Dick Pinney's Guide Lines: When weather allows, sea duck hunting is greatBy DICK PINNNEY December 03. 2017 4:55AM
December is a month where our outdoor sporting activities can really vary. If there's been enough cold to get out on the ice for some ice fishing, there's no doubt that we'd be out there doin' it. But as we write this, there isn't even a hint of that happening.
We're not into small game hunting any more as it's a little too much work for these aging legs to carry my 215-pound frame over hill and dale. But sitting in a boat out on the ocean hunting sea ducks or squatting in some cover watching our flock of goose decoys is still right down our alley!
It's getting harder and harder to find any new- or old-time sea ducking hunter to face those early and shivering mornings launching a boat into the unknown ocean conditions in the dark.
The sea conditions at the outlet of Rye Harbor where we normally launch to set decoys for sea duckin' is hard to judge until you approach it by boat as there's no way you can walk the seawall on foot or to find out any other way.
We can remember a few days when we rode a wave out through the opening to the open sea when it was too dark to make an informed decision and more than once we've yelled to our partner or partners to just hold on tight while we spun the boat around out in a violent sea and literally did ride the crest of a huge wave back to the safety of the harbor, and several dark mornings when we cursed our decision to kind of ride it out and hunt.
When setting our anchor we could more sanely arrive at a safe decision to either hunt or "give 'er a try."
Many times it was our guest or guests onboard who helped make the decisions, and it was almost unanimous that we would be best to head back in and head for the nearest breakfast counter! (Which often was Hebert's restaurant's back room at Rye that was run by sportsmen friends and catered to crazy early-morning people like us!)
Hunting those tough conditions could be the good news or the bad news. The good news was that the scoters, eiders and old squaw ducks would usually pile into the decoys and often land before we even had a chance to mount a gun! And believe it or not they were so happy in those bad conditions to be easily scared out of their secure feeling of being next to their wooden fakes!
Sometimes we even had to fire a shot over their heads for them to get the idea to fly if we decided the conditions were too harsh to stay and hunt.
But those conditions worked very well for us when we were able to set up our decoys in a sheltered area with some relatively camp water. On those days the ducks would just die to get in out of the wind and waves. Limits came quickly under those conditions but chasing a crippled duck while standing in the bow of a bouncing boat trying to fire a killing shot was not a whole lot of fun!
And often getting back into the harbor where we had launched was like a crapshoot! Timing the waves so you didn't get the boat hung up on huge boulders took a lot of courage and more than a lot of good luck! In the dozens of times we've navigated the harbor entrances, we've only once got hung up and then the next wave gracefully picked our boat up and set us into some relatively safe and calmer water.
And do you believe we still call this fun? But at our age we've gained a bit of sanity and calling off a hunt is no longer a sign of weakness. The pats on our back when we've got the boat back on the trailer serve as witness to us making the right move at the right time.
Drop us an email at DoDuckInn@aol.com and please stay in touch!
Dick Pinney 's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.