I'D WRITTEN earlier about the changes in the waterfowl hunting due to regulations, that in my mind usher in a closed period of hunting when the population of waterfowl, at least on Great Bay, seems to be peaking. Now, I'm not that sure that's happening this year and it seems that a lack of hunter interest and activity has changed Great Bay's hunting, and that could be a permanent change.
I'm writing this column a couple of weeks before you get to read it. On Nov. 16 we lived through the most unbelievable opening day of the second half of the waterfowl season that had been closed since Oct. 19. What was so memorable? The lack of hunting pressure and the few if any shots fired that whole day!
When I was a kid growing up not over two miles from Great Bay, opening day of the "duck hunt" seemed like World War III was going on. The amount of gunfire was unbelievable and it was probably that amount of shooting that inspired me to become the waterfowl-hunting nut that I am. Now living right on the shore of Great Bay and having survived about 50 opening days, it's very strange for us to witness the incredible decline of hunting pressure.
It's not that there are not the ducks and geese on the "Bay." From my living room window we just counted 160 or so black ducks resting within gunshot of our shoreline. Earlier a flock we estimated to count as high as six hundred lesser scaup (we call 'em bluebills) floating comfortably about a half mile offshore. In between these flocks of ducks there were hundreds of geese and other ducks scattered all the way from the Greenland and Stratham shorelines across the bay to Newmarket and Durham and down around the Pease Wildlife Refuge, which, by the way, you can hunt just offshore in boats. We spotted flocks of golden eye ducks, buffleheads, mergansers and mallards and mixtures of several species in some flocks. And saw only one duck hunting boat and heard less than six shots all the time we were around home.
One reason that there has been less shooting than usual has to be the fact that very few waterfowlers are out on the water with their boats. It's these "boat people" that will keep the birds in the air to provide shooting for the hunters that are shorebound or hunting from boats anchored among a set of waterfowl decoys. The small flotilla of waterfowl sculling boats, that are very low to the water and use stealth to sneak up on the ducks and geese seems to have just about gone, with the old-timers being the last ones with that kind of skill with a sculling oar.
When there were three of four of these boats working the big flocks of ducks and geese, the firing of their big magnum ten-gauges would roust ducks and geese within a mile of them and keep them flying around for some time, making them vulnerable to the more stationary hunters.We were not there, but we heard from people living along the ocean coastline that there had been a lot of gunshots by waterfowlers in that area. We had noticed a big increase in people hunting the ocean for sea ducks, different species than the inland ducks. If that is true, then my worries about no duck hunters is not warranted. But it's still tough for this old "coot" to see the vaunted Great Bay hunt diminish to a very quiet experience.
Drop us an email at DoDuckInn@aol.com and give us your slant on this whole thing.
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.