prime seaduck area…while watching thousands and thousands of wigeon, gadwall, pintails and black ducks pour into a certain spot. Welp – we would get them the week prior.
1/22 – Scott had a crew from SC today and I was taking my favorite youth hunter out – 11 year old Ty. Well, we had some technical difficulties in the morning – I lost my trim-tab anode and couldnt plane out…and thus we got a VERY late start. We still managed to set up and bag 2 buffies and a scoter, missing several scoters, a couple buffies and 2 black ducks that dropped on our heads. Well – Ty is goign to get ’em on youth day with me!
Scott on the other hand had quite the hunt – in fact, we WACKED ’em. They get them so good, in fact – his clients even let him shoot most of his limit!! They had great scoter action all morning, plentiful buffies, bluebills – and a real bonus bird…a drake goldeneye! I don’t know what it is – but we see more goldeneyes in NC than most people have ever seen…it must have something to do with where we’re hunting?
The damage: 4 guns….16 scoters, 4 bluebills, 2 bufflehead and the GOLDENEYE! AWEOSME JOB GUYS!!
1/23 – Today was our day – and by ours, I mean Scott’s and mine. We had been scouting a secret little spot of mine for over a week..and the weather was right (cold w/ low clouds), the wind was right – everything was right.
The action started off slow – we had some teal buzz us,a few birds passed us by and around 7am a pair of wigeon came off the open water and lit right in the dekes – i dropped the hen and scott didnt connect (which was a big surprise) and i doubled up on his bird…knocking it down but eventually losing it to the big water (we still counted it towards our limit) Over the next hour, we stank up the entire state of NC – wiffing on a single, 2 pair and a group of 10 wigeon…and then we had a pair of black ducks swing in, go wide over the decoys and they cupped at 25 yds – i had an awkward shot and missed and scott dropped his but the bird was crippled and hauled butt – before i could get the boat it was gone and we were beside ourselves (we also counted this bird towards our limit). Our problem was that we were standing in the water, at an odd elevation, and were standing up to shoot, flaring the birds into the strong wind…well, we fixed our problem by moving our position a few feet and thus shooting from a sitting position.
The next group was four wigeon – we took out two drakes. Then a single drake. Then a group of 30+ wigeon dropped out of the atmosphere and we each took out a drake – and i got the big bull baldplate that i have been dreaming about for a couple of years. He’s beautiful and going straight for the wall!
The best part about today was how well the wigeon worked the call – we were turning them on a dime pullign them straight into the dekes. We had fun with several groups, getting them to give us 3+ passes before committing. We had so many birds working us early that we easily flared 5 to 6 big groups of birds (and one big group of pintails) while were shooting or retreiving downed birds. During this time we also bagged 3 drake black scoters.
After I got my big bull I was so happy that we decided to end it on a good note….and while I was getting the boat, two gadwall dropped in and scott got the drake. Overall, this was a great hunt with fantastic variety – nothing like seaducks and puddlers in one spot….and watching groups of wigeon decoy in from 500 yds away. Breathtaking – ill remember this one for a long time.
1/24 – Instead of taking the day off, I decided that I had to get my black duck. This year I got one (too immature for a mount), blanked on 2 and snoozed on three more – the black ducks have strong medicine, as the indians say. Well, it took me 15 minutes and i got a prime drake – he’s going straight to the wall. I dedicate this bird to my friend Jim (m’aintducks) as we both have had similar black duck issues.
1/26 – Day 1 with Mike, Bret, Bart, Bill and Will.They hunted with us last year and had a great hunt with bluewing teal, gadwall, scoters and bluebills – one of our better days of the seaoson. This year it was cold – cold enough for skim ice on the creeks, slush in the boat and cold toes in our boots. It was also a bit breezy but we didn’t have a cloud in the sky. We managed a good hunt, gett several drake redbreasted mergansers early…which, in retreiving them, ended up costing us several groups of bluebills. Pretty soon, we nailed a gorgeous drake bluebill and had two pairs of greenwing teal come into the decoys – and we went 3 for 4. We also watched black ducks fly over-head (high) all day – we probably ended up seeing over 100 of them fly right over our heads – both scott and i had several work the blinds but couldnt get any of the wary birds to come within 75 yds.
1/27 – Another cold & windy bluebird day – but we had crazy action today. The birds flew all day long – albeit offshore and were EXTREMELY decoy wary. But we saw a bunch of crazy stuff – a white wing scoter drake, a single greenhead that flew right by the point we were hunting – lots of weird stuff. We had a lot of action but really struggled to get the birds to come within 60 yds. That being said, we bagged two scoters (1 drake surf and 1 drake black) and 3 bluebills (all singles and pairs – the groups wouldnt even look our way) – we also had 5 or so paires of gadwall hit the water or flair at 50 yds and had one big group of wigeon (20+ birds) come in to approx. 40 yds – we got them to work the call and come back but wouldnt commit a second time. Truth be told, we missed shots at probably 10+ scoters, a few bluebills, a half-dozen buffies, etc. Poor conditions – but decent action nontheless.
Scott fared better than I did but they cashed in on their opportunities a bitt better than we did. They ended up with two gadwall, 2 black ducks (which they worked extremely hard for!) and a bluewing teal (an extremely mature drake). They also blanked on a pair of gaddiees, a pair of bbills, a couple of teal and some buffies. 5 prime puddle ducks AND two black ducks – that’s AWESOME!
It was great hutnin with y’all – look forward to having you back in 2008. Perhaps will do a little layout boat huntin this time around!
Day 1 photos…
Day 2 photos…