Monday, October 22, 2012

Surf(ing) Scoters: The Maine Duck Event & Trey Luckie

Trey Luckie with the first day success.

This isn't as easy as you make it look on the videos Duckman- Trey Luckie on the variables that make sea duck hunting so great.

While sprinting out into the shallow water to grab the black duck pair, I couldn't help but feel relieved.  Trey had invested so much in being here in terms of finances, vacation time, and an immense distance from his family. 

Although he seemed happy just to be visiting, I needed to bring the sea duck event into his world.  The weather simply wasn't satisfactory, breezy with predicted rain.  But I couldn't just sit back and relax on the black duck he took off my shore frontage, I needed to weigh the possibilities around getting the Duckforce onto the water and Trey near a sea duck.

The location I had scouted the weekend before and limited out on eiders was the preliminary plan, however the conditions easily blew that option away.  While we finished our interrupted breakfast, I scoured the internet hitting all my sites determining past, present, and predicted conditions in a calculated effort to determine our move, if any were to exist.

My choice became  a small cove called the Bull's Gulch, typically surf scoters aka patch heads bounce up and down the shore while the tall spruces provide a smidgen of relief from a strong westerly wind.  Rain was in the forecast as well, but I felt confident in our potential here.  A limit here would be a stretch under the circumstances, but an opportunity to shoot would be certain.  We jumped into the truck and made way for the landing, Trey's sea duck weekend was to begin several hours after daylight.

Once around the gut (a sheltered passage from the landing), we met the wind.  Whitecaps sent spray to our side as the bold bow of the Lund deflected salty precipitation.  Trey found himself caught between the desire to observe our commute and the necessity to take personal shelter.  I told him to stay put in the back, within minutes we'd be at the spot.

We ran two loose lines of surf scoter decoys made by GHG about 40 feet apart which would run west to east against a north/south shoreline.  By setting an anchor to the west of the lines we could 1) establish a proper display for optimal visibility for any moving scoter and 2) be upwind of any sea duck that dared to visit.

First line set out

Trey's first sea duck, a surf scoter aka patch head or skunk head

Over time, wind, some rain, and a changing tide, Trey had enough chances to declare a successful hunt.  There were hits, misses, and one greater appreciation for this style of duck hunting.  I opted not to shoot during this hunt simply because I had to coach Trey amongst the variables surrounding hunting out of a boat.  Not only does the hunter need to address a moving bird, but also a moving vessel in an inconsistent motion.  Lateral and vertical movement will create an inconsistent means for each and every shot, a first shot will not be replicated by the next.  The best way to address these challenges is simpler than one would think, stand up.  Your body begins to balance while your legs generate of leveling effort, after several shots and a generalized understanding almost all hunters I take will improve on their shooting.  Trey said it best, "It's like trying to surf and shoot at the same time".  I just needed him to stand and get the steel ahead of the bird so that these scoters would drop.
Patch head number two.

With time, Trey had dropped several scoters (two drake surfs and one hen whitewing) while being close on several other opportunities.  After several cycle of drizzling showers, we opted to try for an eider.  I figured if we could land a matching pair today, the pressure would be off for Saturday.
Trey with his three scoters, note the separate decoy lines in the background.

After pulling my decoy lines, we made way for one of my more favorite eider spots.  We set the lines in the traditional north/south crescent and set upwind of this line.  Any eider that dared to visit would have to funnel through the newly displayed structure of rock ledges offered by an ebbing tide.  Within minutes, the first single drake common eider appeared cupped and committed.  The size of these ducks creates a deceiving aspect simply because these ducks MOVE.  Trey did not succeed on this shot, but used his prior miscue as a gauge for the next shot.  The hen eider fell from the air and rested upon the choppy seas.

Hen Eider

We chose to hunt until two o'clock, but the weather progressively declined above and beyond our poor chance earlier in our hunt.  Relatively tired, we made way back to the landing to retire for the day.


Next:  Trey's pursuit of a drake common eider and lobster feed


  1. Great hunt and something I haven't done yet and look forward to doing - Sea Ducking. Congrats on some really nice birds.

  2. Looks fun. What kind of string do you use for your decoy lines?


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