Friday, March 5, 2010

Looking Ahead

Now that the season has closed for another year I would like to take a moment and thank all of the people that came out to hunt with us this year. We had a really fun and action packed season. The sea duck shooting was as always outstanding.

Looking forward to next season lets hope that we're all healthy and able to hunt for another year. In an effort to bring as many new hunters to the east coast to experience the world class sea duck shooting that Maine has to offer. I would like to invite all who are considering a sea duck hunt to shop around and look at all the outfitters that we have. When you have completed your search give me a call and I will give you a better hunting experience and a better price for your hunt.

I'm confident the you'll agree we have the largest and safest boat/blind on the coast. Please remember that we will put together a hunt that is exactly what you are looking for. Ledge hunts, boat/blind hunts, or layout boat hunts we can and have done all of them. Let us know how you want to hunt and what your goals are and we will do our very best to make it happen for you.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Shotguns,Chokes and Loads

The season is over for 2009 and we had a great year. Lots of sea ducks, the new layout boat and loads of fun. My absence from the blog has been long and now finally with the boats and gear put away for the season I now have the opportunity to share some thoughts.

Over the years I have been asked many times by friends and customers alike what I prefer for shotguns, chokes and loads for waterfowl. I must first state, that I am first and foremost a sea duck hunter so all of you puddle duck hunters out there might not find this to be accurate for the type of hunting you do. I will say that I do a fair amount of puddle duck hunting and I don't stray very far from the suggestions that I make here.

Lets talk about shotguns. I have used about everything in the way of shotguns over the last 35+ years from Browning Auto 5's, to Remington model 11 and 1100's to Benelli SBE's and everything else in between. I have never and will never buy a Mossburg as I personally have no confidence in them. That doesn't mean they are not good guns but for my needs the don't fit the bill. I have at this point settled on the Beretta Xtrema II. I've been using this shotgun for the last four seasons and have yet to have a malfunction. Over the last four years I have only cleaned my gun at best three time per season. That doesn't mean I do not wipe it down after each hunt because I do but, I don't completely disassemble it. I must also state that the Benelli SBE is just as good if not better but I for one don't like the recoil with the 3.5" shells. That being said, shooting a Beretta every day for almost five months has given me a new appreciation for a quality gas gun. The felt recoil is in my opinion is about 50% less than the Benelli. It's also quite nice as a man of five foot seven to be able to adjust the drop and cast as well as the length of pull without buying additional recoil pads to accomplish this. It's important for any waterfowler to take some time and shoot as many different shotguns as possible before buying a new gun. There is nothing worse than shelling out your hard earned dollars and finding out six months down the road that you made the wrong choice in shotguns.

After deciding on the next gun to add to your safe the question of choke tubes remains. Should I go with the factory tubes supplied with my gun or should I look into an aftermarket tube. That question has plagued duck hunters for years now. If you are the type of hunter that shoots over decoys at close range then the answer is really simple shoot a factory tube as they will do a more than satisfactory job at 15 to 25 yards. On the other hand if you tend to see most of your shots running at ranges further than that maybe it's time to look into an extended range tube. I find that in sea duck hunting most of the shots in the early season tend to be around 15 to 30 yards however, when the season hits month three and the Eiders have become educated to the gun shots can easily extend well beyond 25 yards and easily reach 40 or 50 yards. When this happens a factory tube is not going to cut the mustard. The only answer is an after market tube that extends the effective range of your gun. I have over the years tried several different tubes but, when my reputation is on the line I now look at one tube. ( WAD WIZARD) this is the only wad stripping tube that doesn't reduce muzzle velocity. I have found in my own testing that this tube will extend the effective range of your 12ga by fifteen yards. I have in fact demonstrated to more than one customer of mine that the effectiveness of this tube is second to none. When all else fails the WAD WIZARD will not. Don't be fooled by others like the Patternmaster they are not even close in comparison. Try it you will love it. The Wad Wizard crew hunted with me two seasons ago and I must say that Lori is the Hottest girl in waterfowling today.

Moving forward to loads. This is a subject that could go on for days. #1's , #2"s, BB's, #4's, three inch or 3.5 inch. This question could go on for days but, to answer all the questions here it is. When I shoot puddle ducks I shoot #2 three and one half inch #2 shot. When I shoot sea ducks in early season I shoot 3.5 inch #2 steel. After about December 1st when the season is about two months old I then move to 3.5 inch #1 steel. I use only steel shot and have found that by focusing on good shots I can kill as many if not more ducks than other hunters shooting the much more expensive heavy shot.

Please keep in mind that my opinions are based on almost 40 years of sea duck hunting and are only my views. If you disagree please let me know but, once you try the shotguns, chokes and loads I use I am sure you will see the same results.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Layout boats


November started out with our friends from Michigan. Then our friends from New York, then New York again, then Arizona and Colorado. Our friends from PA came to town just before thanksgiving and shot a great double banded Eider. What a great season so far. We have taken 10 banded Eiders. Our good friends from PA shot a double banded Eider. Come to find out the double banded Eider was 17 years old and a shouldn't have happen. This bird ended up at our taxidermist.

We then had our guests from weatern PA join us for a Layout boat hunt. We were able to take limits of birds each day we hunted with no problem. Using the UFO Layout boat from Waterfowl Works was in your face duck hunting at its best. This is by far the best layout boat we have ever used. There is nothing better than watching 75 Eiders fly over your nose so close that you could grab them as they went by. On day two we took a limit of birds so quickly that the other guides near by ended up staying out until mid afternoon to do the same. When a fun and action packed hunt is in order you don't need to look further than Downeast Sea Ducks.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dogs and ducks

Over the past 35 years I have been lucky enough to hunt over some very wonderful duck dogs. I have in fact had a couple that were quite good and more than a couple that were really bad. The bad ones however seemed to be wonderful and loving pets just the same. They didn't care whether they hunted or not. Their only goal was to make you happy. That alone makes them all wonderful duck dogs in their own right.

This time a new dog was in order and I wanted to get a dog with the proper blood lines and one that could be easily handled from the sea duck boat. I gave some thought to a Chessie but after looking at several dogs my wife informed me that she didn't want that kind of temperament around our daughter. I have read many informative articles with mixed reviews about Chessies. Some say they are one person dogs and aren't great with children and others say they are great with kids. As a married man we all know who won. After much thought I decided to look for a Labrador. They are wonderful family dogs and great hunting partners. While talking to a dog trainer friend of mine one day, he informed me that he was having a litter of just the dog I wanted. The blood lines were from champion hunting stock and the size would be true to the Lab breed that I was looking for. I decided to go with his litter and took first pick on his males. He had two dogs that looked like just was I wanted. Using my gut instinct I chose the first born which ended up being the largest dog at 75 pounds, perfect for what I needed. I am very happy that my wife put her foot down and insisted on a lab.

Thunder came home at 11 pounds and was more than a hand full. House training was a nightmare and the crying for a week seemed like it would never end. He finally settled in and became buddies with my daughter. At twelve weeks we started his training. Sit, here, and place were all words that he heard time and again. When he hit five months bench work and forced fetch started. Thunder progressed through this in about sixty days and looked like he was going to be the finest duck dog I ever owned. I wanted so badly to hunt him that first year that my trainer told me he would take the dog from me if I did. Training a male seems to always be more than a handful.

Thunder's second summer came and it was time for gun training, live bird work and boat training. Gun training seemed to go smoothly as we always used retrieving dummies to help him along. After a steady diet of dummies live bird work was more difficult than I ever expected. He didn't like picking up birds and I was beginning to think he never would. Finally, after about two weeks of daily work he seemed to be getting the idea. With steady work Thunder developed a love for handling real birds. We then moved to boat training. Getting a dog to launch from the from off a boat four feet above the water seemed as though it would be impossible. A trip to the bay and a couple of dummies later and he was going full bore. He passed his second summer with flying colors.

Sea duck season is now here and Thunder is only lacking experience. I found that he doesn't really like to jump off the boat. I thought that would be the easiest part but it has proved the most difficult. Boat jumps require a bit of coaxing but once in the water he knows what to do.
I am convinced that with a year under him he is going to be the best sea duck dog I have ever had. I hope that I can shoot well enough to keep him busy.

Daddy's Girl

I would like to take a moment and back up to October 1, 2008. This was the first year my daughter was able to hunt. I hope that as a guide I never loose sight of the importance of family and friends.

The Maine sea duck season opened on October 1st with my annual father daughter hunt. As many may already know by visiting my web page this has been going on for many years now. A quick look at my galley pictures shows my daughter going along at a very young age. This was the first year she was old enough to hunt. This year was even more special because I included my best friend and his daughter who have never hunted sea ducks. We set out at the usual time about 3:30am. A short ride in the duck truck to one of my favorite launch sites was the plan of the day. My always-excited 10 year old was talking the whole way, which, to my surprise was not the norm. She almost always sleeps while we are on the road. I look back now and wonder, was she really that excited about her first hunt with a firearm. Maybe she was just trying to impress her new friend? My best friend who is not a morning person by nature was unusually coherent and alert which I attribute his uneasiness about riding ten mile on the open ocean in the black of night. Upon arrival, the seas were calm and the skies were clear, it looked to be an uneventful boat ride. At that point the color vanished and a very cautious tone made its way into my friend's voice. Nervousness had set in. It was now very real for him as he looked toward the ocean with a healthy dose of respect. I am sure at that point he was asking himself what in the world am I doing here. As parents, we never stop making sacrifices for our children and this was a big one for him. After a few minutes of preparation, we set out on a twenty minute boat ride. I took the time to see my friend's daughter had a grin that could be seen for miles even in the dark. She seemed to be enjoying every minute. My buddy on the other hand was more than uneasy, not stopping for even a second to take a breath between sentences. At about the five mile mark the fog moved in and visibility was now zero. My focus changed from a casual boat ride to watching radar and chartplotters intently. By that point my daughter was sleeping, my friend and his daughter were talking non-stop. Are you all set? Do you know where we are? Do we need to go back? The questions didn't stop and it was apparent they were both a little uneasy. At that time I was of little comfort because I was quite busy getting us to our hunting spot. As we arrived at our hunting location, the weather seemed to change in an instant. The fog lifted and the sea calmed. It was going to be a fun morning with the kids. We set the decoys and hooked the boat into position. Now, we had twenty minutes until shooting light, coffee, hot chocolate and some muffins were in order. With my buddy and his girl in the front and my daughter and I holding up the rear we got ready for some early season sea duck shooting. The first group of Eiders came across the front of the boat looking like fighter jets. Three shots later all four departed unhurt. The smile on lyssa's face told the whole story. This way cool I heard her say. The shooting at the front of the boat kept a steady pace for about thirty minutes. Sadly, she killed no birds. AT LAST!!!! A single drake Eider was working his way up the back of the boat to our decoys. It looked like my daughter was going to get her first shot at a duck. The big drake cupped up and came in. I was getting ready to back her up when she stood and fired two shots from her over/under 20ga. To my surprise, she dropped him stone dead. Over the years I have shot more sea ducks than I could possibly count but, my accomplishments don't even compare to watching my child take her first. I now know how my dad felt 35 years ago when I took my first duck. There is nothing better! The biggest satisfaction for any parent is watching your son or daughter not only take the first wild game but to handle their firearm responsibly and safely. We ended the day with only one bird. My good friend's girl who has already seen success in the field was not at all disappointed and only shared in my daughter's excitement after her first bird.

We packed up and headed back about 9:00 am. Clear skies and calm seas followed us all the way back. After taking photos and loading the boat we headed home. While riding back in the duck truck my buddy commented that I must have a screw loose to want to pursue this kind of work. Simply stated, I find no greater satisfaction than being on the ocean. Yes, it's cold and possibly dangerous but when a person has the opportunity to make a living doing what they love is there anything better. It's always fun to share the first hunt with people who have never tried sea duck hunting. I hope, as I get older, I always remember October 1, 2008 when daddy's girl took her first Eider. The satisfaction that comes from sharing my passion with family and friends is immeasurable. I look forward to many more seasons with my favorite hunting partner DADDY"S GIRL.

The 2009 season is in full steam.

Early goose season has passed for another year. Now, our attention changes to the regular duck season and we now focus on another year of sea duck hunting. The first three weeks started out well with plenty of resident Eider moving around the usual old hunting locations. There was also a strong presence of Scoter. All three species are out and about. The Longtails are just starting to show up in huntable numbers as well. We had hunters from Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Missouri and South Carolina here this month enjoying some really great shooting and seasonable temperatures. Even in the early season we were still able to take limits of Eider all though most were not in full plumage we still managed to bag a few. The first banded bird of the year was taken at about mid month.

Looking forward to the rest of the season it appears to be a strong year. We are hoping for good weather and safe seas so all our guests can enjoy the same successes we have had in October.