Dick Pinney's Guide Lines: Sea duck hunting is good eating

By DICK PINNEY October 06. 2018 11:06PM


We love October because it includes some of the best of our outdoor recreation - we're talking serious hunting and fishing times! Times when you can kill and enjoy both fish and game.

Let's start with hunting, because we've not been able to do any serious hunting until October. Not that you can't eat the stuff you've killed in September, but my taste buds are not that fond of fried crow or sautéed owl breast.

One of our favorite pastimes is hunting for sea ducks, or "sea fowl" as known by our longtime and mostly gone old-timers who introduced us to this fun and productive hunting.

What was easy for us was the fact that we already had most of the equipment to get started in this often fast and furious shooting. We'll call it that because on some days the sea ducks - eiders, scoters (not pronounced as scooters!) and old squaws would mostly ignore our presence sitting in an open boat and try to commit suicide by just bombing our set of just about any kind of duck decoys we had out.

They were not put off by us sitting in a non-camouflaged boat and would often even set down among our flock of floating black duck and mallard dekes.

When retrieving downed ducks, we always have a gun ready to finish off any wounded birds. Use light loads of small shot like size 8 for this and try to aim for the duck's head. Wounded ducks will often dive so be ready for them to pop back up as they cannot stay underwater for any length of time.

The knock on sea duck hunting, the unfounded rumor that they were not edible, was caused by hunters that didn't know how to dress them after the kill. If you just plucked 'em and stuffed 'em, the stench was bad enough to cause your wife to take baking pan and cooking ducks out the kitchen window or back door! By just skinning and filleting off their breasts and removing their legs (skin them also) they made for pretty good eating. We also will remove all visible fat.

We like to roll the prepared duck meat in seasoned flour and fry them in good cooking oil or melted butter.

Key here is not to overcook! A slightly pink color when testing with a knife is sufficient and will produce some very good eating.

Did we mention don't overcook?! It's the best way to spoil your sea duck meat!

The old-timers used to say that you want to throw the cooked duck away and eat the fry pan! That's kind of a good joke because when you do overcook them, they are both tough and taste and smell like skunk. I don't know anyone who has tried cooked skunk, but it's a fun comparison to use and they actually may be delicious But if you want to give skunk meat a try, please let us know what it tastes like!

We use a very simple set-up for our sea ducking rig. We use a fairly heavy twine such as used in the netting of lobster traps and fix a loop to the front of each decoy, which has a snap swivel to affix the decoy to the mother line. Make sure that you don't set any decoys out of shotgun range, and also you want to have the mother line attached to an anchor separate from the boat anchor so that you can just detach each when necessary.

When ducks are working your setup, try to keep movement in your boat to a minimum. They are not the most wary of the wildfowl but that doesn't mean they are stupid!

One of the best ways to retrieve your downed ducks is the use of a large, long handled boat net that's used to bring big, hooked fish aboard. They save a lot of time instead of chasing a wounded duck around. We also use a heavy billy club to humanely kill wounded birds. Using a knife can be a very messy and slow way and not that successful way to take care of a wounded duck or goose!

One other thing that you need to do is to familiarize yourself and those who hunt with you in identifying the various duck species. This could help you stay out of big trouble with the law as to bag limits for different species!

When you learn the simplicity of hunting for sea ducks, it's easy to not pay enough attention to your own safety at sea. It's a must to keep your personal lifesaving vest on at all times! And you also should have a working ship-to-shore radio and all the other safety equipment mandated by law! And also advise someone that will be onshore as to what your plans and times of returning to port are.

We love to sea duck hunt! There's something about being out on the ocean on a nice fall day and being able to feel the independence and wildness of the event!

Drop us a line at doduckinn@aol.com and get out there and get you some!

Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.


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