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.