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|Outer Banks Waterfowl
4740 Elm Ct.
Kitty Hawk, NC 27949
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Nothing like the heat of August to get you yearning for the cooler gunning seasons. I've got an open water blind that I hoped the ice of last season would knock down for me. It was about the only open water blind that the ice didn't destroy! So that needs to get pumped up and replaced.
And all of the super low tides got me thinking about the need to make a bunch of full body standing pintail decoys to set out on the sand flats when the water goes all the way dry. Came up with a way to combine 2 piece silhouette (side and top, slide together pieces) with scavenged high grade balsa wood added to create fully rounded pintail decoys. And I can make them fast.
Let me get through with our last big outdoor art show of the summer this week and next week I'll provide pictures and directions on how I've built and painted them. Hopefully, I can get 3 or 4 dozen done with the balsa I have on hand.
We still have plenty of dates available, but I always encourage somebody with a larger group to call sooner than later. Same goes if you have limited days that you can get away.
Still haven't figured out a way to encapsulate this season. Except that it wasn't a season for sissies. November numbed us with it's inconsistency. One hundred, twenty three birds split among 33 trips made for a slow three week season. The good news? The quality of fowl taken was strong and it wasn't like we'd wasted the whole fall flight or anything. Being that November had been one of the warmest-EVER-the migration hadn't even hardly begun. The two week break between seasons came at a good time.
When the season came back in on the week before Christmas, daily tallies ticked upwards impressively and the quality of the fowl captured remained high. Lots of big pretty puddlers and redheads dominated our bags as the season progressed through the holidays. And then came the blizzard, the freeze and the freakish snow.
The blizzard, the freeze and the freakish snow lasted from New Years day till the 18th. Three inches of solid sheet ice spanned all 5 lanes of our main road for a week. Temps in the low teens at night and high teens during the day made the smaller roads even worse. The water in all of our boat ramps froze solid. Currituck Sound shut down entirely for a span. Almost every guide on the U.S. eastern seaboard had to either cancel or reschedule the entire week worth of guide hunts. The longevity of the combined blizzard, freeze and freakish snow hurt the guide industry in a profound way. Imagine the hit local businesses would take if the entire Outer Banks were closed during the summer's two busiest weeks (and there was nobody to sue for compensation but the 'Good Lord him/herself!). There will be alot less guides available next season as a result.
All that being said, we did much better getting out than others did and it really paid off. Danged if we didn't see and entire season's migration in the span of only a few days. The shooting was fabulous!
From the 1rst to the 18th we had 63 groups get out. All total they harvested 669 fowl, with only 2 groups getting skunked. 24 groups had to quit early due to being limitted out. (Groups range from 2-5 men including the guide). Rarely is the gunning better, but once again, it wasn't for sissies.
For the season the guide service captured 1222 fowl total, (including coots, swans, geese and mergansers) there were 27 species represented. Puddlers made up better than a third of all birds bagged and if you add redheads and bluebills to the puddlers, you're up to two thirds. Lots of big birds in most every bag. And lots (!) of pintails and redheads. Without 'one and done' on pintail and 'two and done' on bluebills and redheads our totals could have been much (much!) higher. I told one of the kids who were included on a Jan. hunt to make sure he understood what he was seeing, as "In the whole rest of your life, combined, you'll probably never see as many redheads as you've already seen today", and that was at noon!
Anyway. Another season in the books. My restored 19'8" Jones Brothers Bateau functioned wonderfully when paired with my old (and trusty) 115 HP two stroke Yamaha. Jamie did and awesome job putting my ride together. If you're coming to the beach, give us a call. We can hook you up with a fishing guide or just offer a local's opinion of where to go or what to do. Look for us at local art shows. Our best, Vic, Ellen and crew.
P.S. Just want to float this to see if it might gain traction: In all of duck hunting the drake pintail is THE most recognisable of all the ducks. Why can't we allocate with pintail the same way as we do with mallards? Four total with only one hen.
Tired. Been gunning HARD for a week and a half. Whenever the blizzard/freeze started. We've shot a pile of birds. Mostly redheads and puddlers. Lots of gadwall and enough drake pintail despite the 'one and done' rule. Beautiful drake today with a 9 1/2 inch set of 'pins' (measured fron the start of the fuzz.) Jamie Ward and I split a four man group-in two blinds-yesterday and called the day when the first group (and guide) limited at 1 pm.
Between the two groups, with guides shooting also, we downed 32 (5 were lost or unretrievable) ducks: 16 gadwall, 4 pintail, a black duck, 6 shoveller, 2 widgeon, a greater blue bill, a drake redhead, a bufflehead and 2 mergansers. BAM! The day before that, two 3 man groups got 9 redheads, 3 pintail and 4 shoveller. The day before that, 18 birds. The day previous to that day two 3 man groups, with guide for each, 16 redheads, 7 gadwall, 3 pintail and a widgeon. All the guides doing similar, but with another 14 species thrown in depending on location. BAM!
More cold and snow starting tomorrow. Trailer lights reduced of tail light so seeing how long I can get away using flashers. (tail light works when flashing). Stern light out on boat and bow light comes on when it want to, sometimes not for awhile. Parties have sunk 23 decoys to date. One guide with broken arm. One hospitalised wife. Shotgun not cleaned for 8 days. Dog happily worn out, but limping from oyster cuts. Outboard decidedly cold natured and also not happy running tilted up. Predictably, we're dealing with record low temperatures and tides with a side of howling north winds.
I'd share more, have got to go to sleep.
Ellen, Vic, crew and dogs.
PS A final note: when you book a hunt, you did not purchase the guide's limit as well as your own. If the guide is not shooting, his limit is not available. It is against the law to shoot the guide's limit. If you do anyway, YOU are subject to the appropriate fines and punishments. Fair warning.
For waterfowlers and watermen that one word says it all, but ten thousand words cannot encapsulate the event.
In order to cope with the phenomen your only hope is to resolve yourself that nature will have its way. Proactive can't be counted onl A more fluid reactivity is called for as climate simply is, and its power punifies us mere humans.
Having said that, however, ice can electrify the life of the most hard core of the hard core waterfowlers. After all the rescheduling and cancellations those of us who found a way, busted out the boat ramps, cut the air holes, trail blazed paths, hauled the sleds, paid for the repair, repaired the damage, tore the waders, watched in horror the full-on shots our decoys took, came out of the experience with big old grins on our faces when all was said and done.
From Jan. 1, when all this glacial foolishness began, to yesterday's results (Jan. 9 and we are still days away from rid of the ice and its damage. When ice forms and melts in when the duck blinds get knocked down) we carried 17 trips. Those hunters accounted for 241 fowl. BAM! Only one trip ended in a skunk. How about those trips?
1.) 3 black ducks, 4 gadwall, 5 redheads, 3 bluebills and a mallard.
2.) 2 canvas backs, 2 redheads, 4 bluebills, a black duck, 10 ruddies and a shoveller.
3.) 9 gadwall, 4 black ducks and numerous misses.
4.) 2 golden eyes, an old squaw, 3 blue bills, 11 ruddies and 7 buffleheads.
5.) 8 redheads, 4 bluebills, 3 widgeon, 2 gadwalls and a pintail.
6.) 12 gadwalls, 4 pintail and 5 redheads.
7.) 6 blackducks, 2 mallards, 2 gadwall, 3 ruddies, a shoveller and 2 hooded mergansers.
The rest of the ice hunts were similar.
Oh, yeah. Just got a call from our first guy to make it to my marsh at Oregon Inlet. THEY'RE BACK!! Mind you, he's my same side-kick as 2 years ago when we sat on 20,000 redheads. He, as of 9 am, had seen maybe 40,000 fowl. Mostly redheads.....Oh my.
More later, Vic and beat up crew.
Great news is that last week finally resembled a productive duck season. We nearly matched our total fowl harvest for all of November in the last week alone.
During the week, 28 hunting groups bagged 176 birds, only 4 of the 176 were mergansers. We are still seeing a nice mix of 'good' ducks (puddlers and big divers) and we also added swans when we had permits to fill. As nice as these nubers and tendencies are, the next week is demanding our full attention.
It's looking like the coming week is not about the 'glass' being half empty or half full, but rather that it's going to be filled with ice. I feel fairly confident that we'll be able to get all of our trips out through Thursday, but Friday, Saturday and the following Monday look to be highly problematic with ice and/or dangerously strong winds. (The Monday looks much warmer, but we may need to wait for this week's ice to melt.) Whoever has reservations for Friday, Saturday and Monday should give us a call and we can hash out our options, one of which could be rescheduling for open slots we have during the season's last 2 weeks. Seems like nothing is as easy as it used to be but the good news is that we have ducks here. The weather-gods, however are about to throw us a major league hard ball (or rather a humdinger of a slush/ice ball.) More soon. We wish our best to all for a productive new year.
Vic, Ellen and the Crew
It's starting to feel more like duck season. My buddy, who just drove down from RI, reports that their temperature has remained under freezing for over a week. Big ducks are showing up and we're looking at moderately snotty weather for the next week.
Last week didn't awe anyone, but neither did it suck. The weather didn't really help so we had some slow hunts, but the ducks we brought home were of consistantly better quality. For the week, our 22 groups harvested just over 100 fowl. Of these, 46 would be what I consider 'big' ducks. (Puddlers/ divers). Quite a few trophies are headed for taxidermists workshops as I write this.
One of the main trophies has been drake pintail. This is good, but being limited to one/day/person is skewing our totals negatively. 'One done' hurts. Just sayin'. If there is a silver lining, it's that we aren't running the resource off by over-shooting them. Also, once you limit on them, you get some awe-inspiring images the rest of your day as more pintails work you to landing. The red heads are similar as we're limited to two per day. A couple of good trends this year are a good variety of puddlers, solid red head numbers, (also our first canvas backs), and the pintails.
As I mentioned earlier, this week looks to be snottier (wetter, with north winds) so, by the new year, I'm fairly confident we should be coming off a real solid week of gunning. I'll let you know more details next week.
A few drool inducing hunts from this week. 1.) 3 pintail, 3 redheads, and 2 ring necks, every one of them drakes!! 2.) A group of 6 men in 2 blinds, felled 7 redheads, a gadwall, a widgeon, a pintail, 5 buffleheads, and 3 assorted mergansers. 3.) A single guy limited on a drake pintail, a black duck, 2 shovellers and 2 buffleheads, also one and done on pintail. GRR!
More next week, Vic
Sorry about the lack of updates, but I kind of got caught up in the Fall. One day you're gathering together your deer hunting pile prior to that season's first hunt, and then the next thing you know you're planning a last trip to the farms before duck season gets into full swing and you're too busy with that.
Fall and winter hunting/gathering seasons play out as a careening from one outdoor obsession to the next. Grabbing a day to do 'this' here and the next day to do 'that' there. You do your best to match the day's weather to the biggest paucity in your larder, and cross reference those factors against the prevalence of our various harvestable food sources. Two days for deer here, a handful of sunrises pursuing speckled trout in the ocean's sloughs, knee deep in the waves' swash. Then there's red drum available in the dark storminess of night and an early morning or two stalking bear. Then deer again.
And then a buddy offers up a day on his boat in the gulf stream chasing tuna and next week you're in another buddy's boat fishing offshore wrecks for king macks or you take a shot at chumming up a giant blue fin. And I haven't even gone into all the prep that goes into the main duck season.......yadayada
In summary, I hope ya'll have had success so far, although the weather this fall has favored fishing over duck hunting. It's been really warm. There is a silver lining to the November fowling season. There's almost and entire migration waiting on the first cold snap to commence. Very little has migrated yet. That being said however, we managed to scratch out a decent tally over the 3 week season. 18 species harvested. Almost half of all taken were puddlers and the top three of all puddlers were teal, pintail and mallards. Swan are particularly plentiful. The population of fowl overall, is showing a little of all species across the board. Most seasons there are two or three predominant species available and then all the other species fill in. So far I can't discern the predominant three, but there's been steady pintail sightings (with captures) and a giant wave of red heads at the season's end. It remains to be seen where all those red heads end up wintering. Most of them picked here the last two years, so I'm hoping that run continues.
In other news, Jamie and I got my new boat on the water five days before the Nov. season started. It's working out perfectly. It's the same make and model as my last duck boat, just a good size bigger and better than twice the power. With the power steering, jack plate, power trim and a 115 hp 'Yamaha Hammer,' she's a shallow water screamer. Wanna race? We can jump up on plane with 7 men, a big dog, all our stuff and all my decoys out of a foot and a half of water. No sweat! Much safer and quite a bit mor adequate.
Anyway. Most of our weekends are full but early and midweek dates remain available. Call. No really, talk to your buddies and call. There will be glimpses of, and encounters with spectacular this season. Don't miss out.
Vic, Ellen, Irie and crew
P.S. I'm still looking to trade hunts for a Winchester Model 12, 16 guage.
I wasn't kidding when I said I started getting ready for the 2017-18 season back in June. Sold both of my boats, (kept the 2 stroke 115 Yamaha outboard), and bought a 1996 NC Marine Patrol 19 foot Jones Brothers Bateau. The Jones Brothers is probably the toughest and driest running of all the flat bottom boats available. It came up on Craig's List the same week that both of my boats sold. Kismet, eh?
Came with a trailer about as old as the boat, but the trailer's lights actually worked. The hubs scared me, oozing grease and all, the way they were, and the winch stand was gone. The bow of the boat rested on...air. Oh well. Spider webbed boat and trailer together with about 200 feet of one inch braided nylon and drug her 4 hours home. Then we gutted the boat.
Everything gone (console, steering wheel, two seats, switches, wiring, gas tank) till we ended up with a big beautifully empty space. Nothing but potential left to get in the way.
And then the money spending starts. 'Marine tech' all 'round. Starting all over with all new: Jack plate, hydraulic steering, side mount throttle, new wiring, gas lines, new carbeurators, winch stand and winch for the trailer, new paint on everything, and, and, and.
Spent 30 or 40 hours alone holding onto a 'jitter bug' sander. Hoping it'll all be put together in time to get blinds built (it will!) Even with Hurricane Maria that is, of this moment only 100 miles off our coast.
Bookings are filling in nicely. Still have openings throughout the season but it's time to really start thinking and scheming, especially if you're bringing a groupl Don't forget, I still really wnat to trade hunts for a nice 16 gauge, Winchester model 12 pump shotgun with a modified barrel. It'll probably never do anything but shoot doves or quail, but I really want one for that. (Shot a limit of 12 doves with 14 bullets once with my old model 12 and; well...12 out of 14 on doves-ARE YOU KIDDING?!!) I want one. Irie wants me to get one too because 35 bullets only got her 10 doves this season... Got to go pressure wash the boat. More soon, Vic, Ellen, Irie and the Crew.
Twelfth of June. Imagine that. The twelfth of June is my official start to this year's waterfowl seasons. Answered calls from 3 different prospective clients, talked ducking for an hour and in between, worked on my Jone's Brothers Bateau preparatory to selling it. I also got a couple of deposit checks in the mail. Yup. I may not pull the trigger at decoying fowl for almost another half year from today, but if I want the 'shooting dates' to go smoothly, I have to start getting ready NOW.
And in a break from decades past, this year's seasons are already established:
1) Oct. 4-7
2) Nov. 11-Dec. 2
3) Dec. 16- Jan. 27
Bag limits are roughly the same as years past, with a base of 6 ducks and 5 mergansers/licensed gunner.Within your 6 bird limit, you are limited to only 4 mallards (2 hens), 2 Black ducks (open on Nov. 18), 2 Redheads, 2 Canvasbacks, 2 Bluebill and 1 Pintail. In essence, they took one Pintail, but gave us an extra Blackduck and let us keep the extra Canvasback from last year.
If you are lucky enough to get a swan permit (apply before Sept. 1), you can harvest one swan between Nov. 11-Jan. 31.
Snow geese may be hunted Oct.10-Feb.10.
Canada geese can be hunted Jan.12-Jan. 27. (one per day-with permit only)
Brant season runs Dec. 16-Jan. 27.
In our never-ending quest to obey all rules, laws and regulations concerning waterfowl hunting in general, and pay-for boating concerns in particular, qualified guides are having to lay out increasing fist-fulls of cash to remain/become compliant.
Also, due to the extreme weather that dead winter boating entails, our captains are also doling out double-fistfulls of additional cash to keep our blinds, water-craft and outboard motors in tip top condition.
And we haven't even gotten to the decoys, lines, decoy weights, jack plates, remote power trim assemblies, batteries (A,AA.AAA, car boat, etc.), guns, shells, fiber optic sights, slings, drag boats, decoy skiffs, gun cases, dogs (training/health through flea spray and everything else in between), bird straps, duck pluckers, replacement duck plucker fingers, cutlery, machetes, a new kukrie knife, trash bags, freezer bags, flash lights, Q-beams, a hat light for hands free operation, duck calls, a canada goose 'flute' call, a new El Mauriello pintail/teal/mallard whistle and 2 back-ups (because they're just indispensable), a neck gaiter, 3 new hats, face paint, gloves (all sorts), polarized sun glasses, binoculars, a range finder, wader pants, sweaters, rain gear, more boots and an assortment of oopses. (Oops; vet bill. Oops; outboard motor repair. Oops; wader tear. Oops;weather refund. Oops; trailer wheel bearings on fire. Oops! Oops! OOps! Oops! etc.
For these (and sundry other considerations) we are reluctantly raising our rates to $220/person for our guide fees. We would apologize, but absolutely zero of the entire previous paragraph costs less than the last time we reluctantly raised our rates. Also, about all the other guides in this area are over-all costlier than we are and in addition, they are cramming 4-6 gunners into each blind and/or forcing everybody to quit early or pay extra to gun the rest of the day.
We remain old-school. Your day's hunt lasts till sunset (4:20 in Currituck), you quit or you limit out. Our room rates remain in the 20-22 dollar range per person, and we offer wild duck dinners and duck cleaning services for nominal fees.
Forty (40!) years in business shows in many, many ways. Talk to your guys, check work, talk to your guys again and give us a call and lets set some dates.
Just a few shots to show that we're well rounded hunter/gatherers.
Vic, Ellen, Irie and the crew.
Spotty. There, I said it. I should have had this update done a week ago, but a whole duck season drains a person. Especially the schedule that we keep. Quite literally, all of us guides don't do much else but hunt, fish and harvest from about half past October till all of our decoys are repaired and put away somewhere around mid February. During that time, if we're not actually hunting, fishing or harvesting, we're building structures to hunt or harvest from or cutting and dragging enough brush to hide everything that we've built. To us, this is the best part of the whole year. Oh yeah. Getting paid to do it helps alot. Which brings me back to that word I started out with: 'spotty.'
Some have said that that is how they'd describe this gunning season and I was going to draw the same conclusion until I started counting stuff up. Just a hair under 1250 fowl for the guide service. My marsh and blinds yielded 512 of that total. Whereas redheads were our main focus again this year, we still managed to harvest 23 species. (50 pintail, most all of which were drakes.) Oh yeah. We did ok in the 'bling' department as well. I believe, all told we scored around 10 federal bands this season. Right off the top of my head I recall bands from a couple redheads, a teal, a black duck, 2 mallards, a greater blue bill, a pintail and a white winged scoter. And then there were some just flat out good shoots. The really good news was that we had 'highlight hunts' spread throughout the year and throughout the guide service as well.
Before I get accused of pounding sun shine....Other than one awesome NNE blow and two days later, a short freeze, the weather gods acted fairly cruelly with us all season. A 'weather whimperer,' as it could be phrased. So. Almost all of our hunts were fair-weather events. None the less, memories were sowed. We managed to keep a small bevy of taxidermists working for another year. Check out these highlights.
Okay, so November was slow in general. File this total for two three man hunts under the 'blind pig' heading: 11 teal, 5 pintail, 7 gadwall, 6 ring necks, 2 canvasbacks, 2 mallards, a widgeon, a ruddy and 3 hooded mergansers. (These guys brought their horse shoe!)
The Dec./Jan season started really well. Done by 9 am on opening day: 7 teal, 4 redheads, 3 greater blue bills, a pintail and a bufflehead. The days later really rocked. How about this mostly diver shoot: 5 redheads, 2 greater blue bills, a goldeneye and 9 buffleheads. Over that 2 day span, a 12 man group harvested 141 fowl! YOWZ!
Or how about this Christmas week festival: 3 mallards, 2 canvasbacks, 2 redheads, 6 blue bills and 2 buffleheads. We won't even mention the beautiful drake pintail at 30 yards that managed to escape unharmed. Then, during New Year's week, 2 guys, who gunned for 3 days managed to whack 71 ducks of 11 different species and a blue goose. Now we're getting warmed up!
Three days after they left we got our epic blow. Half our guys had to cancel. I got out and we were rewarded with an awesome pintail shoot. We limitted on them and then watched flocks of 20 to 150 wing by as we added other puddlers till the wind finally conquered our blood lust and we had to quit.
Two days after that we got our only ice-up. Those couple days raged!! Would a 5 gadwall, 4 mallard, 2 pintail, 3 teal, 1 black duck, a redhead, greater blue bill and a shoveller total maintain your interest? On the same day my inlet blinds harvested 17 redheads. Bam!! A week after that 4 hunters and their 2 guides brought home 12 redheads and 5 greater blue bills. The very next day it was my turn to experience near perfection and awesomeness as my guys and I banged out 6 redheads (5 drakes), a drake pintail and drake teal. What elevated that hunt from awesome to epic was the 25 additional flocks of redheads that floated across out decoys after we limitted and couldn't shoot any more. Damn, that was pretty!
Anyway. Another full and compelling waterfowl season is in the books. Everybody got back to the dock, safe and sound, and for that we are always thankful. We have maintained and made wonderful friendships all while providing unparalleled glimpses at nature, the memories there-of that some will cherish and carry to their graves. For all of this, we are thankful. Keep in touch.
Vic, Ellen, our crew and our dogs.
Wow. We've gotten to see elements of epic this past few days. Saturday was ridiculous. Winds an honest-to-God steady 35-40 mph. They recorded a 56 mph gust. I felt it. To walk into the gale you leaned at a nearly 45 degree angle. It wore you out like walking up the side of a mountain does. You could barely hear each other screaming in your ear. Plenty of mis-communication, but this was too extreme for 'extreme' to do it justice.
The wind was so hard that all of the sound had blown itself dry. All the water was being pinned on the far side of the Pamlico, five or six counties away. All of my decoys were on dry sand sitting doleful and askance on their sides. And yet, the ducks were swinging over to get a look anyway. 150 pintails in this bunch, 25 in that one. Then gadwalls and a bunch of teal. They didn't really decoy as much as drift over to a point ahead of us and then a ferocious gust would drift them backwards to a point right in front of us. That was our money shot as the steel punched a path straight into the wind. If you tried finishing a cripple on a perpendicular angle at 35 yards you'd miss to the down-wind by a good 4 feet. My guys' limits of pintail attests to their taking good direction from their guide.
Then the world iced up on Sunday and the red heads broke bad yesterday. Got swarmed by flocks bigger that 100. Two days; limits of pintails one day and all red heads the next. Other birds mixed in to fill out game straps. Two or three of the year's top ten already in my memory bank. Can't hardly express how hard we had to work and what we had to endure, but the visuals and memories will last me to my grave.
And I get to do it all over again tomorrow. Life can't get much better. More soon.
Of the biggest thrills this season so far, is my dog transforming herself into one bad-ass retriever. Every one of the 114 ducks that we've taken on my hunts was captured and brought to shore by Irie, my beast of a retrieving unit.
William, who's gunned with us for 37 years, says she's already better than all my other dogs combined. I tend to agree.
Shooting has picked up with the beginning of the second season. Over the first season (3 weeks) we took 201 fowl. By the end of the season's first week of the second season we've brought the total up to exactly 500 captures. Nice improvement. We also registered over 100 fowl on a single day last week. Not a bad average for only 8 guides working that day.
The only slight negative is that the proportion of divers to puddlers is a little higher than some would prefer, but try belaboring that to the gentleman who finally harvested his first ever drake canvasback after 60 years of waterfowling. That bird is (!) going on the wall! A few of us have been slam eat up by red heads several times already. The numbers of fowl being reported holed up in the Pea Island refuge are approaching cartoonish numbers. Last I heard there were nearly 14 quatrillion red heads in residence within the confines of the refuge as well as another nearly 1.725 bazillion pintails. I haven't personally crushed the pintail consistently yet, but the day isn't far off. We've hit on smatterings so far but I sense some epic-ness in the near future. Hope you're here for it.
I spoke of my young Chesapeake bay retriever dog earlier. For the hard core gunners, a Chessie is difficult to beat. They're whacky but no other creature alive will outlast them. Josh Masten, from Indiana, is the breeder of my dog (guaranteed everything, but $1200 a pup.) Mr Westcott who hunts Oregon Inlet is expecting 2 litters of Chessies in January. (No guarantees that I know of but only $350 and $450 per pup.
Irie has a half brother (Dozer, age 7 months) and half sister (Layla age 4 months) earning their chops on our marsh this year. All are doing so well that the ducks are even 'scareder' than normal. It's so awesome watching young dogs come into their own. Mine has already saved me-literally-miles of tough walking. Miles!
November 2016 season is in the books, and was fun but didn't overwhelm. We'll just leave it at, there's still a lot of ducks left to be got. Now, having said that, there's still a couple hundred less around to shoot at next season. Of all the puddle ducks, we did best on pintail, but most of those were real young-looking. That tells me that we had a real good late (second) hatch. I'm hoping for a bunch settling in here during the closed season.
Other than the 'pinnies, Currituck is holding good numbers of teal. They fly real well on drizzly, dark days. We had a few of those already. We also got our first federal duck band and our first canvasbacks and redheads. We're due to get our first local freeze this weekend so I'm even more confident going into the main season the following weekend.
How's this for a shoot? 7 green wing teal, 6 ring necks, 2 canvasback, 2 gadwall, a pintail, a widgeon and a hooded merganser. Jealous yet? Then get this day: 4 mallards, 5 gadwalls 4 pintail, 4 teal and a ruddy duck.
I'm still building and brushing duck blinds, so I've got to go do more of that. Oh, yeah. That's me in the red head and fish picture. I caught the drum bare-handed. YARR! Still got it. The drum was a beauty with NINE! spots on either side. I also cut out the ivory drum stones from the fish's head and gave them to my client to get made into earrings for his wife. Full service baby!
Picture above and to your right is this young man's first double! Proud Dad!
There's something a little bit mean about starting a duck season when the whole first week is dominated by an uncaringly huge and bright full moon. And then the wind fell out. Which might not have been so bad if it hadn't gotten so warm. So that was pretty much week one. This however is tempered by the refuges being so stuffed with birds.
I had one day where we saw fourteen species of fowl. It was a good week to work the kinks out of our waterfowling endeavors for another season. I got my main blinds ready fairly easily. And my boat trailer and outboard motor have behaved copacetically. My problem is my decoys. So far, in only 6 days of hunting, we've managed to blow up 14 of my dekes. Sank them right to the bottom. I had one day where we sank eight decoys. In one day! And then today I only tossed out 2 decoys-just in case-while bushing my creek blind..tossed one decoy thirty yards out from shore, then tossed the other. And it hit the first decoy square on, knocking its head clean off! In essence, I wrecked half my rig in one go. So tonight I've got a date with my hot glue gun.
To sum up; we harvested 38 fowlduring week one. This week things are ticking up and we've captured 55 fowl in two days. We're also seeing more 'big' ducks. We just hired a new guide, so we now have one more opening throughout most of Dec. and Jan. We also have other days with openings scattered season-wide. Call us.
Oh yeah. Even on slow days good things can happen. One guy got his second in a lifetime band off a drake woodie. He got his first band 28 years ago. My Chessie made her first retrieves ever, and has completed her professional debut. She'll be gunning with us from here on out. Amid the slow hunts we did have one guide who scored two awesome shoots. Check out the pictures.
Gotta go. Give us a call. We're one good blow from some awesome shooting. Hopefully I can quit blowing up my decoys.
Yeah. We're still here. But there's a whole lot of duck blind building going on. Hatteras and Ocracoke probably lost every blind on their respective islands. Currituck also lost way more blinds than they're used to. Of my seven blinds in the Oregon inlet area; three are level and other than a need for re-tarpapering, are ready to be brushed.That's the good news. Of the other four, one is where it should be and is intact but it's socked back on its rear pilings, another is upside down in the mud and 800 yards southeast of where it should be, one I didn't get around to see yet and the last is gone entirely. Oh...yay. We only, maybe, lost three. Building habitable structures from boats and hand-driving nails is FUN.
At first we didn't think much of either storm. "It should mostly miss us." We thought that both times. Sometimes you might be better off cutting back on your thinking. At least cut back on your bravado and bluster. How can being within anything called a 'cone of uncertainty' be reassuring? Weather maps are studied more intently.
"We might miss most of the wind (still gusts to hear 90), but look at those rain bands spinning off ahead of the tell-tale eye. And there's more on the backside. Oh geez. Theyre talking about 30-36 hourss of torrential rain! The shop is going to flood.....!"
And that begins the series of chores that you need to get going on if you want to protect your belongings before you no longer have that option.
Riding out tropical systems on the NC Outer Banks is very akin to doing so while at sea, because,...well. We are stuck out into the ocean on our narrow spit of sand.
At a particular point in your interraction with this particular unreasoning, named, lumbering brute of a weather phenomena you realize that you are no longer in charge. And then you visit the very bowels of fear. And then you endure this meteorological ass-whipping... for as long as the storm dictates! During all this I couldn't help recalling a character from an old movie, named 'Billy Jack', who purred so succinctly prior to providing his own personal ass-whipping, "And there ain't a damned thing you can do about it!" Except clean up afterwards.
So that's what we've been doing. Mostly, besides all the duck blinds-the damage is mostly the fallen trees and big limbs, combined with the result of 17 inches of rain.
How many trees and limbs? How about 23 tanks of gas run through my Stihl chainsaw. Two whole households with more than enough firewood for the next entire year. Four twenty foot long, chin high wood piles of only the best firewood. (Beech, Maple, Pin Oak and Dogwood)
And don't forget. This was two storms. Three weeks apart! We finally dug out of the first only to be staring into the unblinking eye of the next! Anyway. Wah. Wah. Wah!
Having said all this, ducks are showing up in early season droves. Guys fishing in Currituck and surfers from Rodanthe are all talking about more and more pintail, teal and gadwall starting to pile up in holding ponds, refuges and the open sounds. Fowl have already been shot and blinds will be rebuilt and brushed by the time you arrive.
We still have openings but availability is begininning to limit itself. We're going to have fun. Be in on it. Call anytime, big groups sooner than later. I still want to trade hunting for a 16 gauge Winchester Model 12 pump shotgun. I'd like it to have a modified choke.
Aloha and happy hunting,
Vic, Ellen and the crew
P.S. All this and I've deer to harvest too. Gotta go and get on it. Oh. FYI, the whole first week of November season is wide open. A lot of naive ducks get shot that first week, nasty weather or not. Just saying.
Taking into account the number of calls we're answering and deposits that we're receiving, I can conclude that there's a fervid group of ya'll who are already scheming on hunting plans for the up-coming season. Good for ya! I'm in the same boat as you guys. Especially since I got to see stuff last year that I'd never seen while waterfowling before. Powerful images imprinted into my brain that involved every one of my senses, to the maximum level, all at the same time. Knee weakening and mind-muddling stuff. Fifty three years into my waterfowling career and I still get wowed. Wow! The red head show!
I have never-ever-seen that many redheads, over that long a time period (5 weeks), on so many occasions while up so close and personal; ever! Wow!
Then you can't help but wonder, "What's it going to be this year? More redheads? Or widgeon? It's been years since we've been widgeon swarmed. Or maybe Currituck will get their teal back, or pintail like five years ago, or snow geese like it was in the 70's, or-dare I even wish for it- the canvas back swarms of the early 80's. You just never know going into a new fowling season what you are going to be priviledged to see, just that, if you can make the time to get out there, it's going to be something...awesome!
Yeah. You guessed it. I'm kind of a fanatic for all stuff "ducks." The marshes, the decoys, the dogs, the guides, you guys, the boats and motors, the ridiculous hours, the smells, the 'in the moment-ness', when everything goes incredibly right. But all this fabulousness is rated 'snooze-you-lose'. If you're not here it happens none-the less. Just in front of somebody else, (and of course, me or my guides). Which is kind of my point. Myself and my crew are going to see to it that you guys get to share these moments with us. We'll take care of the boats, blinds, decoys and dogs so you don't have to, just so we have the excuse to be there also. The wives put it simply 'No you, no us, new job, less ducks.'
The code for scoring the best hunts of the season isn't a difficult code to crack, but it takes a zealot to carry out. The key to being on the best hunts or, even more importantly, the key to experiencing the most intense moments of an entire fowling season is that you have to not miss any of it. None. Snooze you lose, indeed! Any down time during legal shooting hours during any day that hunting is legal-for any reason-is unacceptable...Whoa.
Ok. Deep breath! I was getting a little wound up,
It's just that, if you combine logic and a marginal concept of time, then ponder a bit about wild ducks and weather and wind and the probabilities that need to align in order for you to get to see lifetime quality...stuff. Once you've mulled all these things together in your brain for awhile one realization pushes aside all other truths.
There's a finite number of awesome-ness to go around in one entire fowling season, (chew on that), and that's it. Only so much awesome-ness is available, but whenever you screw up you can make there be less. Miss a day and that block of potential awesome is lost to you forever. Take two hours to motor back to the dock so that you can pound out a trailer bearing and replace it before it's too late to get back for the evening flight and what happens? I'll tell you what happens.
Your buddy from two blinds over stayed out and hunted while you were in doing chores! And he's quick to ring you up when he sees that you're back in your blind. And he relishes way too much, giving you the gory details about that squad of thiry widgeon that worked your decoys five, no six, six times.
"They did that big banked, Nascar turn and came back at least four times after they fell off down wind. Yeah. No really. They sat in your decoys at least 20 minutes before they jumped up and flew over here...Oh you know they did...Honest. We knocked out five.. No, I don't know who got the triple. One of us did, though. There's only two of us. Hey Vic, You got a sec to answer a quick question?...Thanks. Yeah. Four of the five are drakes...You got that right! We were picking them out...No. We didn't start till their toes were in the water at twelve yards. Honest dude! Anyway, one of these drakess has a red face and the pointy feathers on his back are extra white...Vic...You there? Vic!
Yup. Once or twice in a lifetime and you missed it by that much. Yeah, yeah. I know you still need to execute, (I whiffed on the only European widgeon I ever knowingly had a crack at) but the important part was I was there in the first place. Bottom line? No matter your level of desire, equipment, or skills, you can not execute if you aren't there and paying attention....
So get up with your buddies and then give me or Ellen a call and let's get you on the books for the 16/17 season.
Finally, there's one last thing travelling gunners to NC's Northeastern tidal marshes need to be aware of. Not all guides and services are the same. If you did an internet search to find this site, you had to notice that just about every Tom, Dick, or Service has stolen all or part of our name to get your attention. There's a reason for that. We are (Outer Banks Waterfowl Hunting and Fishing Guide Service) the most poached- on service because we care the most about our guides and clients. You do not last 39 years in this business by accident or guile. You last that long by providing quality services for decades upon decades. You never short change your clients and, rather, you overwhelm your clients with good, old fashioned, old school effort. I wear the term "old school" with pride and instill the underlying skill sets to all my guides.
Other services, not so much. The most glaring example of the 'not so much' is the current diturbing trend of piling too many guys into a blind and then cutting loose on every bufflehead or scoter that wings within a hundred yards or so of that location. Five, six, eight guys on a platform (boat or blind) is just not a duck hunt in my mind. In my mind that situation is what I refer to as a clown hunt. Besides embarrassing themselves and yourselves in the eyes of those trying to hunt the righ way near you, what your greedy guide is making you do is just plain dangerous in every regard. Too many guns in too small an area coupled with a guide who has no chance of supervising his clients properly is a perfect storm of stupid and greed that will surely end in tragedy. People will die or suffer grievous injury sooner rather than later in these scenarios, mark my words it's going to happen. Also, on a less grievous note, clown hunts are unsustainable. You simply can not abuse the resource this brutally and expect to shoot ducks tomorrow or next week. Just ain't gonna happen. Ducks are smarter than that, and so should you be.
Having said this, I occasionally get talked into a four man group or by necessity have to relent and allow the insanity, but I never like it. At the very best you pull it off only to discover that the spot is ruined for the next couple weeks which means one (too big) group gets a great shoot and the next nine get hosed. No, Bad! Bad business all around, and as un-safe as anything allowed by law. Do not allow it except as a last resort. Help stamp out clown hunts; the rest of us are trying to hunt the 'right' way. Thank you.
One example to prove my point, Jan. 5 2016. I allow a Currituck guide a four man group. Guide's happy as he earns double for one day. Clients have a great shoot: 2 swan, 10 redheads, 12 teal, a pintail and a canvasback. All's good, right? Next day same weather, guide and blind: 0 harvest. Next day 3 ducks, next day 2 ducks, next day 3 ducks, next day 2 ducks, next day 0, next day 0, next day 1 duck, next day 0.
Sure the guide got paid double for one day, but how much did he lose on tips the next 11 days in a row....just saying.
2015/'16 WATERFOWL SEASON. A RECAP.
Not as many puddlers, but the red head 'swarm' is of biblical proportions. The end.
That was the condensed version. I was opting for the long version but Ellen doesn't want to, "By God," type that much. It was a season that took a lot out of all of us, so we settled on me providing the short/medium season's recap. Here goes.
As per usual, we pretty much pass on the September and October seasons. Sure, sure. If you get a notheast front it can be worth a shot, but otherwise the mosquitos and fear of snakebite suck the enthusiasm out of any fowling endeavors pretty quickly.
The November season rebounded pretty solidly though. Not that we could have sustained our whole service hunting hard every day, but the three to five of us who guided did fairly well. A good percentage of bags were in the double digit (10-14 birds) range if you didn't pick and choose too much or miss a lot. A couple examples come to mind.
There was the group of five who downed nine species-59 total-in three days of the second week. Or the guys who's bag at the end of the day read: 3 greenwing teal, 5 bufflehead, a greater blue bill drake and a doe.
The deer swam over to our marsh and the guide pulled off a perfect stalk to within 18 steps. Game over! And yes, he had the proper licenses and an orange hat, so hold the calls. Then there was the one man party shooting along with his guide on a 76 degree, no wind, November day that fell on the day of a bright full moon. They ended up with 4 redheads, 2 greater blue bills, a black duck drake, and a gadwall. Three of the redheads were drakes and one of those sported a federal band (bling!). He went to the taxidermist. Another couple of guys, with their guide backing them up, captured 10 teal and 6 mallards a couple days later. Good stuff always happens in November, but just be aware that the SLOWEST and PRETTIEST of the slow and pretty days for the whole year happen in November as well. A risk worth taking in my book, but I'm well aware that huntin' is huntin'. Two or three of the very best hunts of the year....just saying.
Next thing you know, we're into the main season: in a word. Underwhelming initially. It was past Christmas before I was able to put the DEET away. 75-80 degrees! Sheesh!
And yet, we were still whacking birds. Not every guide, not every day, but decent numbers nonetheless. We had a 12 man corporate group pound out 53 ducks-10 species-in one day. And on our first good, cold day, one of our rare 4 man groups (I am NOT a fan) with guide as back-up came home with 2 swan, 10 redhead, 12 teal, a canvasback and a pintail. They were done by 9:45 AM.
Another day we hunted four guys in two blinds with 2 guides (this is how a four man group should be handled) who came home with 7 pintail (6 drakes), 8 gadwall, 5 redheads (4 drakes) a teal and a drake hoodie. Another good shoot involved three new clients on a one day hunt. With their guide as back-up, they came home with 8 redheads, 2 greater blue bills, 3 pintail, 3 gadwall, 2 shovellers, a teal and a hoodie. Yowz! I'll take that any day. Then there was the 12 man corporate group on a three day hunt who totalled out 128 fowl-13 species- over the three days! Their wild game dinner at Kelly's restaurant was both an epicurean delight and a feast. Also, Yowz!
And then finally, there was the 'red head show' for the entire last two thirds of the main season. For whatever reason (I'll leave it at that) it seems that every redhead on the planet took up residence on the wild celery flats that surround my marsh in Oregon Inlet. And stayed there! And I'm not talking handfulls of bunches! I'm talking fifteen to twenty THOUSAND redheads.We were getting swarmed by five to eight thousand birds at a time. The first occurance I experience being swarmed by such a mega-flock occured in the dark of a dead still, fog enshrouded morning as I was setting out my decoys. Pla-plop. The only sound as I dropped a decoy and its weight into the water. Pla-plop. Pla-plop sounded as I got into the rythm of decoy setting. And then...?!....What;s that sound? What's that...? That roar!!!! I couldn't tell what it was, but it scared all Hell out of me! I envisioned a jet liner, engines off but the fuselage ripping through still air. I literally braced myself for impact...And then the shadows of 10,000 fowl ghosting mere yards over head in a whoosh and a rush few ever experience. Awe!, doesn't do it justice.
We got as many out to see 'the show'as we possibly could. And thanks for indulging me in being-in my own words-a bit of a turd in how we managed our resource. It's like I explained to my clients time after time.
"Look. This...marvel can last for a day and a half, or it can last the whole rest of the season. I'm opting for the season so here's the rules. No shooting long shots! No shooting high shots! No shooting far shots! No shooting ANY flocks over 30/35 birds! We're going to wait for good shots at smaller bunches and singles. Got it?! No, no discussion. We're hunting like we're supposed to. Now sit back and enjoy the show. Here comes another bunch of 500. Remember! No shootin' at this bunch unless a littler group breaks off and works us. Once the big group moves on...."
Honest to goodness and all things wonderful! I saw things I've never seen in 52 years waterfowling. Swarmings innumerable! A redhead season of a life time. Definitely one for the life pile.
Vic, Ellen and Crew
Oh yeah. Ended up with 1620 fowl; 345 redheads; The Year Of. No lie.
One week left. Whew! But we aren't done yet.
I don't know where they all came from, but I believe we ended up with every red head in the world. So many, in fact, that it's kind of hard to decoy other species when they're looking at eight to ten different 500+ members of flocks of red heads. Then there's still a couple of multi-thousand bird flocks. Jeesh! I've seen stuff that I've never seen before. Some of the visuals almost unbalance your equilibrium. That's the good news.
The Yin to that Yang though, is that we still haven't seen all of the puddlers that we've come to expect, nor the magnitude of blue bills that we've seen in the most recent years. Oh well. If you have to, I'll take this many red heads in trade any day.
With the last weeks wind and freezing temps I still expect to make up for lost time in regards to the puddlers. With the cold burst that we just endured I expect that every swamp on the Eastern sea board is frozen solid. I'll let you know the results next week. Gotta go, cause I need the sleep. We bagged another 73 red heads last week, plus geese, swans and 275 fowl total.
1/14/16 We have just had a cancellation for this Saturday the 16th, if anyone reading this can make it, a front is on the horizon. Call to book if you can, thanks, ellen 252-261-7842 or my cell 252-722-2078
Sorry about the paucity of updates. Well. Not a paucity per se. It's more that our eight year old (a real life relic according to the teenaged techs at Staples) chose as its day to melt down and die entirely, the mid point of our busiest season. No emails, no mailing list, no printer, no web access, no Wind Guru forecasts. It's very much like running your boat while enshrouded by thick fog.
At least with the boat in the fog you've got a chance of a successful outcome, all be it minimal. When the computer goes down, you sink like a rock. The rock that really puts you on the bottom though, is Windows 10. Everything you knew how to do, you don't anymore. And what's with all this syncing B.S.?
Jeezus. Heysoos! What group of chimps orchestrated this amalgamation of counter-intuitive moronity! All of a sudden the computer machine is more needy than all of my old girlfriends put together. Ellen is finally able to access a select few functions so hopefully you'll see this update tomorrow.
Last week was actually kind of epic in regard to the red heads. The big (think gargantuan) five to eight thousand bird flocks broke up like ice floes in spring time. I can think of better than ten accounts of being over-run by those five to eight thousand bird swarms. Twice as many accounts of one to five hundred bird swarmings. And now the huge groups are busting up so all locations get a chance or three. No gaurantee or anything like that, but limits of red heads are being taken in diverse blinds on a regular basis.
Other than the red heads, we are seing more evidence of puddlers from day to day and from area to area. Scattered nice takes of teal and mallards in Currituck, and gadwall, pintail and shovellers from the Inlet south. Also widgeon are showing up in our guy's bags more and more often. Let's see. What else? Greater blue bills just showed up literally the day before yesterday as have many more swans. In addition, there are still buffleheads and all three species of scoters in abundance in certain locations.
As points of reference, we surpassed the thousandth fowl harvested last Saturday, and last week we harvested 339 ducks, 6 swan and 2 snow geese. 96 were red heads. We also retrieved federal leg bands off of a teal and a red head. Yay!
Our best result of the week was a crazy good 10 red head, 12 teal, 1 pintail, 1 canvas back and 2 swans by a four man group and guide who shot along. That was on Tuesday when we had all the wind and snow. Another three man group brought out 6 gadwall, 2 pintail, 4 red heads and a teal. Another group of 3 hunters and their guide brought 8 red heads, 3 pintail, 3 gadwall, and 2 shovellers to the dock another evening.
I'm just saying, bring us some weather and we'll shoot some good ducks. For those of you who endured 80 degree days with the viscious mosquito swarms, sorry about that bad luck. Those were long days. I should know because I sat through them right along with you. Don't get mad at us though. I'ts not like you ordered a case of skeet that we dropped and broke. You bring the weather. Bring better weather!
It's eleven and I'm guiding tomorrow. Gotta go. Three weeks left and I've already lost two inches off my waist. I'll be svelt by season's end.
More next week.
Vic, Ellen and Crew
Good Gracious, the redheads!! Okay. That was just the first impresssion of the first day of the main fowling season, Saturday the 19th through January 30th.
About the redheads-the fowl, not the winsome lasses-we saw what tons of redheads looked like last year. GUESS WHAT! They're back! Now don't get me wrong, my blind didn't even get one near us, but what we saw just to the west of us jellied my knees. We watched ten or twelve thousand birds mill around most of last season. I saw more than that Saturday. Giant, half mile deep amorphous blobs of swirling duckitude. My, Oh my! Once they break up a bit, we'll get our shots at 'em. Hope you're on the books. We still have some room, although it is getting limited. Call.
Besides the redheads, I saw the Bodie Island refuge pond jump up and swirl a few times. Lots of nice puddlers! We saw pintail, widgeon, black ducks, mallards, gadwall and bunches of real pretty shovelers. Add to all those, good pods of filler fowl, (buffleheads, 'gansers, scoters and such,) and I feel like we're one ducky day, weatherwise, from some real good shooting.
Just as a reference, we averaged about 150 fowl a week over the Thanksgiving season without seeing nearly what I saw Saturday. As true as it is that I'm getting older and I've seen and participated in half a century of fowling, but damn if I don't feel like a puppy in anticipation of the next six weeks.
Let the games begin!
Hopefull we'll be seeing you soon.
Vic, Ellen, guides, crew and all our retriever dogs.
Not bad. All said, it's been a fun November for waterfowling.
In the first eight days of the season we've carried thirty one trips who accounted for 235 fowl. Variety has been our spice of life as we have already accounted for 19 species.
As fowling has commenced up and down the eastern seaboard the ducks are shifting around accordingly and new birds are arriving at a steady clip. Given any supporting nasty weather, our hunts have been downright entertaining. Not that November can't be slow on the real pretty days, but the guys who spent the day, shot what came to them and grinded it out have finished in double digits regarding harvests.
A decent typical day might yield 2 black ducks, a black/mallard hybrid, 4 shovellers, a blue bill and 2 American scoters. On the same day another blind downed 4 mallards, 6 teal, 2 blue bills, 2 ringnecks, a gadwall and a bufflehead. A third blind (me) shot 3 redheads (the drake was gorgeous-easily mountable) and whiffed on two single gadwall before I had to quit at 9:30 for a spate of errand-running. Woe to be the boss!
Most of the room that we have remaining on our scheduls is Nov. 30-Dec.5, Dec. 19-26 and Jan. 20-30. Otherwise there are a few openings for small groups; bigger groups need to get a move on or you might get left out. We can have cancellations so if you've got a hankering for a duck hunt, give us a call. 252-261-7842.
On a more sobering note, Jimmy Berry passed away suddenly on Nov. 22. He was the long time head guide at the Off Island Gun Club in Oregon Inlet for years. He was old school and proud of it. He will be missed.
Hello friends and outdoors people,
Duck seaon is bearing down on us, but that's a good thing. The therapeutic value of sitting in a marsh should never be underestimated. With the hatefulness of another election cycle kicking into gear, we'll be needing whatever havens that we can find. Nature heals... or at least being removed form the incessant nattering of negativity for a few days allows us to improve focus and to recharge.
Bookings are filling in nicely and the business is warmly appreciated. With so many retuning clientel, it's litterally a season of fellowship and catching up. We've made many lasting friendships over the decades for ourselves and all of our guides. That we also get our group of grateful ruffians (guides-self included) financially through another lean winter, while doing what we crave and love, makes us a most blessed group. We are aware and we thank you.
So how about our puppy? Irie is, without a doubt, a full blooded Chesapeake Bay retriever dog! As such, she comes along with EVERY lame brained and knuckle-headed quirk that a retriver dog can possess and on top of that she is wicked stubborn. I am not kidding. Having raised and helped train (albeit badly) several of these critters over a series of decades, you still can't help but be amazed at how such a cute little ball of loose fitting fur can so totally embrace every flaw known to dog. Our job, as the humans is to gently coax our retrieving cohort out of every bad habit with a more copascetic better habit. One cannot always be completely successful in the attempts. Especially with these Chessapeake retriever dogs; compromise rules.
Look! It's this simple. The dog WILL win some of your tests of will. You WILL realise that you're going to need to pick your battles and that your expectations need to reamin fluid. All training is not going to go your way and in fact, some battles are not worth winning. Trust me on this.
As I mentioned in my book, "The key to training a Chesapeake is that you have to take the time to convince the dog, that what you want it to do, is what the dog wanted to do in the first place." If you yaw from this priciple you will pay, as it is impossible to impose your will on a Chessy. But if it's their idea in the first place...
Having said all of this, I think we're on to something with Irie. Her hunting instincts are intact and strong. She's been doing deep water retieving since her seventh week, she's soft mouthed, and she has a bionically accurate nose. Oh yeah, and she's stolen our hearts.
She's going to be a good one.
Oh. And one more thing. Don't underestimate the value of a 'smart bump' as a predictor of positive hunting instincts. We had the pick of the litter of pups, but due to distance (Indiana) we couldn't be there to select.
In making my choice with this set of circumstances I only asked for two things. First; I wanted the female with the most pronounced smart bump (between the ears and at the back of the skull) and if that were equal, I wanted the one with the squarest head. Three months later we are thrilled with our choice.
Why the smart bump? In the genetics of animals it's not necessarily that one gene does one thing. There's much more nuance than that. For instance. An all white cat that has blue eyes is always going to be deaf-genetic chain. I think it's the same with the smart bump. If it is present then so are the hunting instincts. My old dog has a nice square head, but no smart bump. She's never hunted a lick!
Anyway. Optimism is my first choice go to when the facts are nebulous. Gotta go.
Only Jan.2 thru Jan.9 are absolutely booked and the 11th thru the 16th are nearly so. Other than those two weeks, we have more wiggle room. Our season will book solid. Talk to your guys.....
I guess it takes the hot doldrums of summer to get you thinking about the cool days of fall. And, once you've daydreamed yourself to cool fall days, thougts of days afield in pursuit of wild game can't be far behind.
In retrospect, last season was fairly intense. Lots of clients, lots of shooting, great memories, nasty weather-but not so nasty that we couldn't get out. How 'bout them redheads? Hope you got some! That was the best redhead shooting we've ever seen in our 38 years. Then we top that by not only cracking the 2000 fowl plateau, but also beat our guide wide best by 450! Just can't say enough good stuff about our guides. Every day of the duck season, I'm jealous of one/some/all of my guide's hunts/blinds/dogs/equipment, etc. And the list changes daily.
If you add up the years of waterfowling experience of our guides, the average would really surpass 20 years per guide. Numerous of us have better than 30 years chasing fowl. Heck. I'm 2 years into my fifth decade. Where does the time go? If there were any ten of us in a room at one time you could easily expect 250-300 years of waterfowling experience represented. I'm not saying we've seen it all, but I am saying that we've seen a whole, whole lot! Experience does matter.
Anyway. Nothing terribly important to relay. Just thinking about past seasons and next.
We are getting phone calls, email transmissions and deposits on a regular basis so you might start thinking about your trip. We won't know for certain until 9/1/15 what our seasons will actually be, but we can make a fairly good guess. (Think same as last year-ending on Jan 23.)
Even though my thoughts wander to this coming fall, I'm not done with this summer by any means. There's still art to be sold, and flounder and blow toads to be caught...and waves, drum and trout as well. And flounder to gig. I'm thinking seriously of going nocturnal and gigging flounder professionally for the fourth week of August-the third week of September.
Once again, anyway...Give us a call. We're here to answer questions and book your trips. 252-261-7842.
Vic, Ellen and the Crew
February 2, 2015
Impressions from waterfowling 2014/2015? That's always so hard to answer. The season as a whole almost always seems like a nebulous membrane has been cast over your memory/mind once all facets of a season are done over-running you.
And by over-running, I'm talking about the same effect that happens when you get swarmed by diver ducks. I guess that'd be it. This year was mostly about getting swarmed by diver ducks, red heads in particular. And, I guess the least expected effect of a diver duck swarming is how it leaves your brain addled and, well, it's like the nebulous membrane cloaks your remembrance of the event.
You'd think that getting swarmed by a flock of thousands would leave an acid sharp set of memories, but that's rarely the case. Think, standing before an oncoming thundering herd of bison on the plains of Utah, but without the dusty plains or the hooves smashing you to jelly. Everything else about being over-run remains though. You see it coming, and you think you're ready to act, but then it just washes over and passes quicker than you can assimilate and react. Most newcomers to the experience fail to even shoulder their guns, much less hit anything.
Okay, I get it. Collectively, everybody who just read the last paragraph, in their head, is saying, "What? How do you miss when you're swarmed by thousands? You could 'Stevie Wonder' the flock (close your eyes and shoot in three random areas) and knock down thirty. What do you mean by 'much less, hit anything'...?
You poor naive, waterfowler....I've been swarmed 3 times in my life. Once by 5000 canvasbacks, once by 8000/10,000 snow geese and the last time by half of a 10,000 to 12,000 bird 'ball' of red heads. The first time I did shoulder my gun but I whiffed on three consecutive shots. The last time I whiffed on my first shot, got spun around by the angle and recoil from my gun's blast and watched helplessly as-now back to the flow of the flock-I never even took a second shot. I kind of redeemed myself with the snows by knocking down three birds with two shots, but my gun jammed on my third attempt. I guess even overwhelming success can present its own set of challenges. (Authors note: There was a fourth, fifteen minute, smoke in reverse experience that remains surreal to me to this day. I'm still not sure I may have bagged two.)
And I guess that brings me back to the 2014/15 season. We did well. We smashed our old record re number of fowl taken a season by nearly 400. We crested and bested the 2000 fowl plateau, set the standard for both red heads and ruddy ducks and plowed through the season without a hitch. We did real well!
And by 'not a hitch', I mean not even ONE! Not ONE over-sleep, not ONE incident, not ONE; none of that. Our team of guides works more maturely meshed every year. They keep an eye on each other, they work together, they're courteous but in charge and they are just -flat out- good at waterfowl harvesting.
If there was a down side to this year it was that some of our prized puddlers didn't show as well as we like, but we hold some pretty high stantdards. We still harvested a hundred pintail, 107 gadwalls, 124 teal 40 some shovellers, 50 mallards, 60 widgeon, our first ever mottled duck, 17 canvasbacks, people's first ever swans....
And then there were the diver ducks! We were over-average by better than 200 (278) for redheads, 300 (330) for ruddies, and high average for both bluebills (255) and buffleheads (565). We also had a couple of outrageous scoter spots that yielded well all season. They did the best on American black scoters (90), but also scored surf (28), and the elusive white winged (13) scoter.
Also, our diversity remains high as evidenced by the 26 species harvested. The mottled duck was interesting because most of the season had gone by before we realized what we had. The fine folks who harvested the bird were excited enough thinking that they had a black/mallard hybrid. But something bothered me over the ensuing weeks because the bird had been a drake (as evidenced by his clear yellow bill), but didn't have even a hint of green on his head. It also didn't set well that the breast was feathered more like a hen mallard, but there was a distinct overall reddish cast to it's breast. Chris, (who achieved his North American 32 status a year or so ago) put the dot on the exclamation point when he showed me his photos of Mexican and mottled ducks harvested earlier in the year down on the Gulf coast.
"The difference in the Mexicans and the mottled's is that the mottled only has a thin band of white below the blue in the wing speculum," Chris explained as he pulled up photos of both. "That and the red cast to the breast feathers sets them apart as mottleds,"he finished. Bingo! I saw all those things. Mottled it is.
Ellen, I, our crew and their dogs all want to thank you for a great season. Good Lord willin' and the creek don't rise.....and we'll do it all over agin next year.
(Above, newly weds Chris and Melissa)
P.S. We have three groups of youth hunters this weekend, but, as of right now, our total for the year stands at 2251.
January 14, 2015
Had some technical issues with updating our computer machine, dag nam it! If you're not reading this then we must not have it fixed yet. Anybody got a 12 year old we can borrow?
A synopsis of the season to date. Due to an unexpected early cold snap, November was consistantly funner than we would normally expect. Puddle duck shooting was frequent and extremely satisfying.
After the between season (two week break), we continued hammering ducks for the next ten days. Bag totals ran high but the puddlers had thinned noticeably. We weren't too sad though, because everybody was getting whacks at red heads. Then we had a fairly severe slow-down for the next two weeks. We still had decent shoots but they were hit and miss amongst the guides. Some days you'd only get one or three volleys and your success depended on how you succeded with those. Red heads continued to dominate.
Finally, we got another cold snap last week. Yay! We've seen marked increases in the number of teal, gadwall, shovellers, pintails, and can you believe it, even more red heads! And by more, I mean alot more redheads. This week, the clouds and lines of redheads seen have neared historic proportions. (Nearly 200 taken in this last season's segment.)
And finally, the last week has been extreme in both weather and harvests. Once again, it has been extremely satisfying to see improved puddler shoots. Mix in the steady dose of divers and you'll understand why taxidermists are so happy this year.
We're nearing another record for birds taken in one season. Even though we've never cleared it before, I think we have a good chance to exceed the 2000 bird plateau for the first time. Hopefully, I haven't hexed us by writing it, but we're set up pretty nicely-bird wise-by what was driven down with the last freeze. Only time will tell, but with our crew of professionals I feel like we have a legitimate shot.
More later, Vic
January 2, 2015
Okay. Our noses are to the guide-stone now. Grinding out long days results in bigger numbers. Eclipsed the 1000 bird mark yesterday.
Christmas week saw hunting for puddlers slow dramatically as we used up the birds that were aroung the first week the season opened. The good news were the divers. There were some slow hunts but enough guides got shoots good enough to make up for them.
This week we had a good, old fashioned Nor'Easter that revealed several mor puddlers that had been hiding out in the various refuges. Monday and Tuesday's hunt both broke the 100 bird barrier on each day. The weather cleared for the middle of the week and hunts slowed. The good news is that a new wave of fowl was observed migrating into the refuges the last few days so we're expecting a 'refresh' on the numbers of puddlers shot. Opportunities should increase as the new birds move in and break up into smaller groups. Red heads continue to be the happy surprise of the season, so far.
We're all hunting as hard as we can go, so I've got to drag myself off to bed. Another fun day beckons tomorrow. Hope we see you soon.! Vic
December 16, 2014
A quick note. Being that Christmas is falling in the middle of next week, too many of my guides may be reduced to fun hunting with their buddies for the holidays. They are a ruthless lot so, whether you're here or not, ducks are going to get hunted.
This final segment to the season opened with a (dare I say it?) bang on Saturday and carried over to Monday. In the two days, sixteen hunts netted 168 fowl, sixteen species represented. The biggest happy surprise is the red heads showing up all across the two counties where we hunt. (Approximately 70/80 miles of coastal waterfowl nirvana.
I'm not implying that guys are limiting out in fifteen minutes or anything, but if you stay put, pay attention and shoot what comes to you, good hunts are being had. One of the funner shoots on Saturday yielded 6 pintail, 3 gadwall, a widgeon, a red head (out of a flock of 40 and within 10-15 yards!!!), a shoveller and 2 buffleheads.
On another hunt a thousand bird flock of both blue bills and red heads, mixed, quite litterally split the blind like the parting of the Red Sea. The clients were so gobsmacked with awe that they never even fired a shot. The guide finally couldn't stand it any longer and shot out a drake blue bill before the horde passed entirely.
Now, back to Christmas week. Like I said, I've got guides who need to work, but will hunt for fun if they have to. Don't get yourself in trouble with the family, but, if you can, there's ducks here and guides who know how to hunt them.
Happy holidays and happy hunting!
Vic and Ellen
December 8, 2014
November was a lot funner than I thought it might not be. That doesn't mean that you didn't have to hunt hard all day to 'ger'er done', but if you paid attention and got most of what came to you, eight or fourteen birds were on the game strap when you quit in the evening.
At least the eight or fourteen could have been on most days. As I've been saying for years, there's that fine line between harvesting ten or twelve birds versus one or three birds during any given day. There are skills.
Most of the ducks shot in November were good, big ducks. Lots of gadwall spread everywhere, with extra mallards in Currituck. Teal were more evenly distributed than usual which made the guys in Oregon Inlet happy.
We were all pleasantly surprised with the chances we got at big divers; red heads and canvasbacks in particular. I'm not saying that we shot 'em every day, buut we got more than I expected this early in the season.
Talking about all the red heads, real reliable rumors are buzzing that there are several flocks of them "the size of the Walmart parking lot" gorging themselves in local refuges. They should eat the refuges bare before too long. We'll get more and more chances as time goes by. The good thing about red heads is that they show up service wide. All the guides get their turns.
I was hunting with two of the guides on Monday of the second November week. Three red heads dumped into the left side of the decoy rig from out of nowhere. I was on that side of the blind so I and the guy in the middle wiped them out. Yada, yada, yad and one of the three had bling on her ankle.
We couldn't tell who actually got which one so we had to flip a coin. Fair is fair. I've actually had friends quit being friends over a teal band. Johnny was very gracious when he lost the flip.
During the three weeks of November, thirty seven groups of hunters bagged 287 fowl. Most of them were 'tasty' ducks that our guys, absolutely, have been enjoying during this break between the seasons.
How's this for a fun shoot between 4 gunners -including a nine year old gunner on his first hunt ever? Eight gadwall, eight red heads, a black duck, a pintail, six teal and a swan.
Or this other hunt that exemplified the all day hunts I talked about earlier: seven teal, two gadwall, a widgeon, a pintail, a mallard and two buffleheads.
I had a flock of twenty five pintail work me-wings locked-five different times that we never got a shot at as they would never quite finish....(cool thing about it was that I was practicing my own deep-pitched flutter-whistle, that pintails make, by whistling while you flutter your tongue.
I had made a few practice whistles when we all of a sudden noticed the flock falling out of the sky from 400 yards up. I felt like if I quit whistling, they'd quit too. So I kept flutter whistling as they worked us, and worked us, then worked us again and then again, and one final time before they winged off. Dang!
That was beautiful!
I hope we'll be seeing you this season. If you haven't booked yet, we still have awesome guides who need more work. Call 252-261-7842
-November 14, 2014
November! It's more than the weekend after Thanksgiving.-
Don't get me wrong. Huge numbers of memories get made during the long weekend that pen-raised turkeys fear the most of all long weekends. It's just that the rest of the month goes largely ignored by water fowlers.
And that's not entirely such a bad thing for a professional guide. The two and a half weeks that lead up to the 'weekend turkeys fear' is kind of a duck hunting shake-down cruise.
Let's face it, in my mind a good guide is going to hunt whether he has clients or not. He knows that clients are a good thing because they give him money. And more money seems to make the home front more peaceful. That's always good.
And more money lets the guide give his cleverer friends some of the 'more' money he makes to fix his mechanical vexations-like carbeurators, water pumps, gas lines and hydraulic.......stuff. And another dollop of the 'more' money lets the guide buy stuff that he really needs. Things like face-paint and balaclavas and shotgun shells that are stuffed with ma-tee-ree-all (When it costs this much you really want to get the most out of it)that seeminly is more expensive than carats. In these ways a guide does what he can to help fix the economy. In this way-he did do his best to fix our broken economy-our guide can now proceed to the rest of the duck season with stuff he really needs, machinery that works and a clear conscience.
But, what was my point regarding November?
My point is this. Four or five of those days in November are goind to be four or five of the best shoots of the entire 2014-15 waterfowling season...and they're going to be enjoyed only by the guides and their murderous bastard buddies. Why? Because the paying clients have decided not to risk the other side of November, which is god-awful blue bird days. In the three weeks of November you're also liable to have seven or eight of the absolute slowest shoots of the entire season. I like to call them 'why aren't we fishing?' days.
But, good guides; we don't care. We know when we signed on that we've got to sit through the slow days to get to the awesome ones, and that the singular most awesome events can happen on slow days too.
Right now, we're five days into the November season and the few guides who've worked have harvested-on average-nearly eight ducks a trip. And the 'filler ducks-buffle heads, ruddies and the like-aren't even here yet. Everything shot so far are good, big ducks. Mostly puddlers...........just saying.
Tomorrow is going to sport NNW winds at 25-30 knots! The high is going to be 41 degrees. It's going to spit rain/sleet/snow for the first time this fall. This same front set record low barometric readings on its way across the country.
Sounds like a perfect water fowler's dream! And it's going to get even colder the day after. And, guess what......wait for it now.....We only have one pair of gunners for the next two days.!!!
You know when you talk to 'that guy', and he goes on and on about the great hunt they had, and nobody else was there, and the guide was so much fun, and the motors all worked and the guide had the latest shades of face paint and a bitchin' new balaclava......
I guess all I can say is, "You should have been here tomorrow."
All that being said, I just had to hire a new guide, and two old guides have come back to the fold, which means that we have a couple more spaces available on every day of the season-including weekends! And, the new guy is Devin Cage who owns and captains the boat, "Poacher." A fishing/hunting rock star if ever one lived.
Give us a call!
9/22/14 Above is pic of Vic teaching Dylan (Matt's son) to call teal in this early season. Is he a little cutie or what?
Welcome to the 2014-15 duck, goose and swan hunting seasons.
Because of the weather extremes and high harvest counts, last season will be remembered as an epic event. The fact that we handled the harsh conditions as well and as safely as we did speaks volumes about the professionalism of our service and our guides! Ellen and I could not be prouder of the people we work with. They take care of you and us, so we do our best to take care of them.
To that end, and in response to persistant inflation and other services all raising their rates-we've been forced to raise our guide fees this season to $200/man/day. Every cent of the fee raise will be given to the guides so that they can continue to provide our customers with the best blinds, equipment and services available. We thank you for your understanding.
This should be another super strong water fowling season. Breeding numbers are way up for most all of the duck species across the board this summer so the migration this fall should be quite impressive. Hunters are booking their trips earlier this year so some dates are starting to fill up. If you want to bring a large group or have a very narrow window in which you can hunt, you'd probably be best to start planning and give us a call sooner rather than later.
I, to be honest, really don't pay much attention to how other hunting regions trend or fare each year. I do pay rabid attention to how our region fares. (Especially since I have records going back almost four decades.) What I can say about how our region is trending is this: THESE ARE THE GOOD OLD DAYS!
Every season of the last eight or ten just gets stronger due in large part to good waterfowl breeding, better blinds and the best available guides. It also doesn't hurt that Outer Banks Waterfowl has had 38 (!) years to fine-tune our product. Please don't be fooled by copy-cat businesses or fly-by-nights or similar sounding business names. Decades of expertise DOES matter. As in most any case you can think of, it's best to go with the people everyone else are copying rather that the profiteers who will suck you dry and potentially risk your lives.
All I'm saying is that you're best off with the innovators and stalwarts rather than the rip-offs and newbies. If they'll steal and latch onto our business name, can you expect any different in your regard? Just sayin'....
Vic and OBW: Professionals since 1977.
Anybody who has hunted with me eventually tunes into the fact that I endure hunting nearly every day of every gunning season because that is the only way to guarantee that you'll be there for the 'good' day(s). And then you take that thought one more step and you find yourself sitting through every slow day in a season just so you don't miss one of the few most vividly intense and most lasting moments of an entire gunning season.
In a day's surf session I paddle till I'm exhausted just so that I can catch and ride the five best formed, biggest and longest waves available during that day. This is also my mindset during an entire gunning season. I hunt voraciously because I want to experience the five awesomest things that can be seen/experienced over that period of time. And I don't limit this to only ducks.
It may be an otter wrestling with a decoy, me catching a big live flounder with my bare hand, whiffing on a five hundred member (plus) flock of redheads, or watching the pure chaos of a peregrine falcon diving into a flock of decoying widgeon: I've seen and done these things and yes, they are worth waiting for.
This year I found myself 2 feet from a 700 pound black bear boar, in a ripe white cotton field between a 350 pound mama black bear and her three cubs, hunting in a tree with a great horned owl at arm's length, whiffing on a huge swoosh of redheads and two hours later dropping a clean, two shot double out of a fourteen bird redhead flock. The female of the pair had a Federal band on her right leg.
You could try to make these kinds of things up, but if you did, nobody'd believe you. They might not believe you if you don't make it up either, but that won't matter because you did see it. And that is the wealth that I'll take to my dotage, and that's why I hunt so hard.
That show that just gobsmacked you; those baby bear heads popping up seemingly everywhere out of the white ripe cotton like a bizzare live whack-a-mole game as the moma bear stands staring at you from thirty yards away...Yeah! That show was just for me, but you'll take my word for it because I've seen too much to make stuff up.
If the question is, "When do I have to hunt in order to get in on one of those awesome hunts you guides keep talking about?" The answer is:
"Every day, and usually, all day too."
The 2013/14 waterfowl season registers in my recollecting, as oddly successful. Oddly, in that we didn't really get to harvest a few of the species that we most expect to in a typical waterfowl season.
Usually, our filler ducks (what's most abundant, that you fill your limit with) are Currituck's green wing teal, blue bills and buffleheads. Any of those three species can contribute 500 plus birds to bag in any given season. None did this year, although, in the case of the bluebills, that was mostly due to our available limits being halved-from four birds to two.
Our happy surprise this year were the redheads that were scattered everywhere, and were taken somewhere, on most days all season. We also had a healthy dose of pintail throughout. I don't care who you are or where you've hunted, if you're looking at pairs of big, male redheads and pintail stored away in your blind, then you've got a smile on your face. Nothing 'happy's up' a duck blind like drake pintails and the redheads are a heck of a kicker.
Also in good numbers were the widgeon in November (plus a good pintail presence) and gadwalls at the tail end of January. Another promising trend this year were the varied scoters that nearly over-ran a few of our guides' blinds. Due to lumping all scoters into the 'sea ducks' category, I'm not sure that I've apportioned the three separate scoter species correctly as, when in doubt, I tally them all the predominant scoter species-the surf scoter. Having said all of that, we shot a lot more scoters than we usually do, and I personally passed on several chances at the most scarce white winged scoter.
Next to a paucity of g.w.teal in Currituck, the total lack of brant was most vexing. Some of our blinds really depend on them. And snow geese. We only got one single snow goose all season long. Wow!
Any way. Our season total, 1686, is the third hightest in our 36 year history and the 26 species taken are a lot of species, I don't care where you hunt. We also topped out wwith over 500 puddlers so, like I said earlier, it was an oddly successful year.
How do you put a value on scoring a double on drake pintail, or getting over-run by a gargantuan 'swoosh' of red heads?
Coming soon, videos! For now, you can go to our facebook page (Outerbanks waterfowl) and see it. Don't forget to like us!
This falls into the "What a difference a day makes category."
On January 2nd, we had ten groups hunting. At the end of the day, each guide's tallies were: 1) 2 pintail, 1 lesser scaup and one bufflehead, 2) skunk, 3) 2 ruddy ducks, 2 redheads and a canvasback, 4) skunk, 5)24 buffleheads, 6) 1 bufflehead, 7) skunk, 8) skunk, 9) 1 mallard, 1 lesser scaup, 10) 5 ruddies and a bufflehead.
On January 3rd, we get wallopped with a major winter storm. The storm is so ferocious that only 5 of the 13 guides can get out.
On January 4th, our 13 guides get all their parties out. Check out these totals: 1) 6 redheads, one black, 2 widgeon, 2 l. scaup and a bufflehead, 2) 5 widgeon, 1 pintail, 4 l. scaup, 4 white winged scoters, and 4 bufflehead, 3) 12 surf scoters, 5 buffleheads, and a l. scaup, 4) 8 surf scoters, 9) 2 pintail, a bufflehead and 4 hooded mergansers, 10) a greater bluebill, 11) a teal and a gadwall, 12) 6 redheads, 1 greater scaup, and 3 l. scaup, 13) 4 gadwall, 2 mallard, a widgeon, 1 l. scaup, 7 ruddies and 3 buffleheads.
Or how about this hunt on Monday, the 6th? Two gunners shoot 5 boxes of shells each! Between that, and a little help back-up shooting by the guide, they ended the day with 2 canvasbacks, 3 l. scaup, 1 widgeon, 3 gw teal, and 4 gadwalls. If you do the math, they shot 250 bullets!
Or this hunt on the 7th with a three man group and guide shooting back-up: 7 redheads, 8 l. scaup, 4 gadwall, a teal and 2 pintail. Not to be outdone, another guide with a three man group tallied 11 teal, 8 pintail, 3 widgeon, a red head and a gadwall. Each group was done by noon.
Finally, yesterday, the eighth, one of our guides scored 6 gadwall, a pintail, 2 blacks, a mallard, 5 shovellers, and 2 hooded mergansers, while another guide accounted for 8 redheads, a black duck and a teal.
We're going full-tilt till the season's end and we get to shoot Canadas (with permit) begining today. We surpassed the 1000 fowl mark this week, and are adding as many fowl as our clients have the skill to shoot.
More later, Vic
January, the third, 2014.
That's the day that this waterfowl season kicked into a higher gear. After a very productive November split the season bogged down for a couple weeks as we dealt with, first, a full moon and clear skies and second, a period of doldrums that featured warm temperatures and slack winds.
Then, winter storm "Hercules" swept into town. Whoa! What a difference a day makes. Eight of our thirteen guides couldn't even hunt safely due to 35-45 mph winds and had to cancel. Wah! I couldn't even get to my marsh safely.
Of the five guides who could get out, three survived and two thrived. Of the thrivers, one got 5 redheads, (4 drakes!), 3 pintail, 2 gadwall, 6 teal, 2 blue bills and a snow goose! The other thriver hunted with a one man party and they had to quit at noon with limits. They got 6 gadwall, 2 black ducks and 4 teal.
And then on Saturday: Holy Crow, but that was a fun day. Thirteen guides accounted for 128 fowl which included 15 separate species! The winds of the day before finally managed to discombobulate the giant masses of fowl that've been holed up in the various refuges and gun club ponds, and finally moved them out where we could have a fair chance at them. Our guys do real good when we get our chance.
My hunt was fairly typical for the day, as we ended up with 6 gadwall, 6 pintail, and a greater scaup. We also got to watch two to three hundred pintail dribble out of the refuge in a steady flow for three hours in the afternoon. What we got to bring to the bag wasn't even a fraction of the visual thrills that we enjoyed as we worked birds every now and again, off and on all day long!
And now we're staring into the teeth of the deepest freeze we've had in the last quarter century. Woo hoo! There's going to be some fowl shot this week! We may have to cancel some trips due to extreme icing and I apologise-to no one-for putting safety first. But those of us who can get out are going to be in for a treat. Make no doubt, it will be extreme, and cold, and a lot of work. But what we may be priviledged to witness....This is why we do what we do. More later.... Vic
I've been holding back from doing this update so I could let the season unfold a bit; the better to recognise evolving trends.
The cold weather and storms that occured during our mandatory 2 week season split caused alot of November's fowl to migrate out. So far it doesn't seem like as many have filled in to take their places. Most noticeably, my widgeon are mostly gone, but have been replaced (in lesser numbers) by newly arrived gadwalls and blue bills.
Some good news is that there are a bunch of new pintails that are just now starting to bust up into smaller, more decoyable groups. One of our guides was faced with a flock of 100 decoying pintails that they decided not to shoot in to, so as not to educate the masses. Good instinct: those of us hunting the next couple of weeks thank you.
Also, on the plus side of the ledger, we're steadily (although sporadically and in a hit or miss kind of pattern) adding nice red heads to our game straps. Also this year, one of our guides has a blind that has been pummelling the scoters. A few lucky gunners have achieved the scoter trifecta, scoring all three species available-surf, American blacks and the elusive white winged-all during one day's hunt.
Last week was made more trying due to clear skies and a huge full harvest moon. Puddlers are just now starting to move around again as the moon begins to wane. Having said that, we have managed to harvest 281 fowl, (and one flounder) since the season came back in on Dec. 14th. Those birds were divided into twenty different species!
To sum up. We're plugging along. Right now we're ekeing out a better than fair number of decent shoots intermixed with an equal number of exceptionally good and painfully slow shoots. The good and slow shoots have been spread out among all of our guides and gunning areas. Nowhere is on fire nor is anywhere hopeless.
The refuges still haven't been 'eaten out' so alot of fowl is here but is sitting tight. There's still a bunch of fowl to shoot. See you when you get here, and above all else, bring us a falling barometer and some nasty weather!
Duckin' and Goosin', Vic
The 2013 November season ended, as it typically does, lightly hunted but over-average in regards to our success. This was due, in equal parts, to a steady series of low pressure systems, and low gunning pressure. In particular, I was able to nurse the Oregon Inlet marshes all month long to the tune of a few really sweet shoots.
The first was the hunt I mentioned last update with myself, Ross and Bud. The other occurred on the only day of the month's season that I rolled over and went back to sleep rather than out-on my own- for a fun hunt. Instead, I let Jamie hunt Pintail Point that day.
When Jamie called in to report his kill and the safe return of his party to the dock for that day, his tally both thrilled me and made my heart shrink with a tinge of jealousy. He and his two man party had quite a day! Their total?; 2 drake pintail (one with a federal band), 2 gadwall, 2 black ducks, 2 widgeon, 2 red heads, 3 shovellers, a mallard and a greater scaup.
That-if you're counting- is eight species. To put that in a more historical perspective, that number of species is a full one quarter of the entire 32 bird species available in ALL of North America....in one day.
Jamie said that the highlights of the day were the 30-35 bird flocks of widgeon (that they only got one of), and the 40-45 member flock of pintail (that they only got 2 of) that ate them up around mid-day.
The bonus of all this is that we did well but haven't burned through our resources. There are still plenty of fowl left un-shot.
Remember how-every year-we keep saying that WE WILL NOT GET ANY BIGGER!!! Well...we were just introduced to two new watermen with traditionally excellent blind locations, top notch equipment and good attitudes. I mean, I can't not hire them.
If any of you were told that we were full in the last few weeks.........Until they're taken, we suddenly have room for two more groups. First call, first served.
Gotta go. I've got two more blinds to build and another mountain of pine to cut and haul.
One more thing. For those interested, 29 groups (one to three men/group) downed 181 fowl and there were 17 species represented. The following is a breakdown of all fowl felled: 22 pintail, 7 mallard, 3 black ducks, 28 widgeon, 13 gadwall, 14 green wing teal, 1 blue wing teal, 12 shovellers, 10 redheads, 2 greater scaup, 13 lesser scaup, 5 ruddy ducks, 19 buffleheads, 4 surf scoters, 22 coot (Jeff had his party shoot them for the Mayor of Kitty Hawk who was hankering for a gumbo), one red breasted merganser and 4 hooded mergansers.
Oh yeah. We got federal bands on a teal and a pintail, both of which were drakes.
Give us a call...
I've just gotta say it; I've already had a good duck season. Since the season came back in Nov.9, my marsh has been on a tear. A lot of which has been due to some crazy good shooting by our gunners.
We haven't always seen tons of fowl, but the birds se do see have been naive, good puddlers that have decoyed beautifully. My opening day hunt illustrates this trend. My partner and I shoot inot three bunches, but managed to come away with eleven good ducks. (redheads, teal and pintails).
The following Monday I gunned by myself and limited at 7:04 (4 widgeon, 1 blue winged teal and a green winged teal) while pulling the trigger only nine times.
This Tuesday was the best though. We had 20-35 mph north winds that got the ducks all in a lather. My redneck buddy Ross, Bud and I had to fight ducks out of our decoys all day. We passed on shooting anything not delicious and still wound up with sixteen fowl. (widgeon, pintail, gadwalls and redheads).
An ironic point worth mentioning would be that the day prior to our 16 bird bonanza I spent till afternoon and only got a shot at one 'good' duck, a drake mallard.
I guess to summarize, I'd have to say that, so far, it's good and good news. We've had some great shoots but haven't really burned through (educated) many birds.
We've already had some terrible snotty weather with more forecast for next week.
Gotta go. There's fowl to shoot.
I do not believe there has ever been a more glorious fall, weather wise, than this fall that we are now experiencing. Perfect temperatures have teamed with light winds and clear skies with only enough rain to keep the earth growing and remind ourselves how beautiful the contrasting sun can be.
On top of all this, fishing has been off and on fabulous since this spring. I've already had an awesome deer season (no Bullwinkle, but lots of activity, and a full freezer) and there were near perfect little long board waves all summer long. All without even a hint of impending tropical disaster. Of all the factions of outdoorsmen who have migrated here, only the surfers are somewhat disapppointed with this falll as there were really no 'epic' hurricane swells all season.
Bookings for the Dec./Jan. season are coming in at a rapid pace. We aren't all booked up yet, but availabile dates are getting fairly limitted. If you want to hunt this season, I'd suggest you call sooner rather than later.
Which brings me to the November duck season. I hope nobody minds too much if I just speak honestly about the schizoprenic month of November.
Admittedly, bookings for this month have fallen off in recent years. I hate to admit it, but the fall-off, in some ways, is not unexpected. What everybody has figured out is that some of the slowest, most 'blue-birdy' weather occurs in November. There are going to be some days in this month that will be so slow and 'pretty' that you'll sit and wonder why you're not fishing instead of hunting...and the guide won't have a good answer...all the guide knows is that he's willing to set you up in his best spot and hunt any day that anybody wants to hunt; and that some days are going to be better than others.
What a lot of people have lost sight of is that some of our absolute, best, days of the entire season are going to ALSO occur in November. For the last few seasons, the guides and their ruthless rascal buddies have had to crush these ducks on their own. Either way, on the 'right' days we're having awesome shoots.
Here's what I'm proposing. I have some guys who are not so eager to gamble on weather and opt for the better odd in Dec./Jan. I get that. A few won't risk sitting through a 'pretty' day and don't travel to hunt at all.
While the Dec./Jan. season books so solidly that I can't accept any last second bookings, I do have some flexiblity in November. So, what I'm saying is, for those of you who would like to try and improve your odds, keep an eye on the weather channel for any impending snotty, north winds in November.
I can't guarantee I can fit you in (last minute), but there's a real good chance that I can. Like I implied earlier, we can't stockpile our ducks. On a good, nasty duck day, the ducks need to get crushed. The only question is, will you be here doing the crushing, or will our ruthless rascal guides and their buddies have to do it on their own?
Sales of my fist book, "My Life Pile" are going great. Schiffer Publishing did a fabulous job putting it together. The only problem with the book is that people don't seem to be able to put it down once they've picked it up!
You can order it directly from us. Just send a check for $25.00 to us and a note mentioning who you'd like the book signed to. All books from us will be autographed.
Hi-ho; Another season is afoot, and what better way to begin than with a glaring typo. On the postcard you are about to receive, the seasons listed are for the 2013-2014 calendar year. (Not 2012-2013 as is printed.)
I'm not exactly sure why, but there seems to be an extra edge of anticipation in regard to this approaching gunning season. An extra sizzle in the air leading in.
Maybe it's because of the Almanac's extreme predictions. Bitter and frigid are the words they've chosen to use in their predictions for this winter. Yowz! I like the sound of that.
Hurricane season is about half over and there still isn't anything looming on the horizon. We remain cautiously optimistic that we may avoid a weather related ass-whupping from hurricanes this year. We'll just have to hold our breath and wait to see how that's going to work out, but so far, so good.
We just put the postcards in the mail, so be looking for yours soon. The photo on the postcard's front is from our book and was provided by Troy Cranford. Troy's photos are scattered throughout the book and you can't help but admit, the young man has an awesome eye for imagery.
We're looking at September 28th as our book's release date. It's been a slow process but the professionals at Schiffer Publishing have put together an outstanding product. From the cost, to clarity of images (sixty total), to the covers and story layout-all, all are first rate. I don't believe Ellen or I could be any happier with how the book presents itself.
Ellen made me promise not to make this update overly long, but I feel the need to make clear our position resultant to a disturbing trend.
It seems that OBW's long term success (founded 1977) is attracting look-alike, spin off guide services. Look, let me say this as clearly as I can.
"They are not related to us!"
Not 'Outer Banks Waterfowling', 'Outer Banks Waterfowler' or especially, 'Anybody Else's Outer Banks Waterfowl.'
I take it back. These other services are related to the original Outer Banks Waterfowl in one specific regard.
These other services are related to the original Outer Banks Waterfowl in the same way that ticks are related to a magnificent buck's ass!
And that's all I'll say about that. I guess that's been gnawing at me more than I thought....
All of which brings me to the fact that we have been solidly booked the last few years from before Christmas all through the rest of the season. If you represent a large group, you need to call soon. If you want the best option on dates, you should call soon. For everybody else....you'd probably be better served if you called sooner rather than later.
We, and our crew of guides, truly appreciate your business and we cherish the friendships forged these last 36 gunning seasons.
We hope to talk to you soon and see you later.
Our best, Vic and crew.
It's official, Vic's book will be available for sale next month. Will keep you all posted!
Well. That was an interesting fowling season. I haven't done much of anything but patch up and store my decoy spreads, eat and sleep since we all had to quit gunning on Jan. 27. Some how along the way, we managed to set a thirty six year record for total fowl taken.
Okay. Not somehow. The secret to our success this year were the lesser blue bills that swarmed coastal NC in numbers not found in any recollections since I first gunned here in the mid 1960s.
It didn't hurt that our new guide Ricky and his son Taylor perfected the use of a mobile scissor rig. They consistently crushed limits of the divers. The scaup onslaught started January 1rst and lasted till season's end. There were numerous hundred + fowl flocks that decoyed perfectly to our clients and left memories that will never go away.
We finally got some winter weather the last two weeks and added consistent puddler shoots to go along with the blue bill bonanza. How about this bag that came out of Currituck during a hideous north, northwest wind on the third to last day of the season? 6 pintail, 2 redheads, 3 widgeon, 3 blue bills, a gadwall, 3 green winged teal and a Canada goose. All the fowl harvested, except a hen pintail were drakes! On the same day another of the Currituck guides had an eighteen bird limit by seven AM! They brought 12 green winged teal, 5 bluebills and a mallard to the dock.
On this particular day (1/24/13) the wind blew a merciless 25-35 with gusts approaching 50. I don't know how hard the wind has to be to blow the tops off of waves, but the horizon was a literal horizontal mist when the winds howled the worst. For the day, eight groups harvested 105 ducks, 2 swans and a Canada goose. There were ten species represented.
For the record, the new benchmark for fowl harvested in a season is 1868. Of those, 779 were lesser scaup, (that's about 500 over our average) and 104 were pintail. For comparison we shot 196 pintail last year. Many of our birds only started showing up during the last week and they included Currituck's teal and some amorphous, dark, thousand bird clouds of red heads on Oregon Inlet's Cat Shoals. Oh well. More for next year, hopefully. We took 26 species this year!
I found where to get El Maurillo whistles. (thanks to several avid readers) The distributor is Mel Cotton's Sporting Goods out of San Jose, CA. You can find them at www.melcottons.com or call them at 408.287.5994. There is no better duck call that I know of. If I could only own one duck call, it'd be an El Maurillo #8.
My blind at Pintail Point had a clapper rail that took up residence and could be seen foraging at close range most days. During our hunt on the season's last day, my buddy Ross motioned to me to look under my legs as we sat waiting for another batch of pintail to appear. On the blind's floor, right under me, stood the impertinent little marsh hen. She looked around to make sure there wasn't anything to eat, then she hopped out the door and stood on the concrete block that I use as a step.
She gave us a quick one-eyed glance, kind of like she knew we were after a different quarry. I imagined that she was thanking me for not letting some kid or yahoo shoot her out of boredom on one of this season's blue bird days.
"No problem," I thought to myself in her direction. What isn't legal or ethical isn't tolerated. When you hunt every day, the marginal shot or extra bird you take today would come in real handy tomorrow, next week, or next month.....just sayin'.
Ellen and I are due for a new Chessie puppy that we're trading hunts for. I got to hunt with our puppy-to-be's baby daddy, Beauregard, Jan 17th. His owner Joe, from MI, and I always seem to be lucky when we gun together. I got to watch Beau do some neat retrieving work as a result of twenty perfectly decoying red heads and many groups of pintail which ate us up off and on throughout the day. We lost more 'flutterers' than I would have liked due to the inefficiency of steel shot in high winds. On windy days, shooting steel shot, it sometimes seems that you have to keep shooting the same bird over and over until you finally break a wing.
So be it. I'm not shooting four dollar bullets and lead is illegal. This is a good reason that I believe guides serve a good purpose by shooting back up. And with this service, the guides limit isn't on the table if his gun's in a case...once again, just sayin'.
Ah, well, I'm starting to ramble. As I've been saying, it was an oddly successful waterfowl season. I give most all of the credit to our guides' professionalism. That and the fact that we're a bunch of ruthless rascals.
Good Lord willin' and the creek don't rise, we'll see ya'll again next year.
P.S. Our book, "My Life Pile" will be on this year's fall catalog with Schiffer Publishing. More soon, Vic and Ellen
Last week played out about as well as we could have hoped for weather-wise, and we harvested another 350 fowl as a result. The 34 pintail harvested 'happied up' numerous hunts and bodes well for the season's last week. We saw bunches of new puddlers.
We're hoping that the freezing occurring to the northeast will give us a final jolt of new migrators as a cap-off to an oddly successful gunning season. Never an organization that would 'look a gift horse in the mouth', we're extremely thankful for the lesser blue bills that have invaded coastal North Carolina in record shattering numbers this year.
Here's hoping for safe, memorable hunts and that all the extra puddle ducks that showed up last week grace our bags this week. We appreciate the patience shown for our 'blue bird' days. A good attitude begets good hunts and better memories.
I am searching for the El Marillo pintail whistles. The ones made of Brazillian rose wood. Anyone out there who knows where I might find some, let me know. I will buy 15.
Here's the start of a photo gallery of this season's hunts. thanks everyone! Ellen
Where does the time go? You turn around and, all of a sudden, there's only two weeks left in the duck season.
A guide service, run properly, needs to be a fluidly adaptive endeavor. This season has been a prime example of this principle. We still haven't received our usual compliment of puddle ducks that are expected during a typical migration. The silver lining to that cloud is that nearly a whole season's worth of puddlers are poised to move 'en masse' with the Eastern seaboard's next (first) freeze.
This next upcoming week will be highlighted by a slow-moving low that should form up off Florida and crawl up the coast throughout the week. Although it won't be the freeze with temperatures in the teens that we'd all endure for the birds produced, it should be raw enough to initiate some memorable shoots.
Last week saw a 'brutal' warming calm trend that saw our local puddler population lapse into a seeming species-wide coma of inactivity. Fortunately, this season has seen the most pervasive migration of lesser scaup in memory. As such, we were able to harvest 303 assorted waterfowl last week. 155 of those were lesser blue bills.
Because of the push provided by a year that is quickly becoming recognized as the year of the diver ducks, we surpassed the thousand fowl threshold last week. If our numbers pick up this week due to the Nor'easter that is brewing, we could still challenge OBW's total fowl per season record.
Last week we harvested fifteen species of fowl. If you're a birder, the small group of 'razor bills' seen at Oregon inlet would have resulted in a check mark on nearly any life list. They're in the same family as puffins and are normally found in the Atlantic ocean. As gunners, be aware, as they look a lot like hen buffleheads at first glance.
I've got to go write big checks to a truly stellar group of waterfowl guides.
Gunning is a bit slower than we've hoped for (isn't it always?), but we adapt and have productive hunts all week, albeit we also endure some slow ones.
Blue bills have moved into most of our gunning areas and are bailing us out as we wait for the bulk of the puddlers to arrive. In particular, Currituck is waiting for their teal and we at Oregon Inlet would love to see our widgeon. Most day's hunts include chances at pintail but not with the consistency of last season.
The good news is that there's still a lot to look forward to because there's still a bunch of fowl left to migrate. We're one freeze away from spectacular.
This past week we shot 199 fowl. Seventy two of those were blue bills (mostly lesser). We harvested 17 species. A highlight for me last week was guiding two different three-generational hunts. Nothing defines the positives of gunning more than a grandpa, dad and kid in a duck blind for a day's duck hunt.
When I add in your confirmation letters that I'd like you to bring us some nasty weather when you come to hunt with us.......I'm not kidding. Hard north winds are preferred.
Hi all! Just had a cancellation for this weekend. Fri/Sat Jan 4,5 for one party (up to 3 guns.) Call if those dates will work for you.
Ok, so we've had some pretty good days and some pretty slow days. A stretch of strong west winds hurt us, but generally everyone's getting some shooting.
So far in the last ten days, the guide service has shot pintail, gadwall, widgeon, mallards, red heads, canvas back, teal, bufflehead, ringnecks, swan, snow geese, brant, ruddy ducks, and 1 surf scoter and one black scoter.
Vic had an interesting day last Wednesday when he shot 2 pintail, 1 black duck, 1 widgeon and 2 gadwalls while hunting by himself on his day off. All he brought home was 1 pintail and 1 gadwall. Couldn't find the others. Could have used a dog!
So if you have a trip planned with us, bring some weather! Only dates open now are 1/2 and 1/9 for one party.
Hi Everybody. We're done with the early November season and looking into the meat of the final Dec./Jan. season.
We did better than could be expected in Nov. given the weather we had to work with and only a moderate number of hunters. Thirty two groups of gunners accounted for 196 fowl. Of that total, we accounted for 17 different species. Admittedly, the dippers (buffleheads) padded the numbers towards the end of November when the winds went calm and the full moon dominated.
I had a fun shoot early on, where myself and gunning partner knocked three drakes out of a flock of twenty perfectly pitching pintail, got a pair of gadwall, a lone drake mallard, and finally a single drake black duck out of a group of ten. Other than a single drake bufflehead that we couldn't resist, we passed on forty or fifty different buffleheads and a pair of hen pintail that pitched perfectly and swam around in our decoys for a half hour. We had other stuff to do, so we quit at 10:30.
This year we have a total of eleven guides and all are just about booked for the rest of the entire season. If we have ANY cancellations, we'll post the availability on the web site, so any of you who didn't book in time can keep an eye out and maybe we can still get you in this year.
As of today, we have room for: 12/15-2 groups, 12/17-3 groups, 12/18-3 groups, 12/19- 3 groups, 12/20-3 groups, 12/21-2 groups, 12/22- 2 groups, 12/26-3 groups, 12/29-2 groups, 12/31-3 groups, 1/1-2 groups, 1/15-1 group and 1/18-1 group. By group I mean one guide available who can care for one to three people.
All of us took last week off, but we'll be out again the end of this week sprucing up our blinds. I have a good feeling that this week before Christmas might be real fun if we get any kind of weather support at all.
Sorry I was so slow getting going with the updates, but we've been busy. Ellen and I finished up and submitted my first book to the publisher. I'm guessing that we should have the books in hand sometime around early summer. More on that later.
I want to personally thank all of our clients for your continued support. Our Outer Banks Waterfowl guiding family is super excited to get into the meat of the season and see what nature has in store for us this year. We hope you're already signed up and will take this ride, that is, another gunning season, with us.
Here's hoping you can keep your powder dry and your aim true. Hopefully, we'll see you soon!
Our best always, Ellen and Vic
Despite truly blue bird weather, the three guides who went out for opening day harvested 22 birds, with one group limiting out at 10AM. Pintail, widgeon, teal, shovellers, ring necks, buffleheads, a black scoter, and a couple mergansers were in the bags.
Blinds are ready, guides are ready, we have openings throughout Nov./Dec. but Jan. is getting pretty full. Open dates in Jan. are in the last update.
We now have a facebook page, (Outer Banks Waterfowl) so the more likes we get the better! Thanks, ellen
Well, we survived the storm relatively unscathed. Vic is out repairing and brushing blinds, but we wanted to let everyone know that we will be ready opening day!
Right now, we have dates open in November and December, except for Dec. 28 and 29 which are booked. In January we have dates open Jan. 1,2 and 14-18. The rest of the month is booked.
Lots of birds are here already, so if your schedule allows, give us a call and come hunting.
And, once again, we find ourselves at the dawn of another fowling season. Welcome to the 2012/13 water fowling season.
Despite last year's warm winter and south winds, we managed to put together another strong effort, with the final result being our second highest number of birds harvested in the thirty five year history of OBW. If you gunned with us last year, I hope you got your share of the one hundred ninety six pintail that the guide service brought to bag. Nothing 'happies' up a cold duck blind like a couple or a few big bull pintail! I'd be willing to bet that almost every one of the pintail shot last year were drakes.
The breeding success of most duck species this summer has added up to fabulous prospects for us fowlers this winter. In a bit of irony, our guide service may pare itself back a bit.
At the end of last season we found ourselves with thirteen full a part time guides averaging eight two and three man groups per day.
I haven't talked to all the guides yet, but a few of them won't be available this season due to injury, legal issues or hoped for greener pastures. As of this writing, I can guarantee only six or seven quality guides per day. As a result, we will book up earlier than usual so available dates are at a premium. I have put out feelers for another guide or two, but I won't book their slots until I've made sure their blinds, equipment and attitudes are up to our clients' expectations.
I apologize for not keeping up with the website this summer, but I signed a book contract this past March. I've just finished my first book of hunting stories based on my half century of water fowling and running a duck hunting guide service.
Writing a book is a slow process with the emphasis being on slow. It'll probably be next summer before we have an actual book on our hands, but be patient. From the folks' reaction who've had a chance to preview the manuscript, all have found it difficult to put down once they've started reading it. Fingers crossed...we'll keep you posted.
We did raise our rates to $185/person this season; up ten dollars to help our guides keep up with the cost of fuel. All of the price raise will go to the guides.
Give us a call. With the exception of one art show in Newport News, VA, I won't be doing anything but hunting, building duck blinds and brushing the afore-mentioned blinds.
We can't wait to see how this season unfolds...hope you can share some of it with us!
-Vic and Ellen
and all the guides.
What an odd season. Almost no extreme weather. The only extreme winds we did get were from the south and west. Virtually no winds from the north or east. Yet our yearly tally rates as the second best ever with 1586 birds taken to date. We should nudge over the 1600 fowl mark by the end of 'youth day' this Saturday.
We never really suffered from a lack of birds. Rather, it was a lack of weather. This really is a testament to the quality of the guides (and their blinds) who have assembled within the framework of Outer Banks Waterfowl Guide Service.
A population explosion of buffleheads and a generous portion of the Atlantic flyway's pintail and red head population didn't hurt. Say what you will about shooting buffleheads, but I'm glad to have 'em. On good, ducky days you pass on 'em. On slow days, you don't.
A three man limit of 18 drake buffs is a beautiful sight. Throw in how tasty they are due to their diet of local wild celery grass and add to that how challenging a target they are due to their speed and size and you'll have to agree that having the option to shoot them is a wonderful thing.
And I'm not blowing sunshine when I talk about the gastronomical attributes of these tough little flyers. They're tasty! The way we fix them is super easy and quick.
Peel the skin back and expose the breast meat. Fillet the two breast segments off the bone. Cut the meat into bite sized pieces, 2-3 pieces per breast segment. Soak these pieces in teriyaki sauce with a little ginger added for snap. Now. Lay the soaked, bite sized chunks on a half a strip of bacon, top with a sliced water chestnut and roll up and skewer. Grill the skewers till the bacon is cooked. Folks who swear they'd never eat game will knock each other over getting at them when these little nuggets are pulled off the grill. Others who like more heat add jalapeno slices prior to cooking. Either way, the texture and taste of duck rumaki is reminiscent of little filet mignons.
Anyway, 642 buffs if you're counting. Out of 1596, which is our updated and final count total for the 2011-12 gunning season. Justin's group harvested 10 fowl on Youth Day. All teal and pintail. A really nice way to end the surprisingly strong season.
I guess that what worked best for us this year was the pace at which the birds made themselves available. Mallards, gadwall and widgeon showed up first, then a bunch of shovellers. Then a couple weeks later, Currituck got their teal. They lasted only a disappointingly short couple of weeks before the bulk of them moved on. Next the pintail and bufflehead migrated in around Thanksgiving through the beginning of the main season in December. Thankfully, the two of them stuck around in really good numbers through the end of the season.
For good measure, we got a fairly decent push of red heads and blue bills the last couple of weeks. Nothing like last year, but extremely welcome at season's end.
I guess that the waterfowl season kind of mirrored my dear season. I managed to limit out but to do so I really had to hunt hard and shoot well (and earlier and later and longer) to do it. Nothing seemed to come easy. No gimmies. But in the end, the freezer ended up being full. And some awesome memories were added to reflect on in my dotage.
Raw data from the season.
Bookings are up. Completely booked by around mid-December. We added three new guide as stand ins. Damned if they're not as awesome as our other guys! We'll add 'em to the mix, but that's it.
As appreciation for another strong year, Ellen and I gave each guy one of our carvings. Better than a dozen carvings this year. Ellen says that that's all the carvings we can do in a season, so that's as big as we're going to get.
Any way. By the numbers. 1596 total fowl is our second strongest total over a period of 35 years, second only to last year's tally. I'm kind of glad that last year's tally remains the standard as we shot a lot more 'big ducks' last season. I'd feel like adding an asterisk with the number of buffleheads taken this campaign.
We harvested 22 species this year. That's off by 4 or 5. Federal bans were scarcer this year also, with only 4 recovered.
One of the great ironies of the year occurred when one of our gunners downed the second waterfowl of his life at the ripe young age of 62. A gorgeous little green wing teal drake. Yeah. You guessed already, didn't you? The second duck ever taken by this gentleman's got 'bling.' When his guide showed him the federal band the response was,
"Is that a good thing?"
Our top ten species taken this season along with the total taken are: buffleheads (642), pintail, nearly all of them are drakes (194), teal (142), widgeon (98), red heads (71), blue bills -greater and lesser- (60), gadwall (59), black ducks (41), mallards (38) and shovellers (23). We also harvested 22 swan and 21 assorted geese. (I failed to mention the 80 combined mergansers.)
Of course, according to the guides, we probably should have shot about 10 times these numbers. It's so easy when your only responsibility is calling the shots. Jamie's and my whiff on a flock of thirty pintail illustrates that hits and misses are equals part of a day afield. Those 'Dammit' moments and the vague ache for a do-over that never quite seems to go away, I believe that is why we keep coming back for more.
Speaking about coming back for more. A special word has got to go out to a regular of our own. Ten years ago a 19 year old decided that he'd like to take up waterfowling. Danged if he didn't save up his own money and book the trips on his own. Now fast-forward to ten years later. Chris Price just completed the challenging North American 32 by taking a drake Barrow's Goldeneye off of the Washington State coast this December. In the meantime, along with his trips to gun with us, trips to Florida, Texas, California and Alaska, and I believe Canada were necessary to complete the task. Chris told me when he visited this year that it'll be nice to get back to just fun hunting. Being so species specific cost him big time on occasion.
Oh yeah. And nobody's quite clear on the thinking behind this decision. Chris accomplished his quest using only the 20 guage that he grew up with.
"You go boy!
I've got to wrap this up. Ellen's got to type it up and get it on the website and I detected a bit of a snarl when she saw the pile of pages that I've produced.
Thanks' everybody for another memorable year.
Vic, Ellen and the crew.
We're in the thick of it now.
Full moon week (last) can really tax a hunting service. The fowl go nocturnal if conditions are calm enough.
We got through it better than we feared due to cloud cover and rain early in the week and a gale and temperature drop late in the week.
The gale on the thirteenth (Friday, of course) pretty well kicked our asses and, due to a justifiable fear of drowning, could only get a handful of our gunners out. Those of us who could get out were fortunate to have a lee to hide out in. As far as the gunning went, we pretty much hunkered down and endured the best we could.
Saturday the winds returned from 50 mph westerly gusts to a more workable 20-25mph nor'wester. Gunning rebounded nicely on Saturday as we harvested 83 fowl; 13 species. We surpassed 1000 total fowl on Wednesday.
Pintail continue to bail us out. Nothing happies-up a slow day like decoying pinnies. Most all harvested are drakes.
Divers are starting to show up. Both greater and lesser blue bills throwing themselves at decoys more and more frequently. Some big wads of red heads. A few cans for a lucky few.
Numerous emails from our gunners returning home from their hunts last week reporting that the north is finally freezing up.
"Expect migrators," is the recurring theme.
Yea. And just in time. We'd just about educated this last wave of migrators. No telling what'll show up this week. Can't wait to see.
Gotta go. It's past 10:30 on Sunday night and a busy week looms.
926 total fowl to date.
Another week in the books and we're managing to plug along. No better than that. Not up to last year's totals-yet-but with the weather we're doing better than you'd think we had a right to.
We bring 198 fowl to bag last week. The best news is that 52 of the total are pintail, almost all of which are drakes. Only 4 of the 198 are mergansers.
We got a nice little infusion of puddlers with last week's cold snap. Despite south winds and temps near 70 degrees on Friday and Saturday, those days turn out to produce the week's better hunts. Nothing gang-busters (there were a couple of bufflehead massacres), but enjoyable 5-10 puddler bags, heavy on the pintails.
This week we'll have to contend with a full moon, but two of the next three days call for clouds and rain. Yes. Standing in rain is better than clear skies when factored in with a full moon. I'm hoping for decent shoots early in the week and then another front is due to affect us later in the week.
I've got ducks to clean. Gotta go. We're still waiting for our first good Nor-easter. I've got a feeling things will bust wide open for the groups who get to gun on the days when our winds finally go north and the skies cloud up.
There's still a pile of birds up north. We're into the meat of the season now and can't wait to see what's on tap for the rest of the year.
Hopefully, we'll see you soon. Otherwise, book early next year.
This email I received was such a great story, decided to use it as a partial update for this week. More from Vic soon, I'm sure. No cancellations as of now. thanks all, e
Dear Vic and Ellen,
Just two days removed from a most satisfying experience, I thought I'd better put it down while it still burns fresh in my memory. I find that at 56 years young, the edges of recall fray a little more quickly than they used to do. My hunting partners on this trip, Bill M. and Russ C., don't yet suffer that affliction.
Our two days hunting with you were most challenging and enjoyable. Tuesday's (Dec 27) started out with one eye on the approaching front, and one eye on the teal-sized mosquitos that seemed to be intent on being gunned. More than once, I flinched at he movement of a mosquito out of the corner of my eye, hoping the long-awaited ducks had finally shown. Not to be, the day progressed into some serious squalls moving through, and the only birds taken were 2 of 3 widgeon which were looking for a place to get down out of the 40+ mph wind gusts. None-the-less, it was a great day full of conversations, plenty of good eats, and expectations that at any minute, the air would fill with birds.
Wednesday started out with a little trepidation as we headed south to hunt with Les at his Gull Shoals blind. When we began to launch the boat, his comment that "Haven't seen the water this high this year" would prove to be foreshadowing of the day to come. After a slower than usual boat ride due to the strong WSW wind, we made it down to the blind just at legal shooting time. As the decoys were being deployed, we watched several groups of birds pass nearby, and the thought couldn't help but come to mind that we had missed our best chances of the day. Finally settling into the blind 20 minutes after legal, we proceeded to watch a nearly empty sky. The water was indeed high. In fact, every third wave or so would splash against the floor of the blind, sending a spurt of water up to wet our guns, glasses and anything else within reach. The wind was stiff enough that the waves were breaking over the decoys for most of the morning. Our hope was that the forecast would be correct, that the winds would ease mid-morning, and allow the water to recede from it's 18 inch depth to a more enticing 12 inches or less. Around 8 am, Les looked back over his shoulder, and alerted us to a 6-pack of brant sitting down in our upwind decoys. A quick adjustment and soon 5 the 6 were in the bag. Alright now, the day is looking up. But the action did not pick up. Instead, the few birds that even gave us a glance, would not work. Hmm, something not quite right. Les decided to make the effort and proceeded to re-locate the boat another few hundred yards away. He also kept encouraging us by stating that the action on some of his best days had come between 10am - 2pm. That comment raised a few eyebrows in our group. It mattered not. We were there for the duration, so bring it on. At 9:55 am, we still had not fired a shot at a duck. The two other groups in our area had seen no action, so they picked up and left. Thank goodness they did. A little after 10 am, we noticed the wind had slowed enough that the whitecaps eased, and the water ebbed a few inches. Like someone ringing the dinner bell, here came the birds. Not in big flocks, but in very huntable groups of from 1 - 8. In the next 4+ hours, we nearly wore our poor guide out retrieving birds, and chasing cripples. Being the "expert marksmen" we were in the 20 mph wind, I don't believe we actually had more than 1 or 2 clean kill shots. Sorry about that Les.
When the day was drawing to a close, it was hard to conceal the expressions of satisfaction we all felt. We had taken some of the advice you have offered on your website, about being ready when opportunity presents itself, or the difference in a 2-bird day and a 10-bird day is a matter of concentration. When we were taking pictures of our bag-of-birds, we all realized that days like this one don't come along too often. Our final tally: 5 brant, 7 bull pintail, 4 widgeon, 3 redheads, and 1 gadwall, and a head full of memories will that last a lifetime. No one has days like this all the time. We're not supposed to. But maybe it's the thought that such days can appear without warning is what keeps us coming back to the blind, and to the wild birds we love to pursue.
Thanks again for running a first-class operation. The guides you employ have all proven to be professional and pleasant.
I look forward to returning next year. Until then, be safe and stay healthy. Regards, Steve S.
Dec. 17th, opening day for our third waterfowl season opens auspiciously. A nice north wind, cloud cover and intermittent showers get the fowl moving all day. Everybody shoots well, six groups harvest 89 big ducks.
By Monday, all that weather has passed and we're left with clears skies, passive winds and high pressure which puts the big ducks into a collective coma. Then the mosquitoes wake up and by the end of the week the little blood suckers are about to drain our gunners dry of our vital bodily fluids. The gunners in turn, take out their frustrations our diminutive divers, the buffleheads.
The good news for last week is that the guide service harvests 214 fowl. The more telling number is 160, which is the number of buffleheads that come out of the week's total. Yea. Mock us if you must, but we're glad to have the little divers. They fill in nicely on an otherwise slow day. And the week in general can be summed up in one word. Massacre. If you were here you know what I mean. There were some fast and furious shoots that one can't help but enjoy. My favorite total of the week came out of Oregon Inlet. (The main setting for "the Great Christmas Bufflehead Massacre"). One group limited out with 18 buffleheads, 17 of which were drakes. They were done and heading home by 9:30AM. Woo! Hoo! I don't care who you are, that is fun!
I had a group of four gunners in my "Sky Box" blind on Wednesday. By ten till eight AM we're sitting on 17 buffleheads. We decide to impose a B.H. moratorium to see if we can harvest some big ducks. By 10:30 we've given that up and we're limited out with 24 buffs, have gathered up a half bushel of raw oysters and are heading home. All on a calm, 70 degree clear day. That's called making the most of an otherwise blue bird day.
Now we're up to Monday of week 2 of our main fowling season. Back to a good NNW wind and cold temps. The buffleheads get a break and we're back to shooting big puddlers. Mostly widgeon, blacks, pintail and teal. Ducks fly off and on all day. We see thousands during the course of the day at the inlet. Last week was all about blue bird weather. Bring us some of the nasty variety and you'll see what I mean. For those who have yet to hunt this season, fear not. There are plenty of fowl around and many more which have yet to migrate. See y'all soon. Bring us some nasty, freezing weather, some warm clothes and a couple boxes of bullets and let's see what the fowling fates have in store for our hunt. We can hardly wait. See you soon, drive carefully and we'll share some marsh time.
Happy Holidays from Vic and Ellen and the OBW family of guides!
And we're off! 2011/12 waterfowling is set to run six days a week right up to January 28th. And not a day less. All of our guides have had to replace every blind at our disposal. Most of us have spent every free moment since the first of October reconstructing duck blinds.
And get this. The day before the season reopens, I finish my last blind. I hunt yesterday's opening (a fun shoot for the entire service, six blinds harvested 89 fowl) and when I arrive at the dock in the evening there's a Park Ranger waiting for me.
"Are you Mr. Berg? You are. Well it seems that one of your blinds is in the wrong place. It's going to have to be moved."
Oh well. How bad can it be to de-brush, deconstruct, pump up the pilings, then move all-aforementioned to the new location (hopefully only as far as 50 feet) where the pilings can be re-pumped down and set, the flooring system rebuilt, the walls reset and finally the whole thing re-brushed?
Yeah. How hard should that be.
We all saw plenty of fowl on opening day, Saturday. But then, Saturday dawned nice and cloudy with a steady 15-25 mph NNW wind and spitting showers. The clouds and wind lasted right up to dusk. In the blind I was in I don't believe there was more than a ten minute span where there were not ducks in sight all day long.
The birds really didn't decoy all that well, but it was fun seeing so many ducks in the air. The 500 bird flock of pintail that swarmed up off the refuge pond and flew over our heads at a hundred yards was a highlight even though we didn't get a shot off at them. We'll get them this week or next. Either way, I'll be there to see it. It's what drives all of us guides.
We'll all sit through every slow moment of a long season just to insure that we're there to see the really cool stuff. I hope you can all take home special memories that can last a lifetime. We'll be doing our best to make it happen for you.
We hope that everyone who wanted to has already booked with us, because we have booked all 11 guides every day that they want to work for the entire season.
For those who haven't booked, please keep an eye on the web site for any possible cancellations. Please feel free to email or call in your address to be on our mailing list. We'll only send you one postcard per year when our upcoming waterfowl seasons are announced.
Happy hunting. If you can gain even one intense outdoor experience on a trip, you've made yourself more wealthy as a person. I think 'the moment' of our opening day was the eight redheads dropped out of a flock of eighty that pitched to one of our blinds. If you're lucky enough to live that moment, you'll never forget it. And you can't live it if you're not in the blind. Good luck! Vic
As Grandpa Vern used to say, "Holy jump up and sit down!"
I've been (we've been) non-stop duck blind building for the last month and a half. And when you're tired of duck blind building you get to start on duck blind brushing.
Irene removed from the face of the earth very nearly every duck blind from Morehead City northward to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. To exacerbate things, all the wild coastal flora suffered a double whammy of salt wash and hurricane winds so that the brush I would normally brush my blinds with have been picked clean to the stems. Every leaf is gone.
Now don't get me wrong, it's not a huge deal. I've been able to locate a stand of the same bayberry shrubs inland of the coast, and the ducks don't care. Native shrubbery only lasts about three and a half weeks though before it needs to be freshened with more, freshly cut bayberry. Only now I've got to make another couple of trips to get it every time. Six to ten foot pine saplings are at a premium and are about to get even more precious when all the locals try to finish up all their blinds over the two week closed season prior to the Christmas break.
One of my guides, Graham summed it up best when, as I am savaging his scrap wood pile for the umpteenth time in search of just one more floor system. He comments that this year is already gaining fame for the pure volume of construction. My best purchase of the season so far is the high dollar fifteen ounce framing hammer. I haven't been able to drive past a Home Depot in better than a month.
Okay. Enough with the whining. Besides, I never paid my whining fee. Here's the low down on the ducks.
November has been largely typical in that there are some of the best days as well as some of the slowest. And I apologize as nothing seems as slow as a clear and calm November day. Temps in the 70's and up to 80. I was worked the most cruelly by mosquitoes the other day than I've been in the last 30 years.
I was sharing the blind with Russ M. who was recently back from filming and producing the show on the Weather Channel, "Coast Guard, Alaska." Even he was impressed by the ferocity and tenacity of the aerial attack. It was one of those glass-still mornings with mosquitoes and no-see-ums both. We finally give up around 1:30. The varmints never backed off all day. Russell did score on a beautifully decoying double with his Baretta over and under just before we called it quits. Some things are worth the wait.
Speaking about being worth the wait. The bitter irony award was achieved recently when 3 fellows made an 8 hour drive, but then got discouraged by a slow morning during their hunt and decided to quit at 11:00. They were gunning with, Justin, and despite his counsel that he'd been getting strong teal flights in the evening, they went on anyway.
Well. Yada, yada, yada. Justin goes back out after he drives his gunners back to the dock. Before the day's legal gunning hours are spent he has to pack up for home, because he's already limited out. One drake out of a flock of four pintails and then five teal out of the five flocks of thirty to seventy that pitch into his decoys. He just watches the last few flocks.
Oh well, live and learn. Or not. I don't have to make this stuff up. Booking for 35 years, 2 months a year, I get to witness many of life's poignant lessons and ironies. Sometimes it pays to listen to your guide. I'm just sayin'.....
And remember, in hunting things can and often do, go right in a hurry. Look down for a second and then glance back up.
"There they are! Locked up and pitching into the decoys." And then, mysteriously things bizarrely go right. Two birds cross on your first shot and you dump them. You pick out the next drake and he crumples. Same on your third shot. You look at your partner and he's had similar success. High fives.
Some'd call you lucky, but they'd probably be the ones who didn't let their luck play out.
On slow days-and if you've ever gunned with me you've heard me say it time and again-my mantra is, "Any second now. They're going to fall from the sky! It's going to be Byoo-ti-ful! Funny thing is, you'll probably never get better gunning advice as the point is, it can't happen back at the hotel or during a grumpy ride home.'
We're seeing more fowl every day. We've already collected fifteen species and are nearing two hundred fowl. Bring us some weather and you can have an awesome shoot. Don't and things get slower. But, you never know. Things could go terribly right at any second. Vigilance and patience are very often the virtues that ,all other things being equal, give you the winning edge.
Ellen here. Things have been rather hectic for Vic what with building blinds and deer hunting, so he has not had time to do an update, so here goes.
Yes, the birds are here. Pintails, mallards, red heads, blue bills, teal, gadwalls, widgeons and a ring neck have all been harvested so far, with newly migrating flocks arriving daily. With the right weather, we'll have some good shoots.
Right now we have the following dates available: Nov. 28-Dec. 1. Dec. 26 and 27. Jan. 2-5, 9-11 and 25 and 26. If any of those dates will work for you, give me a call and we'll set it up.
While typing this, one of the guides called in with a limit by 8:40 this morning. 5 teal, 2 blue bills, 1 ring neck, 2 mallards, 2 buffle heads and they lost a drake pintail, teal and a blue bill. And it's a nice sunny, albeit chilly windy morning. Not bad.
Hope to see you! Ellen
Hi guys. Business first. Our success the last few years (Let's say 35 to be exact) isn't a secret anymore and the guide service is booking up nicely. We've still got room but if you want to gun with us this season you'd better get on it.
The entire service was booked by Jan. 3 last year and this season is booking way quicker than ever before. Good thing too, because (hurricane) Irene kicked our butts. All of the Outer Banks lost pretty much every duck blind on it, end to end.
Not to worry though, we're utilizing all the resources at our disposal and getting the blinds built back better, sturdier and warmer than ever.
We have our entire crew of guides back from last year. Who'd want to quit a job where you get to ride around in boats and help people appreciate our natural heritage, while exercising their hunting skills?
We look forward to your arrivals over the next few months and the adventures that will transpire. I'm sure the hunts and stories that come out of this season will be told and retold over the next decade just as they have been shared from decades passed.
A person can either help make history or they can read what others write about it. Talk to your buddies. Make some plans and give us a call. This year, help us by being the people who live the stories that will be talked about for seasons to come.
We're ready, call us!
Vic and Ellen
So we made it through the storm. Major damage in the shop, but minor at home. We're gearing up for this season. There is sure to be alot of blind repair/replacing going on soon, but we will be ready for you. Postcards should go out in the next week or so. Have lots of early bookings this year. Jan. 6 and 7 is already booked solid. If you have a large group, it would be good to get your dates settled and give us a call. Thanks to all for all the good wishes! Vic would have answered your texts if he knew how. Not too tech savvy! e
To all the people who have emailed, texted, facebooked or called, thank you all for the good wishes! We are boarded up in our little 'hurricane house', have lots of food and supplies, generator and chainsaw, boat, etc. As soon as I can, I will post our status on this site as well as facebook. Lots of blinds are going to need to be replaced, but rest assured they will be ready for your hunt! Hope to see you all this season!
Hi all. Vic's thinking about writing a novel. Here's one of the chapters for your perusal. We are getting an unusually high number of early bookings this year, so if you have a large group, get up with them about the dates you want, and give me a call. Also, we're looking for pictures for this year's postcard. If anyone has one they think would be good for that purpose, send it to my email. Please downsize pictures to small or medium. We're trying to update our mailing list to include emails, so if I don't have yours, could you send it to me? Thanks and look forward to seeing everyone again this season! ellen
Working title "Pintail Point"
"So, other than hunting ducks, this marsh ain't worth nothing is it?"
"What?" The question kind of catches me off guard. "I wouldn't say it that way, but now that you have I'll have to agree. This marsh most certainly isn't worth nothing. Far from it as a matter of fact."
"That's what I thought," Dude continues on, double negatives and all. "You say you can't build anything on the marsh because it's a protected environment. Cause of the salt water, you can't grow crops." Dude shoots me a side-long glance. I surmise a kind of an 'he's just too lazy to plant crops in a salt water environment' kind of look.
On cue he continues. "I'll bet there's some crop that'll grow out here. You should figure a way to grow crops to feed the ducks." Without missing a beat, Dude keeps the narrative nattering negatively along. "When are we going to get more shots? If you'd figure a way to grow crops on the marsh, we wouldn't have to wait like this."
"Dude's just about gotten under my final layer of skin," I muse to myself in the quiet of my thoughts. " MUST NOT RISE TO BAIT!" I command myself in my mind. I bite back the snappy retort and instead occupy myself with focusing on the area of sky above and on either side of the Bodie Island lighthouse. Early afternoons, like this is, that air space is where I expect our next opportunity at a shot to come from.
My communication skills are kind of hampered by the fact that I can't recollect Dude's name. Went right in one ear and out the other this freezing predawn when I shake his hand and introduced myself to him in the 7-11 convenience store parking lot.
"Shit," I think to myself. "Anybody who knows guides knows that their brains are full in the morning. People can die if we screw up. A guide thinks of little else until the boat is launched, we're safely to our hunting blind and every one of the 107 decoys in the boat have been placed and anchored precisely to my liking. No help from anybody. I'll just have to touch everything they might do to try to help. Nothing personal," I console myself. "I'll take help picking them up this evening, but setting decoys in predawn's dark, things have to be done right. Otherwise when the day dawns,you find the tides and the wind are working agin' one another and things aren't right. Birds won't "pitch" and you're not so much hunting as you are just sitting out in the cold," I conclude self righteously to myself.
"Dude's, a better name for him any way," I continue in the privacy of my brain, "Dude,is a dude. A shooter and a body piler-upper. Certainly not a sportsman. No student of nuance, this one. He's been doing this negative stream-of-consciousness thing since before light. Jeez. Is this what being a duck slut feels like?" Quiet reflection doesn't seem to be working so well for me.
"Wild celery grass." I say it all of a sudden, then not anything else.
Takes Dude by surprise. Just the three words. He's flummoxed by the silence after. Before he can rev up again, I continue.
"A thousand acres of it, created by a just and loving God and put in front of us right up to the shoreline. Best natural food for wild waterfowl in the world. When the water drops out, ducks swarm to it and gorge themselves. Today's not that day, though. Sorry about that." I continue quickly to try and keep Dude from returning to the negative.
"Today, because of the west in the wind, the water's high. When the water's high, the marshes flood, especially around the refuge's ponds. When the refuge floods, seeds, bugs and other stuff are floated up." I warm to my subject, but know better that to let the lecture lag.
"A bird's like any other critter. He's going to feed where he can get the most nutrients for the least amount of effort. Throw in not getting shot in the face, and that's why gunning's slow today. Oh. That and it's a clear and sunny fall day on the eve of a hugely full, harvest moon."
"You just need to relax. We're already doing better than we have a right to expect on a monumentally 'blue bird' day like this is." I can't help but getting in a little dig as I keep on with my edification.
"If it was me and my murderous bastard buddies hunting here today, we'd have six or seven good birds in the box already. That hen pintail and gadwall you've got will feed you and your family another day. So. Like I said, relax. We'll get some more shots, or at least we've got a better chance here than we would back at the hotel."
"By the way," I add, a cold look to my eyes. "I've had a chance to think about it and what you said earlier about the marsh being worth nothing is nothing but simple........."
Thankfully (because what I was just about to say was going to have a serious effect on my tip this evening), at that moment, I spy five widgeon over the light house. 500 yards out. 300 yards up, wing's already cupped and coming right at us from the refuge. Past beautiful and straight to spectacular was that pitch by those widgeon.
I'd like to say that at that moment fowl began to flood to us. And we shoot limits. And Dude, of a second, gets it.
That it's not the pile of death and feathers that matter, but the celebration of life that we get to experience en route to another fine meal of healthy wild game provided by ourselves, our patience and our skills....But I don't get to say that.\
Dude doesn't get it. Probably to this day. Whiffs on the five widgeon and another pair of drake pintail just before sunset as well. For me though, it's but another beautiful day at Pintail Point.
Turns out that Dude's family won't eat ANY wild game. He's too.......whatever.......to cook for himself. So, at the end of the day, I get his birds, the thirty fat oysters that I picked up when I went for a wander at mid-day to escape the nattering for a while and the cash paid for guiding.
Absolutely. This marsh most certainly ain't worth nothin'.
I've been reluctant to begin a new season of updates as I hate letting go of last season. Over all. Just a record year. As they say, however, records are meant to be broken.
Let us now commence with the 2011-2012 season.
Okay. But just one last recap. Really, I mean it. This is the absolute last recap from last year ever. Period.
Start in June. Nice catches of speckled trout just prior to Ellen and I heading to Alaska for the month of July. One nice limit of specks while fishing on my own stands out in my memory.
Catch all the sock eye salmon I want while working with Justin in Charlie's Alaska camp. I also catch and release a life-time fish for me. A gorgeous native Alaskan rainbow trout that measures 25 inches. Rounding out our Alaskan guide adventure, I have several fun sessions with the native grayling.
Honing my fly-fishing skills is fun using the Clearwater fly rod and Battenkill reel that I got from Orvis just for the Alaska trip.
We also see several moose (Charlie calls them 'rubber nosed tundra donkeys') and more 1000 lb. brown bear way closer than comfort dictates.
Back from Alaska to little summer-time fish. The surf kicks up pretty well as soon as I get home, however and seems to break well all the way into November when I stop surfing to concentrate on gunning and blind building. Many awesome epic days too numerous to count.
I have a poor dove opening due in most part to lack of effort. I'm more than content being on my farms and scouting deer. I have an awesome deer season. Shoot five. Whiff on three, including the eight pointer at 35 yards. I pass on ten or twelve smaller bucks. Should see bigger bucks this year. I'll hope.
Deer season blends into just about the best duck season ever. The guide service tops out with new records for nearly every total you can think of. Our overall of 1675 is going to be tough to beat. Especially if you factor in that the new record beat OBW's old 35 year old record by 170 fowl.
Personally, I have a good average year with my gunners, friends and I accounting for around 250 of the guide service's total. The 2 triples on widgeon and several doubles on drake pintail still have me glowing. Whiffing on the European widgeon still stings.
Then comes the spring gobbler season. I've tried for turkey before. My buddy Wayne shows me the ropes this year. On our first day we see a dozen or so birds. After sitting on the edge of a cornfield for 7 hours, a beautiful male bird finally commits suicide by Vic. He sports a 9 3/4 inch beard and one inch spurs.
The following week, I apply what I've learned from Wayne and bag an even bigger bird who sports a 10 1/2 inch beard and 1 1/4 inch spurs. The second Tom has to be coaxed to my hen decoys and takes almost 10-12 minutes to work his way into range. I nearly have a stroke as I watch the big Tom gobble, strut and sashay his way into shotgun range.
Dispatching both fowl with my 100 year old Fulton side-by-side only serves to make the whole production even more special. Finally having a use for the 2 3/4 in copper-coated lead mini-max shotgun shells is priceless. I've had them since lead was legal.
It's like I tell Ellen. It's awesome to have saved something as cool as bagging my first gobbler for a point this far along in my life.
Good Lord willin' and the creek don't rise, I hope to make spring gobbler season a highly anticipated event for as long as I am able.
While researching all things turkey, I've come up with several things that you all might find interesting.
The general consensus is that you should not freeze turkey. Do not save it, enjoy it now. We take this advice to heart and call friends to join us in sharing our bounty.
Over a period of 3 weeks, we have wild turkey every which way. we soon find that when cleaned and prepared properly, wild turkey meat is similar to the best, most tender pork loin you've ever experienced. As such, Ellen goes wild and prepares:
Carribean jerked turkey with mango salsa and served with wild rice with toasted pecans and raisins.
She smokes some several different ways. Once with apple wood and another time with some of my buddy Greg's wild cherrywood. Serves them both with raspberry black peppercorn sauce.
Pan sauteed and deglazed with white wine and topped with a marmalade/dijon/peppercorn sauce.
Cubed and k-babbed with peppers, onions and root veggies in Mediteranean marinade and grilled, then served over wild rice with Ellen's homemade Tzaziki sauce.
Another way centered around fresh pears. We don't remember the recipe as Ellen makes it up as she goes. She uses whatever is on hand at the moment. It's an awesome meal. Sorry you missed it.
I've also reproduced directions on how to create and use a 'wing-bone' turkey call. I've made 4 of them. Start to finish it takes about 2 hours to make one. I've hung my wing-bone yelpers on a lanyard along with the leg spurs. a cool little trophy that I keep hanging on my truck's rear view mirror. Close and private enough for practicing. I'm finally feeling pretty confident in my yelping skills.
We'll see next year if all goes according to plan.
BEST GUESS:DUCK SEASON 2011-2012
This year's calendar is only one day off from last year's, so I feel fairly confident in predicting this year's gunning dates. 1) November 12-December 3
2) December 17-January 28.
Speckled trout has been way down this year. Aren't even allowed to keep any till June 15 as the trout populations were pounded by this winter's hard freezes. Smatterings hither and yon, but nothing big so far.
Cobia, as usual, is on again-off again. Contending with the wildfire just to the west of us has proven challenging. The smoke makes spotting fish that much harder and in general, is a real pain in the butt. Also, by the time the migration reaches our area, the fish have been hammered hard.
One of the tackle shop owners said it best when he remarked that by the time the bait is 25 feet in the air and halfway to the fish, he's already turned and flared away from you. They're getting really shy.
Flounder fishing is starting off with more keepers than usual. Sheepshead aren't here yet. Spanish Mackeral are all over the place south of here. Rockfish are gone. Tons of hound fish on the grass flats for sport.
Anyway, we're open for business. Start talking to your buddies and give us a call.
Our rates will be the same as last year. $175/man/day. Thanks for everything!
1675 fowl. And yes, swans to coot, they all count the same. After 33 years, it is real fun to be in on rewriting OBW's record books.
More redheads than ever. My best guess puts this year as the second best (to the '81/82 season) for gadwall as well. A near record year for teal, bluebills (scaup) and pintail. Plus 2 Eurasion widgeon and a 'storm' widgeon.
Personally, I score a triple on widgeon. Twice!
Collectively. An awesomely efficient season. Pro guides acting like professionals. On time. Well maintained equipment and blinds. Knowledgeable. Prepared. Positive. A near six week cold spell helps too. I'm proud of our crew. They make this service thrive after more than three decades.
1675 fowl. Whew! 302 scaup (total 261 lessers and 41 greaters). Rounding out our top ten species you'll find 255 green winged teal, 171 pintails, 161 gadwall, 150 widgeon (including the 2 Eurasion and 'storm), 148 redheads, 123 buffleheads, 71 mallards, 64 ruddies and 53 blacks.
There are 27 species taken. 28 if the Eurasion counts as a separate species.
Besides the aforementioned widgeon, our scarcest birds taken are one each of blue winged teal, a blallard (black/mallard mix), an alleged mute swan, a common eider, a goldeneye (common) and a wood duck.
Canvasbacks are still scarce. We score on only ten all season. All but two are beautiful drakes though.
Nearly all the pintails taken are drakes. Two per man/day is a great improvement over years past. Thanks.
Our best one day total occurs on Dec. 28th. 102 fowl are harvested. I have a stomach ailment that day and let Justin and Graham gun the Inlet in my absence. Between their 2 parties, they account for 38 of the total and 11 species. Dag, I'm a good sacrifice. Sheesh!
Our best week also coincides with Christmas week (12/27-1/1/11) We down 316 fowl that week. To be fair, that is also our busiest week.
We score on only, I think, 4 federal bird bands all season. (3 teal and a mallard).
I hear of 6 Eurasion widgeon this season. One each taken in Corolla, Currituck Sound, Kitty Hawk Bay, Oregon Inlet's Cat Shoal, Mann's Harbor (near Sawyer's Creek), and one that I whiff on while gunning my Herring Shoal Marsh in Oregon Inlet.
One of my hunters spoke with a biologist the other day. He mentions that on the average, you find only one Eurasion per 125,000 total widgeon. The "Storm" widgeon is the first verified specimen that I've ever seen or heard of directly.
Some other superlatives and reflections from 2010/2011.
My Benelli Nova. It doesn't cost the most or look the prettiest, but it does shoot day in and day out. And it shoots where I point it too.
Heat packs still rule. They don't cost much and they surely take the ache out of your fingers on the cold days that we live with this year.
My vintage Fulton side-by-side. It's unique in that one barrel is an improved cylinder choke and the other barrel is a full choke. The two chokes are so disparate that the gun is more like carrying 2 single shots.
Anyway, I love shooting the old thing, but we all know better than to shoot modern steel shot out of an old gun.
I do own a case of 2 and 3/4 tungsten #5 shot which works as well as lead shot used to. Problem is, the danged stuff is costly. Like around $3.50/shot costly.
Empty both barrels......7 dollars. I consider my case of tungsten to be a component of my portfolio.
Anyway. I finally start toting the Fulton along as my single, decoying, 'good duck' shooter. Danged if the Fulton won't spit tungsten with a terrible vengeance. It whaps the bejesus out of ducks.
I get last year's waders all the way through this season. Yeah baby! By the way, 1200 grams of thinsulate is plenty for this area. This is a bitter, bitter, cold season. My feet are never cold.
My hands are another story. I don't wear gloves while gunning, so pretty much my fingers ache all winter. What you gonna do?
The season plays out pretty evenly guide wise. Each guide seems to have at least a couple really good hunts each week as the birds get pounded from area to area.
Each week there are four of five different 'top dogs' among the guides. Don't think the guys don't pay attention to who's doing what every day. It's a fun season. But make no mistake, good hunting skills do matter.
In regard to hunting genuine wild ducks, on your average day afield, a fine line lies between 12 and 2.
See the birds on the way into the decoys instead of on the way out. Hit what you shoot at. Don't flare stuff. Don't have your gun break or your shells misfire. Or your dog misbehave. Or somebody upwind volley, or decoys ice up, or boats drive by, or for that matter, low flying planes or helicopters. Tides changing or the wind shifting can mess with your decoys which, as we can all foresee, can have you in your 'spread' when birds fly. Don't do that. Or take a leak at the wrong time. And above all, just flat out don't miss when you do get a chance.
Do right in all these regards.....good.
Mess up in these regards.........not so much.
It's been an awesome season. Thanks for everybody who's shared it with us. You guys are great.
'Good Lord willin' and the creek don't rise', and we'll do it again.
Duckin' and Goosin', Vic
Fourteen thirty five. That's our harvest so far this year. Surpassed our second best season in OBW's history (1422 fowl in 81/82). At our current pace, the record (1504, set in 08/09) should be being improved on by the end of the week.
An accomplishment by a really strong group of guides. When we finally get a winter consistently cold and raw enough to push and hold birds in our region these guys excel as the pros that they are.
Anyway, a great year with one week left to rewrite our record books. Another 'winter storm warning' flashing on the weather channel's headlines Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday look to be hideous nasty weather-wise. I can't wait.
Last weeks highlights.
Barry's hunt last week. Usually I purposely don't use the guides' name when I post highlights. (Otherwise, all the hunters show up requesting the same guy. Really tough to run a guide service like that.) However, I've just got to give the man credit where it's due. The odds of the following ever occurring again hover just this side of NEVER. Hunting the Cat Shoal this past Friday, 1/21. At the end of the day these gunners' bag consists of 7 red heads, 4 pintail, 7 widgeon and a white winged scoter. They also lose a few birds that cannot be retrieved. Sounds like a pretty awesome shoot, right?
And it is. An even more awesome shoot with the big bull sprigs and red heads showing all the color and elegance personified in the bird world.
But it's the widgeon that the taxidermists will be drooling over. Of the seven widgeon taken that day, three absolutely stand out.
First is a gorgeous male American widgeon. A fine example of the species we all love to hunt. Neat.
Second is our second drake Eurasion widgeon of the season. A real gem. Awesome.
Third is the most elusive waterfowl. Maybe of all waterfowl. I know I've never seen one, and I specialize in widgeon. I've never even heard of somebody who knows somebody who shot one. A 'storm widgeon.' Criminy and sweet honey mustard. Are you kidding? No.
A well plumed drake widgeon is trophy enough. But a Eurasion and a storm widgeon too? All on the same hunt? Please tell me that's gonna be mounted. And by somebody good. Besides being the catalyst of fond memories by all who participated on 1/21/11, that subject should win a good taxidermist prizes.
For those who don't know, a storm widgeon is like your typical drake widgeon except that the bird's head lacks the black stippling. Therefore the head is white while maintaining the iridescent green 'mask' that highlight the eye region of the head.
By the way, the 2 Eurasion widgeon are taken nearly 60 miles apart. One near the VA line and the other in Oregon Inlet. Add the Eurasion that I whiffed on in Oregon Inlet and the other rumored to have been shot in Currituck and that's four for the season.
This week. 77 gunner days. 287 fowl. Virtually all good 'big' ducks, geese and swan.
My 'one for the classics' day is Saturday. We endure a five hour blizzard that only affects Oregon Inlet to Hatteras Inlet. So cold it hurts to hold a duck call. Too cold to eat. Snowflakes horizontal. Drilling the eyes of those who dare to look upwind. We miss a bunch. Hit the docks with 4 gadwall, 3 pintail, 3 teal and 2 red heads despite that, not once did we down more that one bird per volley. Better news. All but 3 fowl are drakes.
Anyway, Ellen just accused me of penning the "Great American Novel" that she has to type and get on the web site. Better quit for now.
Just so you know for next year. We plan on sticking with our same crew for next season. No full time additions intended. This year we totally booked up on Jan. 4. A collective 'so sorry' to all who've querried since.
Did I mention that after an impressive 'doughnut' on the Oregon Inlet road Saturday night, I ended up in the ditch heading south bound. Boat, truck and trailer all. Sheesh.
Can't wait for this week. More later.
Duckin' and Goosin', Vic
Barry is going to get his son to downsize and send pics of his hunt and I will post them right away. Anyone else who has pictures, please downsize and send to Ellen. Thanks!
Sometimes, the best updates come from our clients! Here's a copy of another email from Chip:
I'd like to title this years note as "Visions of red heads dancing in my head." I can't remember how many times I've heard from folks "y'all shoulda been there" or "right after you left, we killed 'em." Whether its a massive school of blue fish crushing the surf or thousands of red heads dropping in to the decoys, those old adages seem to hold true for me more often than not. While I have found myself on the disappointing side of that conversation quite a few times, I find myself residing comfortably on the positive side of the discussion today.
When you mentioned hunting with Barry on Monday, I have to admit that I was a tad taken aback. I have had such wonderful experiences with the other guides in your service, I was a tad concerned to be hunting with someone whom I had never met. The fact that our party was large and contained three boys aged 14, 11 and 11 also increased my uncertainty. Over the years you have never steered me in the wrong direction, so trust you I did. In the future, if I ever express doubt in you in any regard, I hope you will remind me about the hunt we had on Monday. You have successfully earned a well deserved "I told you so."
Now to the hunt. Our day started out a little blue bird. We managed two wigeon before noon and whiffed on an opportunity at another wigeon and a pin tail. The skies were high and shots were long. I was deep into my snack bag and contemplating making a sacrifice to the duck gods. At 1:00 the weather began to change. Clouds rolled in from the west and the wind picked up. Like on cue, the ducks responded. I have heard about the piles of redheads that frequent the cat shoal. I had even seen them at a distance from pin tail point. Monday was the day that I got to experience it first hand.
The first large group to pass dangerously close to Barry's blind consisted of around 15 to 20 fowl. There were six unlucky ducks that failed to fly out. I believe there were 3 drakes in that bunch but honestly can't remember. The second group that found their way in our direction came through just a few minutes after we were all back and settled in the blind. That group was about the same size as the first and we managed to drop four onto the water.
The last group that we shot at consisted of around 20. Here's where it gets really fun for me. The adults in the blind decided that we would not even raise a gun on this pass. The fact that we only had two redheads left in our daily limit and our desire for the young men to have their chance directed our decision. Even my oldest son Tripp agreed that he would watch this time. The big bunch of ducks came in from behind us, pitched to the right and swung around to the left directly in front of the blind. All I heard was two almost simultaneous shots and the sound of Barry screaming WHOA WHOA STOP. The boys had dropped two drake redheads right into the decoys. Our daily redhead limit was complete and the boys could fire no more at this bunch.
After our limit was full on redheads, we watched hundreds more pitch into the decoys and thousands more around us. I am sure that I have never seen so many fowl from the blind. It was a truly amazing experience. Oh yeah I failed to mention, that in addition to the redheads, our group managed three more wigeon, and two beautiful bull pin tails after 1:00. Our bag consisted of 19 ducks. Not bad for some dads hunting with their sons. As always, your guides are exceptional. I think I've hunted with most of them over the years. Barry is a super addition to the lineup and I would consider it a privilege to hunt with him again any time.
Your continued positive influence on my sons is appreciated. Expect an e-mail from Tripp today with a request for some decoy carving information. He seems to think carving will serve as "a fix" to get him through the off season. :) Thanks for all the memories this year and in years past. They are priceless. I have guns to clean and boots to dry out so that's all for now.
Y'all shoulda been there....... Man that felt good.
Here is a beautiful letter I just got from one of our long time clients. e
This years hunt in the Outer Banks was one for the record books. Although some of the shooting was less than stellar, there were some shots that will live in my memory for a long time.
On the first morning we were slated to hunt with Matt Paulson in a spacious blind on the Currituck marsh. This was my first hunt with Matt and I found myself a bit apprehensive as Beau did not get a lot of retrieving this past duck season because the number of ducks where I usually hunt were not as abundant as usual. You always want your dog to do his job with vigor and speed, but that is rarely the case specially working with a retriever that still has some puppy in him. Matt put my fears to rest as I found him to understand and tolerate those mistakes that young dogs will occasionally make. Our hunt started right off a couple of minutes after legal shooting time as a Gadwall drake decoyed into the set and Dave Lange (my partner) and I dropped him outside the decoys. It was now that I was uttering a small prayer that My big Chessie would do his job and retrieve the duck. It took but a minute or so to finally get him lined up on the duck and he did a great job but got himself tangled up in a string of decoys and ended up dragging around ten or so decoys behind him. Matt got him untangled and Beau finished the retrieve and delivered the bird to hand... I knew by then that this would probably be a special day...
The next group of birds that came in were Green Winged Teal. There were around 20 birds in this flock and I scratched one down that dropped in the decoys and Dave Dropped another that sailed out into the marsh. We sent Beau into the marsh but could not locate the bird so we got the other bird before it drifted out into the sound.After a short while Matt asked if he could take Beau back out an look for the lost bird. I was thinking that the duck had run off but said yes because there was always a chance that we had not checked the right area because I did not see the bird drop and Beau was working mostly with me. A couple of minutes later Dave and I heard a large "WOOP" from Matt as Beau located the bird around 50 yards from where we were searching and to add frosting to the cake, the Greenwing Teal was banded!
As in most blinds there is always a "discussion" on who should get the band. It is always a big deal to add some "bling" to the call lanyard and this was no different. As Matt had the boat and was our only way back to dry land it was decided that he should get the band, and he took it with reverence.
The rest of the day went like a dream and we collected four Green Wing Teal, six Greater Scaup, a Black Duck, and a Gadwall. Another day that will live in my memory for many years to come. Beau did not dissapoint... He's my bud....
I would like to thank Matt for putting me at ease and even asking to work with Beau on a few retrieves. You can always tell a dog man when you see them. He is one of the best that I've met. I WILL be hunting with him again!
The second day dawned chilly and windy. A kind of day that you know the birds will want to move in to stay warm. This day Dave and I were hunting with Vic Berg, the owner of "Outer Banks Waterfowl" in the Oregon Inlet on his marsh where you get a great view of Bodie lighthouse.
This area covers vast areas of ankle to knee deep water with grass that the ducks love to dine on. As we were waiting for shooting time we could hear Gadwalls, Teal, Pintails, Swans, and Wigeon calling all around us. I had a good idea that this was going to be another great day.
The only glitch in this scenario is that the area that I normally hunt in Michigan is similar and I quite often have trouble getting "Mr. Chesapeake" to want to retrieve the ducks without poking and playing with the ducks before HE decides it is time to retrieve them. Today was no exception... After while, on one of the retrieves, I decided not to go out and do a photo shoot and remained in the blind as I needed to dig for more shells. Beau RAN out of the blind, picked up the bird, and RAN back to the blind with the duck gently cradled in his mouth. Go figure... I still wonder who was training whom....
Beau also had a notable blind retrieve in the marsh from a Gadwall taken by Vic. I was looking in one area where I thought the bird might be and could not see Beau as the marsh grass completely covered him. I finally saw the grass moving about twenty yards away from me and then everything went still. A few seconds later I saw Beau leap from the grass with the drake in his mouth. That horse of mine located me, made a bee line to me and delivered the bird to hand... To say that I was proud of this big dog would be a gross understatement. I love this dog...
The day ended well as we ended up with a dozen ducks consisting of Pintail, Gadwall. Ringnecks,Scaup, and Widgeon. With a gorgeous sunset and Tundra Swans settling in outside the decoys, we ended two days of fantastic waterflowling. Good times, good friends, and a good dog. For as long as I live, it is going to be really hard to repeat these two days. I am blessed.
Just the facts. 277 fowl shared by 82 gunners. We notch our 27th species with a beautiful drake blue winged teal. We garner our second federal bird band. (Those numbers are off for us this season.) Both of our bands this season are off of green winged teal drakes.
This past week is interestingly consistent, daily totals wise. Interesting in that one day some guys have a good day and the next day different guys shine.
It seems that there are cluster of different species that are displaced by the nightly ice-ups we experience all week. Each guide has a day or two when they're on fire, then the birds displace to different areas.
My best days were Monday and Friday. Monday was awesome. I was off and gunned by myself. My bag for the day contained 2 pintail, 2 widgeon and a gadwall. All drakes. I only took "money" shots. I passed up all marginal and long shots. A ton of stuff pitched to me off and on, all day long.
Friday I had a day similar to Monday, but with 2 gunners sharing the day. We dropped 6 gadwall, 3 widgeon, a drake pintail, 2 lesser scaup and 2 ring necks. We whiff on that many plus some.
The very next day we only bag one drake teal Go figure.
Another little nor-easter to start this next week off. This season is already in the books as a good one. We're doing our darnedest to finish the year off strong.
Maintenance projects scream for attention downstairs. Between that and bookwork, there goes my Sunday. Gotta go check in a bunch of hunters. More next week, Vic
For those who love raw data........Last week the guide service hunts 92 gunners. These gunners account for 216 fowl. Sixteen are swan as the service fills 16 of the 17 swan permits available this week. We harvest 19 species. 36 of the total are pintail. Almost all are drakes.
We harvest 2 extremely rare species. The first is a beautiful drake Eurasion widgeon. This is one of the third of these I've heard about this season. The second oddity is an immature mute swan. Turns out he has white feet and a mostly pink bill. Looks like an albino tundra swan, but without the pink eyes.
Being that all evidence of stated non-albino non-tundra swan has been consumed and the remains discarded, we hereby disavow any knowledge of the alleged event, nor do we condone the unwitting removal of a non-native species from the breeding population of native tundra swan.......(My attorney strongly suggested that I include the previous disclaimer.)
Anyway. On the fifth of January, the guide service surpasses eight hundred fowl. (819 total)
Of those 131 are blue bills (47 are greater), 129 are green wing teal, 85 are gadwall, 80 are red heads, 78 buffleheads, 70 pintail, 43 mallards, 41 widgeon, 31 black ducks, etc. Twenty six species are represented. Our rarities consist of the alleged non-albino, non-tundra swan, the Eurasion widgeon, one goldeneye, one common eider, one coot, one wood duck, two snow geese, 2 ring necks and 4 white wing scoter.
Last week the guide service saw a tailing off of the blistering pace that was established when our final fowling season commenced prior to the Christmas holidays.
Not to fear. Yesterday and today I received numerous reports of newly arriving migrators. Also, the forecast for this week calls for our first genuine Atlantic nor-easter to form up off the FL coast and crawl up the Eastern seaboard spewing harsh winds, rain, sleet and snow. We can hardly wait.
As guides, we signed on for the entire season, which is a far different ride than hunting only for a day or two. While we empathize with those who must endure the dreaded slow days that are inevitable during a complete season, we are nevertheless heartened by the true and fervent belief that, at any second, fowl are going to fall out of the sky. It's going to be beautiful. I hope you can appreciate those glimpses that the fates provide.
We are in the thick of it now. The duck season has taken on a life of its own and all Ellen and I can do is attempt to nudge things in the most copasetic direction possible.
Running a guide service can best be described as trying to maintain order while operating in the eye of a tornado. That being said, so far so good.
No. So far it's better than that. The last 2 1/2 weeks have been really fun around here. Some hundred bird days on those occasions when the weather cooperates. Most all good 'big' ducks.
The early freeze squeezed a ton of birds down ahead of their usual migration dates. The red heads and blue bills (both greater and lesser) in particular are way ahead of schedule and in unprecedented numbers.
And there's no telling what you're going to get a shot at next. The guide service has easily cleared 20 species. I already whiffed my big chance. I don't have it in my hand, but I'd almost swear I missed a shot at a Eurasion widgeon last week.
And check out the bag one group had a few days ago. 15 fowl that consisted of 9 species! Almost all drakes. (Canvasback, wood duck, ruddy duck, mallard, gadwall, shoveller, teal, widgeon and bufflehead.) Almost a third of the way to the 'North America 32' in one day.
Or the fortunate group that scrapped out 6 brant, 6 pintail, 6 gadwall, 5 teal and a greater scaup by 10:30 AM. Did I mention that one of the teal had a band?
Or today another guide bettered the 'done' standard and had their 3 man limit by 10:03. In the bag were teal, ruddies, drake pintail, mallard, shoveller, black ducks and lesser scaup.
Then there was one of my 'moments' of the season. I'm gunning with my buddy Wayne (this just happened this morning) His gun breaks so we decide to take turns with my Benelli Nova. We swap back and forth a couple of times. He harvests a gadwall. I whiff on a pintail drake. He misses a pair of widgeon. I take a pintail. He scores a widgeon. It's back to my turn and here come 7 widgeon. They decoy absolutely perfectly. I throw down. Bam, bam, bam. Wayne watches me knock out another triple on widgeon. In your buddy's 'eyes and face.' Priceless.
There's sleep I need to catch up on. Gotta go. Till next time. Vic
Here are some new pictures that Tony sent in! click to enlarge. e
Well we're off and running at a furious pace. More birds here than anyone can remember in 30+ years. This crazy weather has been an amazing boost. Here's to hoping the current trend continues. Yesterday alone resulted in a harvest of 102 birds, 14 species (mostly all big puddlers) and limits before noon by two parties. We sure are off to a great start!
Dates open as of now are 1/11-13 and 1/17-20. The rest of the season is booked solid.
Hope everyone had a great Christmas! Hunting's been good. Here are some pictures.
Still have a few dates open. Give us a call if you want to come hunting! ellen
Phase II of III- 2010/2011- is in the books. Kind of under-whelming. Mostly due to the most brutally "non duck" full moon cycle on record. Temps in the 70's, clear skies and calm winds. Also. The refuges are all in their most abundant conditions possible. Plenty of food for all fowl. We'll do better once the refuges are gleaned a bit. Then the birds'll have to come out. As it is, the refuges are stuffed full of fowl.
All that being said, the guide service accounts for 191 waterfowl. 19 species. The predominant species shot are Green Wing Teal (66), bufflehead (31), Mallard (19), Pintail (14), and Gadwall (14).
We decoy plenty of swan, but most gunners opt to delay harvesting their swan so early in the season. The scarcest bird harvested is an eider taken in the Oregon Inlet area. We also harvest 3 hard to find white wing scoters.
Currituck outshoots Oregon Inlet early on, but we in the inlet will make our move during the up coming season.
The best day of the November season nets 10 mallard, 3 black ducks and 5 teal! I'll take that log any day!!
And, yes. It is super awesome having the pintail bag raised to 2/person. 4 drake pintail really spice up a 2 person bag. Also, scoring a double on bull pintails out of a decoying flock is one of waterfowling's most esteemed achievements. I've already experienced that thrill and look forward to providing the opportunity to many eager gunners in the upcoming season.
We still have openings, but availability is getting limited. Talk to your buddies and give us a call.
Duckin' and Goosin', Vic
Here we go. Duck season 10/11. There are a bunch of fowl down here right now. Of course, that means we don't have many clients this week.
The season opened Saturday. We had a one man and a two man group. Between the 2 groups we knocked down 19 birds. Of these were 8 species.
Monday is warmer and calmer. We have no clients. One of my guides in Currituck limits out with his buddy on a fun hunt. Twelve 'big ducks' by 8:20 AM.
I hunt on my own and only have one bunch of birds decoy. Three widgeon fly in and zero widgeon fly out. I score a triple! I believe that's only the sixth or seventh triple of my life. WooHoo!
Gotta run. Too much to do. Tomorrow I try for deer again. Three in the cooler so far. My aiming system really helps. More soon, Vic
Yo, Yo, You Guys
Another fowling season is nearly upon us and at OBW, we couldn't be any more fired up. We better be. There's a lot to do before any hunters show up.
Phones to answer. Decoys to paint, weight, line and anchor. Blinds to build and brush. New blinds. New guide to break in. Dogs. Boots. Boats. Decoys. Decoys. More boats. Motors. Trailers. Mountains of brush. All manner of business. You get the idea.
The main duck season, 12/18/10-1/29/11 is booking up nicely. Don't panic yet. We still have dates available. If you're a large group however, (eight men or more), you need to get up with us soon. Dates that open are hard to come by.
The semi-main season (11/13-12/4) is pretty well wide open. The exceptions being Friday, 11/26 and the weekend of Dec. 3 and 4th.
I know that Nov. can be blue-birdy and pretty. We do have some of the most productive days of the entire season in November, however. In particular, the first full week can be really explosive due to the naivety of the migrating fowl. Also, the gunning pressure is much lighter and temperatures are usually more moderate.
More user friendly. Less gunning pressure. More moderate temps. Naive fowl. Amped guides. November can be the sleeper season. Don't make us guides shoot all the fowl in the early season ourselves. November can definitely be worth a shot. Give us a call.
That being said. Let me change the subject to deer hunting. So far, I have two does in the freezer. The last doe succumbed to a 200 yard shot. Just folded her knees and dropped with one well placed round.
Remember. I started off black powder season with two whiffs in a row. The difference in aiming is due to an ultra simple new aiming aid I've developed.
I'd try marketing my new aim aid, but it's just too damn simple. First of all, somebody must have figured this out before and second, who can afford a patent search in this economy?
So here's my plan. I'll just put my idea 'out there' for everybody on the planet to use. However, if you use my idea, and you bag a deer because of it, it would be within the realm of decency to send the fellow who so improved your aiming a gratuity. I'd suggest that $10.00/deer seems extremely fair, but like I said, whatever you figure is fair is ok.
Okay. Here's the deal. Many, many deer stands are challenging to shoot out of (particularly at long ranges. 150-400 yards) due to the gunner's inability to be sufficiently based (stable) for the shot. We've all tried aiming, but with nothing to brace ourselves against, our sites wobble all over the place. The results? Missed opportunities-or worse yet-badly wounded deer escaping only to suffer and die where you'll never find them.
Fear not fellow gunners. The solution is so simple to correct, you'll do like I did. "Duh!" and a hapless slap to your own forehead. Next comes the inevitable realization. Over the years, how many more deer would I have harvested with better aiming skills? I'd have easily paid $10.00 a deer. Shoot. For a few of the deer I've screwed up on, I'd have paid nearly any price for a do-over.
But in life there are darn few chances at do-overs, but a solution to the vexing problem is virtually priceless. So here's the solution.
What you need to do to drastically improve your shooting stability (and ability) is simply to affix an 8 foot strop or cord to your tree stand a couple of feet over your head.
When you need help aiming, do a wrap with the cord or strap once around your gun's barrel right where the barrel meets your gun's fore-stock. Hold the left over tail of the cord or strap in your forward shooting hand and pull down. This cinches the cord or strap around the gun's barrel. Now aim.
Take in or let out a little line to perfect the elevation of your aim. Now aim again. Now lean against the line a bit while aiming and you get an even more stable shot.
If you can touch any part of your upper body or elbow to your tree or stand, you get even more stability. Wow. Like I said before, once you see how stable your aim becomes, you won't be able to not rue missed opportunities in your past. But mixed in with your sorrow at lost opportunities will be the elation of knowing that next time, you won't miss.
Here's what I've done with my new-found knowledge. All my tree stands now have a brace screw-eye screwed into the tree a few feet over my head. Tied to the screw eye is ten feet of parachute cord. Sit in your seat, back to the tree. Do one wrap with the cord around the barrel. Ta Da!! Your aim is now as solid as if your gun were in a vise at the shooting range! Have fun Kemo Sabe!
In my day pack, I now keep a one inch, 14 foot strap equipped with a cinch buckle on one end. I can wrap it around any tree a couple feet over head and badda boom, my aim is now correctable to near shooting bench-vice levels.
Knowledge is power! Use it wisely. And, yeah, I think ten bucks a deer is more than fair.
Call. Let's book some hunts!
About hunting this year. I'm going to semi-retire. By semi, I mean about 80%. Essentially, I'm going to assume the role that my Dad held when he ran the service. All the administration, the meeting and greeting, banking, get up and make sure everybody's up and out, then gun on my own for a couple hours. The pre-dark to post-dark day in and day out is over with. Don't worry. Ill share Pintail Point and the rest of my marsh. I'll probably even sit with you awhile. Just not all day.
Anyway. To make that happen we're going to have to raise our rates a bit. Now you guys know it's been years since we've raised 'em and if you look around the internet we're significantly cheaper than everybody else. Being that we're one of the better run services available it just is foolish to be that much cheaper also. So.
Our new rate is $175/man/day. I'm going to give $5.00 of that to the guides and the rest to administration. We truly hope this isn't too much of a hardship, but, to be honest, the world hasn't lowered any of our expenses in the last......ok.........ever.
Alaska. The summation.
Number 1: Alaska is really big and really far away. Therefore, everything tends toward expensive. Also. Alaska is damp and cool at best. A record high for the month of July is 79 degrees. And it doesn't so much as rain everyday as it more accurately pisses on you. An example. You'll be in your rain gear all twenty hours of daylight, but actual accumulated rainfall will only total 1/4 inch.
The flying bugs in the tundra during summertime are totally out of control due to the rainfall and 20 hours of light per day. Insects breed and grow unchecked in Alaska. Mosquitoes are dense enough that, without a mesh headnet to shield you, one cannot finish a sentence without inadvertantly inhaling a winged nuisance. Unprotected conversation in Alaska is often punctuated by choking and spitting.
Those considerations aside, the camp where we were is 'on the fish.' We only witnessed the sockeye run. There are four more salmon species to migrate after we leave. In between salmon, there are trophy size rainbow trout and graylings till your arm falls off. (I only caught one rainbow on the trip, but it measured 25 inches!.) The brown bear and eagle viewing is unparalelled. Time on the river is precious.
Alaska. It's big, wild, damp and raw. Glad we went. Made some cash. Glad we saw it. Wouldn't want to live there.
Return to our beloved beach August 1. One day later, storm generated waves appear at our shoreline and seem to continue for the next month and a half due to northeasters and far ranging hurricane swells.
I know my readers really do not care to read about surfing, so I'll just sum up by saying it's been an awesome fall wave season. Three clean days of waves in excess of 18-20 feet in height in particular, and a month and a half of nearly daily head high or better waves in general.
Now we're into the 'shooting seasons.' Doves, for myself, are a bust on opening day. Due to a very dry summer, corn harvests run ahead of schedule. Birds aren't concentrated. Ill have another go at the doves around Thanksgiving.
Just finished black powder. Saw plenty of deer, just no does. Little bucks everywhere. The only 2 I do I see, I miss! Not used to whiffs. Had one eight point 'shooter' at 80 yards, but didn't pull the trigger. Probably should have. I'll get 'em next week.
The guides are unusually fired up this year. Lots of blind building to be done. Two pintail/man/day this year. Yum.
My guide book is filling up nicely. Still plenty of days available for smaller groups, but if you have a big group, you need to call NOW! There are precious few empty days left on our calendar.
Gotta go. Duck stuff on tap. Melting lead for decoy weights. Tying decoy lines. Carving 6 sleeping swans to use this season. Finding 16-20 foot poles and plywood for cheap.
Talk to your buddies. Call us. Hope to see you this winter!
More on Alaska
7:30 and dinner is about over. Chatting amongst the guides as we await desert- a couple of Ellen's homemade chocolate chip cookies. Patrick, the camp's head guide walks up to the table where two guides-in-training and I are sitting.
"I'm going meat fishing and I need 3 guys to come along. Who's game? The sockeyes' showed up today about 2PM and the run is on."
My hand shot up at the words "I need 3 guides"
"Me ME ooh, ooh ooh. I'm in." I never hear what else he says. I snag 2 big cookies off the tray as I run out the door heading for our cabin where I jump into my boots and grab my new rod and tackle bag. I'm sitting on the side of the boat, waiting, as the other guides show up.
We only need to motor a short distance down the river to the bank where they crushed salmon this afternoon.
As the boat coasts to the bank, Patrick is counting aloud as he looks into the water. Eight, fifteen, twenty, thirty: They're here boys. Look here." He's pointing into the water. "There goes another 10. Let's rig up. I have everything we need. First, you need those giant split-shot. What we call Pac-Men. Clamp them just above the last knot of your leader. The flies are called sockeye emergers. Color doesn't really matter because, if you have the right technique, you drag the leader across their open mouth and hook them right in the corner of their jaw. We call it 'flossing'. "
What ensues is orgiastic pandemonium.
As we neophytes hone in on proper technique, there are more and more hook-ups. Sometimes doubles and triple hook ups. Foul hook-ups are insane and nearly impossible to land as there is no netter. Everybody is on their own, dragging their own thrashing, leaping salmon up the bank and into the grass. Small fish (5-7 lbs.) and females are returned to the water to complete their spawn. Big males are landed and "bonked," bled and tied on a fish stringer in the river's current.
Two hours later we've landed around 20 fish and 12 of the larger grace the stringer. I learn not to attempt to crank the reel as the fish go on a berserker run. My knuckles of my left hand are already changing color. I also learn that you NEVER grab a fly rod above the cork handle in the heat of a battle. Pat tells us he's seen four rods break in one day due to such foolishness. Also. Somebody need be a lookout for bears as the fish are cleaned on the riverbank, staying close by the shotgun. My Bennelli pump is loaded with two bird shot then 3 slugs - in that order. (Two dissuaders followed by 3 HOLY CRAP!!!) Noone in this camp has ever needed more than the first of the bird shot.
All of which ends my day at 11:30PM in the genuine outhouse eating my chocolate chip cookies massaging my bruised knuckles and aching right forearm.
Eight days in. Fifth or sixth of July. I got to spend all day yesterday on the river as a 'guide in training/guide's assistant." a most excellent day of handling the boat, anchor and landing net.
Net duty is way fun. These sockeye are sassy! Starting with netting is getting ahead of myself though. At the initial hook-up, any number of reactions by the fish can and should be expected. No, that's misleading. At hook-up, expect the unexpected. Three aerial back-flips in rapid succession falling back in line with the other migrators. A screaming sixty yard run. Up river, down river, porpoising, or any other move that a fish can possibly make. And don't expect a quick battle. You're looking at 10-15 minutes per fish, easy. The big males take even longer.
Which brings us to net duty. You really feel like you should have on pads and one of those bizzaro face masks like the hockey goalies wear. As the netter, you drop back twenty yards or so below (down river) whomever is wrasslin' the fish and every time the fracas swings by you, you take a stab at the streaking salmon. If you're at a proper distance everything ourght to take place in front of you. "Ought" being the operative word. They streak anywhere. Behind you, up river of the angler, right at you and then away. The salmon can even charge into your net, then turn tail and head the opposite direction before you can react. All you know as the netter is that nothing good is possible if the streaking demon makes it between your legs.
Two days later. I've totally lost track of the date at this point.... I broke the tip of my brand new Orvis fly rod while catch and releasing sockeyes while fishing from the lodge boat dock after dinner last night. It took less than one week to break the durn thing.
Hopefully, after dinner tonight I can snag a boat and take Ellen up river on a bear viewing safari. They're everywhere, huge and CLOSE!!!! Already, I've been standing on the riverbanks and had them as close as 20 yards. Eight HUNDRED pounds and adorned with numerous claw raking battle wounds. Yikes!
As Justin says, 'You don't need to be scared all the time, but you do need to know where your shotgun is.' And your shotgun is loaded for bear. Literally. Two low brass 7 1/2s followed by 3 high brass slugs. If you're in camp the first shot has got to sting. In the front leg if the bear is coming at you. In the ass any other time. You certainly do not want to cause lasting damage to the critter, but you really need for him/her to think twice before coming into camp again. If you're out of camp and fishing on the river, however, you really need to be vigilant.
The deal is, this is the bear's home, we're operating in a national forest, so let's all co-exist and we'll all be happier.
Usually, bear encounters fall into two scenarios. By far the most common situation is that you are between a bear and where he wants to be. You're usually on a riverbank, the bears travel up and down the riverbank looking for better areas to ambush salmon and hence you find yourself in a situation.
At this point the human realizes that he weighs approximately a quarter as much as his new acquaintance. The human contemplates his short term prospects for existence and finds them lacking. Mr. Bear has now such qualms, and so, continues on his way. The situation therefore intensifies.
The human's best strategy at this point is -duh- get out of Mr. Bear's path. When that isn't possible, noise works next best. The human voice isn't all that threatening to an 800 lb. bohemouth with tattoos at various points on his hide in the form of claw rakes compliments of more dominating bohemouths. Especially when the voice emanating from the human takes the form of a petrified squeak.
More from Alaska journal.......
A highlight today is the bald eagle that knocks a pacific brant out of the air and then swoops repeatedly on him. Chasing the brant under water time and again from where we can see upriver to where we can just see down river. A distance of a thousand yards from knock down to brant in talons. It's a wild place. We are in the bush of Alaska.
Day 5 Friday. 11:30PM
Despite the late hour, it is still clear and bright outside.
Sitting in a genuine hand dug outhouse and eating one of Ellen's homemade chocolate chip cookies as I attend to business. The knuckles of my left hand have been beaten black and blue and the muscles of my right forearm are screaming with fatigue. I can finally put a check mark on my life list next to the heading: Caught wild Alaskan sockeye salmon.
As of 7:30 this evening we've been confined to camp our entire first week in Alaska. Essentially, we've been worked like slave and it has rained off and on the whole time. Gnats, mosquitos hover in dense clouds making my mosquito head net my most vvalued asset here in the bush.
Life changes for the better this afternoon when I walk by our cabing and notice an oblong box with the Orvis logo on the side. Most excellent! That's got to be my brand new 9 foot Clearwater eight-weight fly rod and fully loaded Battenkill BBS IV reel that has been on back order. As I await the dinner call I string up a 20-15-12 lb. leader arrangement. Finally, I'm ready to fish.
Hi all, we are home from Alaska. It did not work out to post updates from there as internet access was spotty and somewhat slow, so will post them now.
But first, we are starting to book up for the upcoming hunting season pretty substantially, so I guess it's time to start thinking about dates for this year's adventure! Give us a call or email especially if you have a large group or want weekend dates.
Victor's Alaska Journal
Beluga whales. Maybe 50 of them. Whiter than you can imagine in your purest thoughts. Better yet a white that perfectly matches the snow on the distant mountains. And a moose. Never seen one of those before in the wild. And tundra squirrels. A cross between a chipmunk and a ground hog, but closer in size to a gray squirrel. Oh. And Bristol Bay's king salmon fishing fleet. About a thousand boats strong, all with 200 feet of gillnet, choking the mouth of the Alagnak river. Picking sockeyes out of their nets as we motor past.
These are the main impressions garnered on our 110 mile boat trip from where we flew into at King Salmon and then to the Alaska Adventures Lodge where Ellen and I are to work for the next month.
So far I'm spiffing up the camp and Ellen is working in the kitchen. On day one, I caulk and repaint the kitchen. Day 2 I complete a set of steps from one level down to the river. Not stairs, steps. Scavange wood four inches thick, fourteen inches front to back and 2 feet wide. Dig out and set them into the hillside.
Okay everybody. Here we go. This time next week we'll be in Alaska and I'l already have scored personal fishing firsts to subtract from my own 'bucket list. Of course, personal firsts are going to be easy to come by on this trip as I've never even seen these fish in the wild before.
I'm not much of a research kind of guy and prefer to learn on the fly. If I can't hold, smell, feel or sense something, then it obviously doesn't leave an impression on me. As I understand however, we are targeting all five species of salmon, dolly varden (char), grayling, pickerel, monster rainbow trout and the occasional lake trout. By monster rainbows, I'm referring to beasts in excess of 30"! Over 10 pounds!
I just measured my thigh and it's only 18"! Rainbows as big as your thigh is an UNDERSTATEMENT. BY A THIRD!! Sweet honey mustard. Forget everything else. I want me one of those!
On top of everything else, I'm to be a top notch fly guide. Sheesh. Okay. This is going to be a little rough for me. Don't get me wrong. My first twenty years of fishing occurred with a fly rod in my hands and popping bugs safety-pinned all over my lucky fishing hat.
My Dad and I each had our own float tube and usually we'd "leap-frog" each other down a length of fresh water shoreline in search of large mouth bass. Put your popper way up all the little coves of the shore line till a big bass schlurps it in a swirl and a tug. Technical talk? Lingo? I don't think so.
Unless by lingo you mean "should I use the white popper with the black stripes or the black popper with the yellow dots?" Hmmm. Or. "You probably don't want to use that hair mouse in this wind." And don't get me started on a "fishing strategy." As my Dad would say, 'Look you knuckle head. You're right handed. Find a shoreline that, when you're fishing it, has the wind blowing in your left ear hole. That way your flailing fishing line won't snarl up like a kitten with a ball of string.'
Anyway, more later from Alaska.
Outer Banks Waterfowl is continually improving our guides, equipment and blinds. We expect to keep improving every season and have since our inception in 1977. Ellen and I, our guides and their dogs are all looking forward to another stellar season in 2010 and 2011 gunning with you all. Thanks for all your support all these years and we'll do our best to continue to earn that support with safe and memorable gunning. Gunning that has kept our clients returning for one, two and three decades running.
Thanks again and we'll keep you updated right here on our great Alaska Adventure! Vic and Ellen
Leaving for Alaska next week!
OK! It's official. Vic and I are going to Alaska as fishing guide and cook team! We leave June 27 and will be there till July 27th. The owner of the camp, Charlie Summerville has a special offer to forward to our clients for a spectacular adventure in Alaska. During the last week of June and the first week of July, anyone who wants to come up can do so for $3600pp. (Normal rates are $5400pp). The web address is www.alaskatrophyadventures.com so check it out and come on up for the time of your life!
Web access during that month will be sketchy for me, so I thank you for your patience in advance!
Actually, when looked at as a full season and not the sum of it's slower days, this season ends better than we expect it will. No. Really.
Guide service as a whole we do fairly well. All told. Our total for this season is 894 fowl. Of that number, there are 28 species. 29 if you make a separate category for a black/mallard hybrid. (We call these blallards.)
Not the usual number of buffleheads this season. If this were any other year, we could easily add another couple hundred buffs to our totals. But, this isn't like any other year.
Once again, that diabolical "El Nino" kicks our rear ends. For those who don't know, El Nino is a weather pattern that establishes itself in the northern center of the Pacific Ocean. Once established, the El Nino system steers Pacific bred low pressure systems directly into the U.S. Pacific northwest's coast line.
Once landfall is achieved somewhere near the Oregon/Washington border, each front acts like a clone of the one prior. Landfall. Then the front swings down to the gulf of Mexico, picks up a load of atmospheric moisture, then swings to the north and east, passing near Atlanta and Raleigh.
Rather that acting like a real Nor'easter, these lows enter the Atlantic below Cape Hatteras where a properly fierce coastal low can form up. These El Nino bred lows, instead pass to our west. Therefore, rather than good damp north/north east winds that blow the sound water shallow, El Nino provides cold strong west/northwest winds that raise our usual tides a foot and a half to two feet above normal.
Now figure that a dabbling ducks' neck is only about four to eight inches long and we quickly see that ducks have to look elsewhere for food.
Anyway. Blah, blah, blah. High water, west wind. The silver lining in the El Nino cloud is the number of blue bills and red heads this year. Especially during the season's last two weeks. That's a little misleading. We have chances at red heads all season. Every guide has two or three whacks at them each week. It's just that in this season's last ten to fourteen days, there are really, really big flocks of divers moving around each day. Six thousand here, six hundred flying over there. They don't pitch to many of the spreads in the inlet, but to the guys who do get pitched to the visuals are unforgetable.
My guide Matt, would get an award if I were prone to that sort of thing. He and his three man party shot into a group of twenty/twenty-five red heads and knocked out their 4 man limit. Of the 7 they are able to retrieve, 6 are beautifully plumed drakes. Talk about making the best out of an otherwise slow day!
Another thing that sticks out for this season is the number of bands taken. Yeah. You heard right. "Duck bling." Counting the band I find on a floating dead pelican, we account for 11 bands this year. Two of the three banded brant taken have one on each leg. Besides the five total on brant and the pelican find we also harvest 2 pintail and 2 red head drakes. Rounding our band harvest, we also take a big old male black duck.
If I remember right, I believe the national average for fowl per bands is about 400:1. Not bad. Yay our guys!
I don't care what you say, waterfowlers love their bling. One of the only reasons I lock my truck during winter is because of my call lanyard. Between my calls and bands the mojo that hangs on that lanyard would measure through the roof.
How's this for a day's total bag?
Best day south of Oregon Inlet: 1/22/10.
Six red heads, 3 drake pintail, six widgeon (one of which is a Eurasian widgeon), a blue bill, 2 big male American black scoters and 4 brant. To top the day off, they're limited by noon and one of the brant has a band on each leg.
Best day in Oregon Inlet. 1/11/10
I've been (what I call) sumo ice wrestling for the past week. I hear persistent rumors of large flocks of bluebills eating up my Colington diver blind. Justin is totally frozen out in Currituck. In my infinite wisdom, I decide to let Justin gun Pintail Point and I head to Colington to avoid another day of sumo ice wrestling. This just goes to prove that even with all the experience in the world it's still possible to over think any scenario. Turns out that the temps fall even lower than in days past over night. I end up breaking ice the entire four miles to my diver blind. Once there I find the sound frozen from my shoreline to a point 3 miles out. And the ice is shifting. All morning.
Meanwhile, about an hour after shooting time I get a call from Justin. It seems that it has frozen just enough that the ice in the inlet is frozen just enough that it is locked in and no longer shifting at all. To top it off, Justin informs me that he has a natural air pocket in front of Pintail Point. You guessed it. I get one shot in my blind all morning and wrestle moving ice the entire time. Justin meanwhile, limits out by 9 A.M. His total? 13 widgeon, 3 drake pintail and 2 blue bills.
Currituck handles high water much better that does Oregon Inlet. Therefore, they pretty much rule up to the point they get frozen out around the second week of January. How's about this days total in Currituck? 12/21/09.
8 teal, 3 black ducks, 2 drake mallards, a drake pintail, a drake gadwall and 2 brant! To make a great day better, one of the brant has a band on each leg!
In summary. Don't believe those who try and tell you that this season is a wash-out. Despite high water and challenging conditions, we scratch out a respectable season. 28 species, 86 pintail, 71 widgeon, 79 green winged teal, 67 mallards, 45 gadwall, 43 black ducks, 56 red heads, 38 brant, 28 swan, and 11 bands. Definitely some lasting memories for the "life pile."
Toodles till mext time,
February 16, 2010
2009-2010 waterfowl season: A day in the life.
I stand by my earlier assessments of this season. Not one for those who like things easy. And what I say about the fine line between 10 and 2 never rings truer.
I have a hunt with a couple of guys from SC on the season's penultimate (second to last) day. I've just gotten the decoys placed where I want them and have putted my now empty boat (I rigged every one of the 103 decoys that spend the season in my flat bottom gunning bateau) around to its spot for the day. If we don't get any ducks today, it won't be due to a lack of decoys.
I watch the blind from the cove, some 700 yards distant, where I short tie my anchor line and hook my boat to the marsh's edge. I'm aware that the decoys came out of the boat a little slowly this morning. A quick check of my cell phone tells me two things.
One is good. All my other guides (seven of them) must be where they're supposed to be with whom they're supposed to be with, and two, my guys need to be paying attention, it's shooting time.
I glance back at the blind just in time to see 6 widgeon appear out of the gloom and coast across their decoys. In my brain I'm screaming "Shoot....shoot, dammit shoot!!! It's been a long tough season and the last thing I want to see are some Audubon acting fellers pointing out decoying fowl with their fingers.
"Sweet honey mustard!", I shout in my brain, "point with your guns!"
After and entire season of unusually high water and west winds, we're finally standing in the teeth of a proper Nor'easter. 20-25 knot winds with gusts to 40. 35-38 degrees. Spitting sleet and snow. Low clouds. Water levels have fallen radically to ankle deep levels that coastal Carolina gunners covet. Perfect weather.
I'm still mumbling under my breath about the 6 widgeon as another widgeon pair appears out of the darkness, right over their decoys. Bam! Ba Bam!. Three shots, muffled by the near gale force winds rumble across my marsh. Both birds fall. I'm happier. Two birds in the box. I finish hiding the boat and head toward the blind.
Of a sudden, 2 more birds appear, wings set over the decoys. Bam. Ba bam. Bam. Those two crumble and fall. Oh yea! I'm way mo' happier. The guys scramble out of the blind and after the downed fowl.
By the time I'm halfway to Pintail Point the guys are diving back into the blind and are grabbing for their guns as two more widgeon are sailing through the decoys. Ba Bam. It sounds like one shot but both birds fall in unison.
I get to the blind and we already have one full six bird limit on the ground. Every one of the birds are nice, fat and beautifully plumed drake widgeon.
Another pair flies around the corner to our left and promptly set their wings.
"Sucked right into the hole," as Keagan would say. The three of us make sure there are no escapees.
Finally we get our come-uppance. We all three totally whiff on a coasting flock of 4 widgeon. They are peeping and whistling as they fly in, and nine shots later are peeping and whistling as they fly out. Headed for the safety of the refuge a thousand yards up-wind. Honest. They aren't 25 yards out and right at eye level. We just totally whiff.
In the next twenty minutes we make short work of two singles that can't resist the lure of 103 hand painted, properly placed decoys in front of the phenomenal marsh point upon which sits the legendary Pintail Point blind. It's almost not fair.
It is now 8:15 AM and already we're sitting on 10 widgeon, 8 of which are beautiful drakes. Other than the first flock of six that they didn't shoot at, and the flock of four that we whiff these murderous rascals have knocked down 10 fowl out of ten ! It almost makes a guide want to tip his clients.
Of course, this gets me giddy with confidence, so lo and behold, what do I do? I voice the thought that firmly places a curse on our blind for the rest of the morning.
"Ten birds in the blind by quarter after 8. Let's see if we can beat the record that Justin set for this blind this season and be limited with 18 birds by 9:10 or earlier."
Of course, when you check in on us later that morning at 11:30, we haven't had another shot. Me and my big mouth.
Anyway, my guys decide it was a beautiful morning. At ten birds they're only a few off their limit, so, what the hey. They'll call it a day. I'm going to quit also with thoughts of a late season "coma nap" in mind. Then I make the mistake of glancing back at the blind as we head off toward the dock just as two regal black ducks sail through the decoys that I left set out. I alter my plans. After all, it's the second to last day of a tough season. The weather is hideously perfect and I pretty much nap the entire month of February anyway. I'm dropping these guys and their birds off at the dock and I'm coming back out to fun hunt this PM.
Remember how my guys make the best of the fowl they have to shoot at in the AM. Well, not so much for me in the PM.
There was that pair of blacks when we were in the boat. Then I miss a pair of red heads with three shots. I follow up a half hour later by watching 3 widgeon zig when they should have zagged on their fourth and final trip across the outside edges of my decoy spread that I never shoot at.
Oh yeah. Then there is the lone drake pintail I only get a farewell shot at. He drops in over my right shoulder from across the marsh. They almost never come from there.
Of course, that gets me watching THAT spot so I don't see the flock of perfectly pitching red heads that swoop in from my left until they're exiting the decoy spread. And finally, for the coup de grace.
Ten minutes prior to sunset I spy 3 birds falling into my spread from around the corner to my left. Wings locked. Sailing in. One hundred yards, seventy, fifty, their wings tilt. Fifty five yards. What?
Gadwalls. Dammit. You short pitching so and sos. I shoot all 3 shells, counting the last one which is a 3and 1/2 incher. Of course my first shot is at about 65 yards and nothing falls.......right away. Finally at the far edge of my bay, at about 650 yards a bird finally falls out. A fine line between 2 and 10 indeed. I manage to prove both sides of the theory on the same day.
Duckin' and Goosin'
January 13, 2010
We have been having to hunt harder than in years past, but we have managed to bag over 600 fowl this season to date. We have new openings on the 15th, 18th and 19th.
January 11, 2010
This has been an odd, trying season, but we have managed to make the most of the lemons and are emerging into a better space.
As everyone knows, the eastern seaboard has been inundated with high water (due mostly to the lingering effects of the remnants of Hurricane Ida) and cold westerly winds. Gunning is not enhanced by either of these phenomenas.
We are much better served having north-north easters and low water. Despite less than ideal weather conditions, the guide service is managing to put together a decent season with some memorable hunts. The main difference between this season and others is that hunting skills (instead of sheer fowl numbers) have been playing a much larger picture.
I often remark to folks that there is a fine line between 10 and 2. If you pay attention. See what is coming to you, don't flair stuff off. Point out fowl with your finger instead of your gun. Know where your safety is without having to physically look. And hit what comes to you. Ten birds or better can be available on most days. Don't do these things and two birds is more likely the case. We're guides, we don't make the weather.
Having said this, here's a sample of two recent days.
Jan.1/10: Guide one got 3 pintail, 2 blacks, 1 blue bill and 4 teal. Guide two got 1 merganser. Guide 3 got one banded pintail. Guide 4 got 18 buffleheads. Guide 5 got 2 teal, a shoveller, 2 buffleheads and 2 mergansers. Guide 6 got 4 teal and 3 mallards. Guide 7 got a widgeon and 2 gadwalls.
Jan. 5. Icy conditions. Guide 1 got 5 mallards, 2 blacks, 2 teal, a widgeon, 2 gadwall and 2 hooded mergansers. Guide 2 got 0. He wrestled with flowing ice all morning, gave up at 9:30, came back out at noon to find all the ice gone with the tide. In the pm his party shot better than a box of shells and ended up skunked. Guide 3 got a canvasback, 2 redheads, 3 blue bills, 3 ruddys and 6 buffleheads. Guide 4 got 7 buffleheads with lots of misses. Guide 5 got frozen out and couldn't go. Guide 6 got 6 brant, 3 drake pintails, a black and a shoveller. Guide 7 got 6 redheads, 3 drake pintails, 2 black ducks, 2 green-wing teal, 1 blue wing teal and 6 brant.
Good hunts are here to be had. We have a few openings left so give us a call. In particular, 2 guides just became available Jan. 22, 23. (Fri and Sat.)
Finally, Ellen has suffered from some health issues this year and has not been able to participate in running the guide service as much as she usually does. The long and short of it is that Victor has been running the guide service mostly on his own. We apologize if our service has been off this season, but with his added work load, he's managed to get everyone to where they're supposed to be each morning. We appreciate your patience as we strive to run the efficient service that you've grown used to.
Dec. 21, 2009
Update from Ellen, as Vic was busy cleaning deer on Sunday!Opening day of regular season was very windy with very high water. Our weather this year has been crazy!!
Nonetheless, we had 5 parties tied out and total birds harvested were 1 canvas back, 1 widgeon, 4 blue bills, 7 black ducks, 4 mallards, 4 red heads, 1 bufflehead, 5 gadwall, 6 teal, 2 brant, 1 surf scoter and an assortment of hooded and red breasted mergansers. We're hopeful that all this weather to the north and west of us will be sending us more birds this week.
Look forward to seeing everyone this season and have a Merry Christmas!!!
the 'marsh mama' Ellen
Dec. 17th, 2009
Heads up everyone! We have had some cancellations on the 28th and 29th of Dec. so now have some openings on that very desirable weekend, so if you want to book it, just call! 252-261-7842.
Dec. 8th, 2009
November '09 season. A summary. Pretty much a literal wash-out. Just too much rain and senselessly extreme winds.
The remnants of hurricane Ida blow into the mid-eastern US coast, reform into a formidable Nor'easter and proceeds to pound the VA/NC coast for 4-5 days with 35/50 mph winds and 12-15 inches of rain. That is followed by another hideous blow and rain over the Thanksgiving weekend. I've also had to hunt in the rain an additional 4 days beyond what I've already recounted!
Now. In addition to these woes, there is no cold weather for the entire month. The result of which delays the entire waterfowl migration by nearly 3 weeks.
Chris P., a longtime gunner with OBW recently returned from a sea duck trip off the coast of Cape Cod (where he added drake white wing scoter, surf scoter, common eider, and old squaw to his taxidermy collection). A strong back-up of my delayed migration theory was being observed in New England as the old-timers can never remember a year where their 'summer ducks' (teals and woodies) have stayed in Maine into December.
Despite these factors, we've managed to share some rewarding time afield and even managed to log some beautiful fowl.
The good news in all this is that we've not used up much of our resources in regard to available fowl.
Well, the series of storms has taken out at least two of my duck blinds, so I'm off on a rebuilding mission.
We're close to being totally booked, but do have some openings left. Talk to your buddies and give us a call.
Duckin' and Goosin', Cap'n Vic
Well, here we are. On the precipice of another waterfowling season. The questions and speculation concerning how this season will unfold is about to be played out in a day by day progression.
This being the forty second anniversary of my first day as a duck guide, I feel qualified to offer some predictions regarding what is about to transpire. Of course, predictions are only guesses and should be held to the same standards as are the yearly prognostications put forth by weather gurus concerning future hurricane activity.
In short, what meteorologists and an experienced duck guide have in common in their attempt is mere intellectual folly. What's going to happen will happen, no matter how hard we try to will events to our benefit.
Successful waterfowling is not nearly as much determined by a full bag limit as it is with camaraderie and lasting memories. A full bag will feed you for a few days, but potent visuals and shared memories will sustain you for a life time.
Savor moments and memories. They're available on even the slowest of days.
Our bookings for the final season (Dec.19-Jan. 30) are filling in nicely. November season (Nov. 14-Dec. 5), not so much. It's a pretty safe bet that we'll have duckier weather in January. That being said however, November always yields some of the year's best shoots due to less gunning pressure and the naiveté of heretofore unshot at birds.
November can be worth the risk. Don't make myself and OBW's guides have all the fun by ourselves. (Make no mistake, we will if we have to!)
We also have openings throughout the season but days are booking up.
Give us a call,
Hey All, Here are some of Matt's pictures from 08/09. Looking forward to seeing you all again! Ellen
Right slam in the middle of our own peculiar hunting and gathering season. A deer and a half aged, processed and in the freezer. A truck load of storm felled hard wood cut up and on the wood pile. An additional boat load of driftwood drying behind the shop.
Rumors of 'nice sized' flounder and drum around, and inside the mouth of the inlet are calling to me. Heck. I need to run the motor that's on my duck boat anyway. (What with the ethanol and all.)
Reservations for the season are filling in nicely. The following dates are either booked totally or nearly so: Dec. 21-22, 28-29, and Jan.8-9 and 13-14. The only 3 day spans during the season that are totally un-booked (or nearly so) that would suit a corporate or large family group are Nov. 23-25, Dec. 3-5, Jan. 20-23.
Talk to your buddies, make plans, give us a call.
Oh, yeah. I've received a case of Tom Long's new book, "Spent shells along the Atlantic." Extremely nice. 232 pages, 350 or so photos. Historical nuggets and Tom's adventures while gunning Yankee land to the north and God's country to the south-ard.
Too far south isn't perfect either, which brings us back up the coast a bit to the most extreme and beautiful waterfowling rounds found along America's Eastern coast.
This is why Tom devotes nearly 20 pages of his time spent gunning with Outer Banks Waterfowl and our professional and personable guides.
I'm authorized to sell the book for $55.00, $60.00 with shipping included.
See book review below.
Spent Shells Along the Atlantic
By Tom S. Long
This large trim-size book is a sort of compendium or collage in that it bundles together between its covers a fairly vast array of different pieces, all having to do with waterfowl hunting along the Atlantic seaboard, then and now -- more than 360 photos, both vintage and modern; wooden decoys and their carvers, historic and contemporary; tales of old market gunners as well as modern day hunts; stories and photos of old hunt clubs and lodges; and more!
Publisher Roger Sparks says of the book: "It features a mix of old and recent days afield… The pages chronicle an era with bits and pieces of history gathered by the author during 50 years of traveling up and down the (Atlantic) Coast in pursuit of waterfowl…. It (the book) is a comparison of modern hunting to that of the Golden Age of waterfowling a hundred years ago."
Spent Shells... is an easy and fun "read." Lots of small pieces that do, in fact, add up to "the big picture" -- the kind of book that you can spend a few minutes with and then look forward to coming back to it at another time, again and again. Hunters, history buffs, and collectors will all find things of interest here.
Order online at: www.spentshellsalongtheatlantic.com
Give us a call.
Our friend, writer Tom Long, has just published his book, "Spent Shells along the Atlantic." It is beautifully illustrated with photos from the present back into waterfowling's past that set the reader for a glimpse into Tom's journeys along the Eastern seaboard. Florida to New England.
I'm mentioned a few times as are Justin Bleischer and Joey Van Dyke. Tom captures the Outer Banks Waterfowl spirit in his stories about hunts we have shared over the years.
More soon. I've been told I have a case of books on the was as we speak.
In between seasons, but the response to the post cards we just sent out has been real strong. There's still plenty of room but some days are already booked up. Call soon!
I was out surfing by myself this afternoon on my long board. Fun chest-high peelers. East wind, 10-15, tide falling. Rip tides all over. The peak I'm riding starts to break in the throat of one of the rips and winds along the sandbar.
As I sit at the apex point where the bigger sets break, a big fish comes out of the water amidst showers of skipping bait. The first time I just get a glimpse from the corner of my eyes.
The next time I'm looking at the spot as he busts the bait pod again. King Mack-twenty five to thirty pounds. Twenty yards away. Awesome, flying through the air.
I pull the sleeve of my silky over my watch's face. No sense in flashing light as I paddle. The Mackerel flying through the air looks little more than sinew propelled teeth.
I know you guys get bored when I write about surfing, but that is mostly what this season between seasons is about. Hurricane season. August to mid October.
I try to think of it as my physical regimen that gets me in shape for the waterfowl season. Get pounded around by triple overhead ground swells for a while and you'll be good and humble driving your boat during the winter's extreme winds.
More on hunting soon. Black powder deer is just around the corner.
My goodness gracious. Have you seen the recently released estimates for this year's waterfowl breeding season?! Essentially, every species (except bluebills) is projected through the roof.
I'm going on record as saying I want canvasback season opened and pintail relaxed to 3 birds. (How about like the mallards, 2 drakes and no more than one hen?)
Is the rumor correct- that gadwalls will be at their largest population ever? Before I head off to touch up the white speculum patches on my gaddy rig, allow me to toss this out about fishing this summer.
My best year ever for speckled trout! Two weeks ago, I put a 5 pound 15 ounce monster into my cooler.
And the trout are everywhere in the sound. We've even been catching them steadily around my Colington Island diver-duck blind.
There's still plenty of time left this summer to capitalize on the specks, so give me a call.
It's also time to start planning this year's duck trip. Talk to your buddies, make some plans and give me a call. We hope to reset the harvest records that we set last year.
Here' wishing you wet lines and stuffed coolers!
Week 4 Christmas week 12/22-29
The week begins with a bang. WNW winds at 30-35 knots and gusting higher. Boat rides to and from the blinds are extreme. Tuesday. The wind and cold continue. As a result, these 2 days are among the best of the 08-09 season.
We have 4 pairs of gunners Monday and 5 pairs on Tuesday. The totals for the 2 days are 3 swan, 3 Canadas, 1 snow, 13 pintail, 10 gadwall, 5 blacks, 5 mallards, 3 widgeon, 3 shovellers, 2 teal, 3 redheads, 2 ring-necks, 1 scaup, 14 buffleheads, 2 red breasted mergansers and 1 hooded merganser. Only one of the pintails is a hen. 16 species in 2 days! We reach 500 fowl for the season on the 23rd.
The weather goes back to pretty. Just as well, there are no clients, so nobody hunts the 24th and 25th. What makes the week stand out is the dense fog that settles in during the morning on Saturday. really tough conditions to gun in. We have the most apprehensive experience of the season that Saturday evening when one of our guides gets totally turned around in the fog during the boat ride back to the dock. Yadda, yadda, yadda, and they end up being rescued by a trawler loaded to the gills (sorry) after a week asea. Their feet don't touch soil till 8:30 PM. Phew! What a day!
Week 5 12/29-1/3
A week, that while not spectacular, produces decent action. That term -decent action- probably needs to be clarified. At this point in the waterfowl season, when speaking amongst the guides, one ever present caveat becomes evident. And that is that there is a very fine line between 10 bird bags and 2 bird bags. Top dog position shifts around from guide to guide throughout the week depending mostly on which gunning party possesses the most skill, patience and good old natural luck. Thursday and Friday of this week provides a good example. Justin and Graham guide those 2 days. On Thursday, their 2 groups can tell the day is 'blue birdy' and opt to bail around noon and head for that 'family friendly' restaurant, Hooters, for libations and of course some of their famous wings. On that day Justin knocks down 3 blacks and Graham gets skunked.
Friday, dawns as a mirror image of the previous day. Their 2 parties on this day opt to hunt till the very end of legal shooting time. Around noon Friday's party has about the same success as Thursday's. When Friday's party hits the docks at dark that evening however, the similarity of the 2 days ends. Justin's bag for the day is composed of 2 swans, 2 Canadas, 2 mallards, a black, 2 redheads and 2 drake pintails that they knock down but cannot retrieve. Graham's log? 2 swan, 4 mallards, 3 black, 2 gadwall and 2 ruddies.
I'm always asked, "Are we going to shoot any birds this afternoon?" and I always answer, "I can't tell you till after, but the only advice I can give you is that you have a way better chance of shooting ducks here than you have of shooting ducks from Hooters. The only way you can have good luck is by putting yourself in a position to be lucky." As Woody Allen once said, "Ninety percent of success is showing up." To that I'll add, "The other ten percent is sticking around."
Week 6 1/5-10
The first part of the week is blue birdy with little wind. By Wednesday we're up to blue birdy with a lot of wind. (SW 25-40). By Wednesday noon, we are under a warning for 60 mph gusts and severe lightning. In a flurry of cell phone activity, the guide service decides to run for it. (Safety first and foremost as always.) With my guys help, we get my rig up and back to the dock just in time. Just as I'm winching my bateau up onto my trailer, the beast of a weather system strikes. No damage other than a good soaking.
The buffleheads take a severe beating this week. Especially during the early part. 79 buffleheads on Monday along with 16 big ducks. Tuesday and Friday sees Currituck go teal crazy. Jay, Justin and Jeff take turns spanking the crazy little green wings. I even score a trophy.
On Friday, I get to make the ultimate perfect guide shot. A single teal drake dives into the decoys. My guys empty out on the rise. As the bird levels off at 60 or so yards straight up, I hear the sixth shot echo in my left ear. A split second later. Bam. My shot folds the bird. No doubt about who makes the shot. There is also no doubt about who's call lanyard the little band will grace.
"yea, I think I'll be keeping that."
On Thursday, the eighth, the guide service passes the one thousand bird plateau. With some nasty weather and a little luck during the next-and las-two weeks of the season, we may be able to break some totals records within the guide service.
Week 7 1/12-17
Now it's getting to the heart of waterfowling. Guides are getting tired. Equipment beat. Decoys shot up. (I call the shot up decoys the 'buffleheads' revenge.) The weather takes on a meaner edge. All day Tuesday, standing in pouring rain.
Monday is one of my best days of the season. That is the hunt I have with my one man party Joe, from Mi. He's been coming down for years. Everything goes right today. The fowl decoys all the way in. Most everything you see gives us a swoop. We're shooting well and finding what we shoot. Not missing stuff. Picking up the birds on the way into, not the way our of, your decoys. Done before noon. 5 widgeon, 2 pintail, a gadwall and 4 buffleheads. All drakes except for one widgeon.
On Wednesday, Graham's party logs a banded drake red head. My marsh snags 3 banded drake teal in a span of nine days.
By the end of the week, Currituck is close to froze up and the blinds in the inlet get a crack at their teal. Justin comes to the inlet on Saturday to escape the ice up north. He's rewarded with, on top of a fun day gunning, a crack at a flock of 50 or so teal. Awesome sight. I watch the drama unfold from my blind, 700 yards away.
One guy peeing. One guy outside the blind with no gun. Justin laying in the weeds out side the blind with his gun 3 feet away. Now add in a flock of 50 teal tumbling into your decoys, wings locked, from 150 yards up. Woo Hoo! They are lucky to get the 3 teal they do get. What a sight though!
Talking about sights. Keegan will have to get the award for the most awesome experience of the season. No, not the lost in the fog part........
Okay. Admittedly, he's a little late getting tied out. He's told the guys that it's already legal shooting time and to load up and take anything (not near him) that comes across the decoys. In a snap, they're loaded up and looking into the eerie gloom of first light.
Then, Keagan tells me, it seems like he looks down to do something for a second and when he looks back up that it almost feels as though the wind is somehow being pushed out of his chest. Just as he looks up he's faced with a gargantuan flock of red heads swooping into his spread. From 300 yards up. No. Really gargantuan. Three to five thousand birds. Bud and I see the flock from 2-3 miles away. We estimate the flock to be three quarters of a mile long and a bit under a half mile thick.
Dropping right into his face!!!!!
When he tells me the story-and I've heard it more than once-he ends up ultimately dissatisfied in not being able to accurately convey the magnitude of the moment. The pure awesomeness.
"No, Vic, you can't understand. I look up and that whole flock is pushing down. Pushing down from three, four hundred yards up. Pushing the air down in front of it. You can feel it. The sound. (he makes a whooshing sound). Then another. Stronger. Another stronger still. Then he just has to look at you. He realizes words cannot describe the experience.
"So, they came all the way in?" I ask. "Close enough to shoot?"
"Oh yeah." You get the faraway look, then he tries again with the whooshing sound. "If any of us had picked up our guns." Again, the faraway look...........
Week 8 1/19-24
Last week of the season. Bring it on. Currituck is off and on frozen up. New ducks are down as the east coast is frozen pretty much right to here.
With all the ice, new birds and general nasty edginess of the colder temperatures, bird movement has increased accordingly.
On Monday, Matt's the stud. His group knocks down 7 teal, a mallard, a widgeon, and 2 buffleheads.
On Tuesday, I have another of the year's best days. A blizzard blows in pretty much with the sunrise. Snow blowing absolutely parallel with the ground. The lighthouse across the bay blurred from sight with the denseness of the snow fall. Winds 25\35 from due north. Being that I've already done the update on that day, I won't bore you by telling that story again.
On Wednesday, Justin's top stud with 4 pintail, 4 blacks, 3 widgeon,a gadwall and a swan. Justin rules again on Thursday. His group drops 3 gadwall, 3 red heads, 2 pintail, 2 blacks and a shoveller.
Wednesday and Thursday are really, really cold. Justin is doing well because he has a natural air hole right next to his blind. He also has approximately 200 decoys that are getting swallowed up by the ice. The birds are so rattled by the weather conditions that it doesn't even matter that Justin is out of the blind, banging ice off his decoys.
By Friday, the weather recedes and nothing moves much all day. It's a toss-up as to who's top dog. Jeff's 8 buffleheads or Matt's snow goose, 2 widgeon and a bufflehead. The weathermen predict cold tonight and another weather front pushing in around noon tomorrow. Should be a big one.
Saturday dawns pretty and cold. The low 20s temps have the inlet half frozen, but it's supposed to warm up as the front approaches. Surprisingly, all goes as planned. By the time the front blows in, the ice breaks up and has drifted off. The shooting commences. Fast forward to the last 45 minutes of legal shooting time.
I'm in Pintail Point and Bud is gunning with William around the corner at Snow Blind. My guys and I are sitting on 2 pintail, a black, a widgeon and a gadwall. Bud's voice crackles out of my 2-way radio that they've just harvested a banded drake pintail. Fast forward to the last 15 minutes of shooting time.
Swan are coming out to the refuge in front of us in small groups, but at such a pace that there are better than 150 or so that have already come out past us. I've saved my swan permit all season, but am determined to down only a young, grey bird. I've told my guys that I'm counting on them to help me make sure the big bird goes down. Once it's apparent that I've hit the bird, they need to throw down also. Same goes for a drake pintail. They've already limited on pintail, so if one comes in, I shoot first. If I put pellets in it they need to chime in and help put him down.
So, here's the situation. 15 minutes to go in the rest of the season and I've flat totally wiffed on 2 different flocks of pintail. I'm kind of steamed at myself.
"Man," I say to myself, "I've had such a great season, and I'm going to end it with wiffs on 2 different bunches of pintail. Dang!"
Then, another single drake swoops into the decoys from behind us. Nobody sees him coming. Of a sudden, he's just there, hanging in front of us. Nobody says anything. We all just jump up. Ready for action. I shoot first and knock him hard. He doesn't fall, though, and instead starts to rise skyward as the wind takes him even higher. My guys shoot twice each as the bird rises, trying vainly to put down the wounded fowl. Then there's a slight pause and my gun barks. The bird folds at 65 yards straight up. No doubt it's my bird. I hit it both first and last.
When I pick it up, I'm ecstatic to see that this drake is banded as well. As I'm showing them the bird and the band one of my guys opines that the only thing that could make the day any better would be to get a chance at my swan.
No sooner are the words out of his mouth, we look up and see 3 swans. Locked up and sliding toward our spread.
Yadda, yadda, yadda. I rock him first shot. It's our ninth and final shot that finally puts the big fellow down. Done!
PS Gary C. from Columbia, SC had one of the best 3 day hunts of the season. Tuesday through Thursday of the last week. He and his buddy and guide over the 3 days down 10 gadwall, 9 pintail, 8 blacks, 3 widgeon, 3 red heads, 2 teal, a shoveller and a swan.
A synopsis of the season.
Week 1 11/8-11/15
Begins unsuspiciously. Seven buffleheads and an old squaw on opening Saturday. The following Monday sees only one pintail drake bagged among 4 different parties. Wow. Nov. 10th gets the award for the worst day of the entire season. The very next day some weather blows in and my party bags 2 pintail, a widgeon, a gadwall and 4 buffleheads.. I note in my log book that we could have limited out by 9:30 and that we missed a bunch. The weather is so pretty the rest of the week that no one hunts. Not even the guides fun hunting. (We had no paying parties booked for those days.)
Week 2 Nov. 17-22
The week starts out slow, both in number of clients and the birds taken. By Wednesday however, we see the formation of a formidable coastal low. The next few days result in some of the best shooting of the entire 08/09 season. On Wednesday, Bud, Johnny and I tie out 2 blinds on my marsh. In total we down 3 teal, 2 pintail, 4 widgeon, 2 red heads and a wood duck. On Thursday, Jeff rules. His group downs 6 mallard, 4 teal, a bufflehead and a merganser. Then, on Friday, we get blizzard #1. I already did an update about that day. Justin's results that day? 18 teal, 2 mallards, 1 pintail, 2 ring necks and a blue bill. Heading to the docks limited out by 8:30 AM. My marsh does pretty well also. Two blinds down a total of 8 widgeon, 1 gadwall, 1 surf scoter, 6 buffleheads and a hooded merganser.
Week 3 11/24-29
If it weren't for the influx of young buffleheads (and I mean a bunch of them! DU reports that their numbers are up 93% over last year.) I'd have to call this a slow week. Toss the young buffleheads into the mix though, and we banged away all week. For the week, we down 141 fowl. 92 are buffleheads. That's out of 17 trips.
Week 4 12/15-20
It was pretty tough gunning this week. Only a few parties per day early in the week. A busy weekend. Gunning pretty consistent all week. A couple to a few big ducks and a decent handful of buffles per group per day. Justin pulls off the hunt of the week on Friday the 19th. Despite missing a bunch, his party brings 3 swan, a pintail, a mallard, a teal and 2 ring necks to the dock. It was also a day for yours' truly to be humbled. My take for a pre-dawn till after dark hunt. One bufflehead!
..........to be continued.
Wow! what a season! We broke just about every record on the books under the heading of "total birds>' Not that we had that many 'limit days,' rather we broke the records with a lot of 'good/average' days. Days where each of our highly professional guides brought to dock 6-12 fowl per party. Times 8 guides, six times a week and the numbers add up.
Our previous totals record prior to this year came from the 81/82 season. That season we took 1250 ducks and 172 geese for a combined total of 1422 fowl. Our second best season was the 80/81 season when we harvested 1175 ducks and 197 geese for a combined total of1372. Our third best season was last year (07/08) when after 26 seasons, we finally broke the 1000 fowl barrier again. (Total 1121 birds.)
This season though, was one for the record books. My marsh and the Colington blind typically account for 175-225 waterfowl per season. These blinds accounted for 503 combined fowl this year. That's got to be a bench-mark. Anyway.
The new service wide 'totals per season' record ended up at 1532 combined waterfowl. I count all ducks, geese, swan, mergansers and coot. I also count birds downed, but not retrievable. Enough about the numbers.
Newcomers to our guide service regularly ask when is the best time to come to the Outer Banks. My answer is always the same. The only sure correlation to good gunning is good 'ducky' weather. Cold. Weather front whipping into town. Blizzards worked well this year. Coastal Nor'easters are the best though. North, north anything. East, west or straight on does not seem to matter. We just need north and lots of it. Fifteen to twenty-five is good, but twenty-five to thirty with gusts over forty is better. Low clouds are a must and off and on drizzle/snow/hail makes the world come to life. These magic days are not for the faint hearted however.
I already wrote about the first blizzard day and how well Justin did. Well, we got a second blizzard day late in January. On the 20th if I'm not mistaken.
When we pull into the docks, in the dark after our hunt that day, we are met by one of our state wildlife officers. He makes sure all of us know that he has spent the afternoon observing us from a clandestine location. Then he opens up a bit more that I expect him to.
"Man, you guys were really out there. I mean, you were in the thick of it. What an awesome couple of blinds you have!"
I answer with a wearied knowing look and a quick laugh. The officer continues, "Dag. That was bunches of pintail. How do you keep your guys from shooting into all the flocks?"
A little indignantly, I say "I tell them not to."
He. "Oh, so you can tell them in time.
Me. "Well, of course, it's my job."
He. Satisfied. "Man, you guys were right in the teeth of all that wind. You know there were gusts over 40. How could you guys even stand the wind chill?"
Me. "Really good clothes. 1600 milligrams of thinsulate on your feet. Oh. And keep your back to it. Any bird has to land into that much wind. Who cares what's going on upwind. You'd never hit it anyway." I continue, "Yea, that was about as extreme as I've been in in a while. We had this one time we were trying to finish off a wounded bird. I'm telling the guys, when he swims into that open spot between the decoys, lay him out. He swims into the open and both guys' guns go off at the same time. Blam. And both their charges hit a foot and a half to the left of him The wind blew their shot a foot and a half off-mark over a span of forty yards! Oh yea" I say half under my breath, "we missed lots."
What a day. I hunted 55-60 days this year just for that one day. But I don't know what day it'll be till the season's over. So. In answer to your question. Any time is the best time to gun the Outer Banks. But if you want that day, you'll have to bring us that weather.
Duckin' and Goosin'
Just wanted to share this letter we received the last day of the season. Kind of says it all about why we love our guide service so much.
thanks for a great year everyone!
I just wanted to send you a quick note and a word of thanks.
Tripp and I had a wonderful and memorable hunting trip with Outer Banks Waterfowl again this season. As always your guides were fabulous. As I expressed to Matt on the last day of our hunt, I walk a fine line as a father. I want to instill a love and respect for hunting in my son while operating at a pace that never ever leaves him miserable and unhappy. The quickest way to make him never want to hunt again is to make him hate it.
Your guides (and I think I have hunted with most of them now) always manage our hunt in a fashion that creates no pressure whatsoever on me as a father or on my young hunter. Your service has created a love for waterfowl hunting in Tripp that I could have never done by myself. I think he had rather be sitting in a blind at Pintail Point than just about anything in the world. That makes this dad very happy!!!
I told my wife on the way home that the older I get, the more I value and cherish memories. I now have a few more gems to file away in my brain. I’ll always remember the “blizzard hunt” at Currituck with Jay on Tuesday, the great goose shot Tripp made on Thursday with Matt and my time in the blind with Captain Vic (not to mention the pair of redheads!!). I can hardly wait to see what next year has in store.
On a side note, let Vic know that Tripp and I both think he (and his marsh) is king. Not that he needs any ego massaging but….. of all the guides that I have ever hunted and fished with from Alaska to Kansas to Maine, he is tops in my book. Spending another day with him on Pintail Point is definitely on my list of things to do.
Thanks again from a grateful father and God bless you all.
Sorry about missing last week's update. We had a bit of a negative experience that I addressed, then after the catharsis of writing it all down, opted instead to send the update to the party involved and save you all the negativity.
I will reiterate however, that bad attitudes almost always result in bad hunts. Something about nature abhorring a vacuum or something.
Today however, is the polar opposite. I get to sit with a wonderful attitude. Back home, you see, the high for the day is projected at 12 degrees. It's under 0 degrees as he speaks with his wife who is back home in Michigan. He gushes about the morning so far. "Work an extra shift honey," he half-jokes. "The taxidermist is going to love seeing me come through the door!"
We have a lovely shoot. I notice new widgeon which have not been here since November. Also, there's a huge cloud of redheads on the Cat Shoal that have yet to be busted up. I also see a 200 bird flock of swan arrive mid-morning. All new birds.
Weather forecasts for this week call for cold and nasty. Finally, the weather we've been waiting all season for.
This week is pretty much slam booked, but there are a few openings for next week, the last for 2009. Give us a call.
Oh yeah. Our totals for today. Our 2 man bag limit by 11:40. 2 pintails, 5 widgeon, a gadwall and 4 buffleheads. All but one of the widgeon are drakes.
That's what I'm talking about!!!
Just a quick note from me. Thanks to everyone for their kind words and sharing pictures! ellenHi Ellen,I just wanted to drop a line to express how much Kevin Frazier and I enjoyed our hunt with Graham last Friday. Hunting the Currituck was a blast. Saw lots of birds all day. The swans were everywhere and Graham really nows how to pull those ducks in on a string! Great variety and an unforgetable experience. We'll be back next year. Can't wait.Thanks,Heath Byerly
Mrs. Berg.I just wanted to send you an email saying thank you for the wonderful time we had on the trip last weekend. It was one of the best trips I have ever taken and enjoyed every second of it. The hunt with Justin was great, getting to see so many different species of waterfowl, especially the chance to see a surf scoter and a swan with a neck collar. The hunt with Vic was amazing with the fast paced shoot trying to kill buffleheads and teal. I have thoroughly enjoyed the visit and look forward to seeing you guys again in the up and coming season. Best of luck the rest of the season and I'll be contacting you guys again towards the middle of the year. Also, I'll send you some of the pictures from the trip for you guys to post on your site. Thanks again.Colby
Quick update from Ellen. Not the most entertaining, (like Vic's updates), but thought you all would like to know the numbers. The 22,23 of Dec. we had 10 2-man parties. Total birds downed-20 buffleheads, 11 gadwall, 4 blacks, 1 shoveler, 1 red breasted merganser, 1 hoodie, 2 snow geese, 5 mallards, 13 pintails, 2 ringnecks, 3 red heads, 3 Canada geese, 3 swan, 3 widgeon and 2 teal. This past week, the guide service collectively shot 23 pintail, 85 buffleheads, 12 blacks, 12 widgeon, 3 snow geese 2 swan, 3 mallards, 5 gadwalls, 2 blue bills, 2 mergansers and 1 teal. And we're rolling right along. Open dates left are 1/5,7,9,13,14,19-24. Hope to see you this year, Ellen
Knowing that the meat of the season occurs after Christmas doesn't take away from the earlier seasons. It's just that those earlier seasons are like a shake-down cruise for our guide service.
Balky motors are coaxed back to life. Blinds are built, improved, moved or replaced, then brushed. Decoys touched up. Decoy lines knotted, some are replaced if frayed. The guns are freed from their off-season prisons and once again feel the harsh sting of their environments and the roar and fire that is their purpose. Dogs once again run free in the wilds of nature.
Then there's shells, boats, gloves, socks and long johns. Maybe you need to find a new 'lucky hat.' You'd be surprised at how difficult it is to find a new hat that comes with a proper amount of luck embedded in it. I live in constant fear of losing the hat I've had since last season. I swear it's the luckiest hat I've ever owned. No seriously, I went all of last season and only got skunked on the final day of the season. (and the skunking was my fault due to missed shots and bad calls on shots.) Then this season, on only the second day, I decide that due to the heat of early November, maybe I should wear a different hat for a day. BAM! Skunked on day 2 of the 08-09 season. That streak didn't last long now did it? You can bet I'll be wearing my old hat way past the time grossness and nastiness dictates a new topper to be demanded by those who gun with me. Mock me if you will, but I do not think that intervention will be ordered as long as those who gun with me realize the benefits of my lucky chapeau's place atop my head.
The first week of the final and main waterfowling season was not so auspicious. A full moon to start. Warm temperatures and little wind didn't help. The 24 trips the first week did yield 155 fowl nonetheless. Numerous bull pintails help. A man's (or woman's) first tundra swan of their life leaves an impression. Fourteen species in a week is somewhat limited for us, but is not bad.
There are tons of birds holding in the area as the 25 minute fly-out I witnessed the other night will attest. Then there was last Saturday when the pintail finally showed signs of busting into smaller groups and decoying as they should. The blind I hunted, (now, how did you guess it was Pintail Point?) has flights of 1,2,3 and 3-7 birds hovering within 25 paces of our gun barrels. The flock of seven literally dove into our decoy spread from 200 yards up and a quarter mile out. Myself and my gunners could not nor will we ever forget the power and beauty of that decoying flock of fowl.
Be a part of 08-09. We still have limited openings available. Talk to your buds and give us call.
Unfortunately, rock fishing sucks so far this winter in NC. The fish staged a limited 3 day run up as far as Nags Head pier about a month ago, then retreated north. Charters out of Oregon Inlet are catching plenty of fish, but only after motoring 40 miles to the north! Almost twice the distance to the Gulf Stream. Sheesh!
Needless to say, I'm concentrating on the ducks.
Duckin' and Goosin',
The #2 segment (Nov.8-29) of our waterfowl season is now officially in the books. Overall, we did pretty well.
In forty trips (average 2 clients/trip), we harvested 268 ducks, 2 brant, 2 swans, 8 mergansers and one coot. Add it up and that is 281 fowl representing 22 species!
Justin had the hunt of the #2 segment toward the end of the second week. Around 7 or 7:30 snow began to fall at a blizzard pace (unheard of in Nov. as far as I can recall), anyway, they had already been having a good morning and were sitting on a couple of mallards, a pintail, a blue bill and a couple of ringnecks, a bufflehead and a ruddy duck. Then the snow blew in, freakishly horizontal and stinging cold. With the snow came the teal. Flock after flock. Forty in this bunch, ten in the next, eight the next, then sixty, then twenty five until Justin's yelling over the wind, "Stop. Whoa! We need to count!"
The piles of fowl on the floor had by now taken on an impressive stature. Sure enough, they were done with 16 teal rounding out the 4 person bag limit. Oh yeah, and they were done and heading home at 8:30 AM. As they were pulling away from the blind, flock after flock of teal were still tumbling into the decoys.
A shoot of a lifetime. Absolutely one for the 'life-'pile.'
On the same day, my marsh shot 19 fowl with widgeon comprising the bulk of our bag. With a bit of weather, November can be really, really good.
Jeff had really good gunning as well, with several days of double digit bags. His best day scored him a double limit of teal and mallards. His party also scored our only federal band so far that was on an ancient snow goose.
The only really fully booked days we had in the November season were the last two days. Five parties on Friday and six on Saturday. The guide service accounted for 91 fowl.
Thank you Lord, and pass the ammunition. We can't hardly wait for the season to come back in on Dec. 13th!
We still have openings, talk to your buddies and give us a call.
Duckin' and goosin',
Ok folks, here's some of Justin's pictures from our early season. Click to enlarge. Hope you enjoy them! Ellen
Waterfowling in November takes on a sort of Shakespearean tenor in that 'it is the best of times and it is the worst of times.'
Twice now we've gone from where everyone has a terrible day and the following morning the weather changes and we all have a wonderful day.
Tuesday, the 11th was terrific with Justin edging myself for top dog honors. He shot 5 teal, 3 drake widgeon, a drake pintail, a drake wood duck and a white winged scoter. Can you imagine shooting a wood duck and a scoter from the same blind?
Yesterday was another good day with me at pintail point as the day's top dog. We got 3 teal, 2 widgeon, 2 pintail and a woodie hen. We could have easily finished off limits with buffle heads, but elected to wait on the big puddlers. We quit at 10 AM.
Gunning is at full swing and we still have some dates opens. Give us a call. Gotta go. More blinds to bush......
This just in for those of you who want up to the minute reports. Jeff and his party quit at 11 AM today with 6 mallards, 4 teal, a buffle head and a merganser. Hope to see you soon, ellen
Outer Banks Waterfowl.
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