Friday, May 23, 2008

Duckpower- God Love It!!!




Several years ago, something weird happened... In the aftermath of an amazing volley of shotgun fire, out of a flock of eight eiders only two made in through our gauntlet. As the six floated with the tide on the flat calm water, I announced the simple mathematics of our effort:

"We are at a 75% accuracy rate, and I'm not sure what happened with the other two..."

It was also at that time that our little hunting group of Matt, Steve, and I became the self-proclaimed founders of Duckpower. And within a short amount of time we acquired alter egos to support our self-centered ways...

It is through good luck that I was able to team up with Steve and Matt, and how my relationship with these brothers has developed into the very best of friends. If I were to have gotten married today, both of these fine men would be standing next to me...

First up is Matt Diesel with the world's fastest semi-automatic pump action shotgun hence Machine Gun Matt... When a game warden arrives to check our licenses and limit then it's Misdemeanor Matty, and when things are just right- Diesel by itself...

A relative newcomer to the gunning world, he has brought an intensity and passion for sea ducking that I've never seen from anybody so quickly... We met in 2005 and I currently describe him as one of my very best friends... There's an adage I came up with about my pal Diesel:

" you can't always make a good duck hunter out of a friend, but I've made one great friend out of a duck hunter..."

Next up is the Hammer, or his full name, Duckhammer which derives its origin from a nasty 10 gauge BPS pump action... It literally hammers the ducks and because he's the force behind that cannon, it became quite clear that the Hammer was here to stay. But there is an alter ego especially when he rips out the 3" autoloader Franchi 620 which has earned the silky soft nickname, Frankie Fuddle. Another unfortunate title, Sheldrake Steve originated around the same time as Diesel acquired the alter ego, Matty Merganser. Somehow both Matt and Steve have embraced this idea that shooting a merganser is cool, so when they showcase a lousy moment and look sort of bad, then the negative nickname surfaces.

However, I was fortunate to catch back up with Steve as we taught together in 1999 in downeast Maine. He ended up taking a position with the state and moved to the central Maine area. For some odd reason, we lost touch until by chance we both ended up in Orono in 2002 to pursue administrative degrees. I fear this time we won't be losing touch...

And finally myself the downeast duck hunter, who has over time been referred to as the Duckman. However I have found some unfortunate references with Beachball as the eiders bounced in slowly and all bounced away slowly, and Cocoa when I called myself T-Duck and my cohorts remembered a Seinfeld episode that I would rather forget.

Nevertheless, we support each other on our great shots and lavish the opportunity to witness a poor one. The successes often are overshadowed by the mishaps and we've become a predatory pack that loves to consume on each others failures. But I wouldn't trade our situation for anything, for it is Duckpower that has made our passion even better. God love it!!!


video


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The early bird gets the worm, not so...





As a life-long learner, I embrace what life has to offer and love to put my thinking into action. Generally speaking in terms of great sea duck hunting, one must be set up and ready before the first crack of dawn. Now I spend many hours of my life up before dawn as a lobsterman and won't even flinch about an early morning of coffee upon a potentially great day of gunning, but I had been thinking about a theory for sea duck hunting.

Rather than set up before daylight to get the early fliers, I got thinking about the habits of the local sea ducks especially those hefty eiders and convinced myself that the tide has far more to do than the time of day. Key feeding zones are usually exposed at low water and eiders primarily feed on small shellfish in shallow water. This is how I got to watching and scouting, all I needed to do was find some key observation points, utilize a nautical chart, spend time on aerial photo internet sites, and watch. The eiders were quite predictable and I followed the feeders patterns for an entire week.

They did fly first thing in the morning, that was a given as I have spent many early mornings limiting out in no time. But I did recognize that even with that early morning pressure, many feeders would locate themselves in the same general area at the feeding zones from about two hours before low water and for about two hours flood. This would happen day after day, only about one hour later each morning...

Now this seems pretty trivial, but many species of animals function based on daylight and food availability while eider capitalizes on the level of the ocean. So I had to put this plan into action and all I needed was an opportunity to convince my good hunting buddy, Matt Diesel, to get in on the action. Let me explain...

Matt and I had planned for an early morning hunt late October, but the weather wasn't cooperating. Matt called the night before, said he'd be there, wanted to go but wanted to make sure the weather wasn't too snotty, but still wanted to go but that's how he works. He's a gunning fanatic and a great hunting partner, however he is as cautious as a spooked cat. It was at this point that I shared my game plan...

The wind was supposed to settle down and come from the southwest, the tide would be three hours ebb around 1 p.m. so we could hunt a feeding zone during the afternoon and I promised a limit. Diesel agreed and he showed up at noontime with a degree of skepticism. But I did not worry, this was going to be a great hunt...

My father jumped aboard this hunt and we launched by 12:30. At 1 o'clock we had set out a line of 40 eiders running north and south with the boat situated just northwest of the tollers. It was a bluebird sky and to be honest, not a chance at all. We loaded up and waited...

In about fifteen minutes, the drakes started moving in as we hid behind the canvas blind constructed on the Lund my father and I had acquired, painted, and rigged exclusively for sea ducks. Within two hours, we had limited out on young eiders that resemble eclipse drakes building plumage for the upcoming winter. Matt Diesel was all grins and I was elated to see my plan foster so much success...

A good habit we've been practicing since we formed Duckpower in 2005 is that we debrief and discuss all the angles about the hunt. First we discussed the weather- sunny, light southwest breeze, the tide- three hours ebb, low water at 4:03 p.m., the decoys- north/south, 40 dekes, mostly drake eiders, the action- small groups, mainly young drakes, with singles finishing out, and how these all came into play. The verdict became that with the proper preparation and execution, an effective sea duck hunt can be had...

The early bird may get the worm, but we got our limit... god love it!!!


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Jim's First Eider, well... first three....

Once in a great while a person can be dazzled, amazed, or awestruck. It's very fortunate that we have been taking the time to document our hunting through video. And to have caught Jim's first rally on tape is quite special. What I would give to have that first coot on film many moons ago!!!

I have known Jim for several years now and he finally went out with Matt Diesel and myself for a little sea ducking. Jim is quite accomplished with puddle ducks, but hasn't really chased eiders, coots, and old squaws. He had first crack at daylight and typically we only shoot one at a time since the limit is either 5 eiders and 2 coots, or 4 coots and 3 eiders. In a matter of seconds, Jim had already dropped three of his limit...




Why I'm crazy, but committed...


There's a book aptly titled, “All Duck Hunters are Crazy” by Ron Koch of Wisconsin, and the title speaks volumes to how I must honestly be or act from time to time. I had started a journal about one of these times and to be honest, never ever continued it. Nevertheless, here is the submittal with some recent editing, and an opportunity for some reflection. All is took was a little unfavorable weather and a few minutes to think.

December 3, 2007

On the first major winter storm of the season, I thought my odds of getting a black duck or mallard below the waterfront property would be fairly decent. In the past, I have had success decoying blacks during a storm utilizing a wooden mallard call and a string of carry lite black duck dekes. They seem to toller very well and might be the only time a black duck can be tricked. The opportunity seemed flawless, except that the tide was just turning back onto the flats.

From the waterfront cape with a set of binoculars, I spotted two feeders far out by the picked rock near the tides edge. These two presented an excellent opportunity for a sneak attack. I would need to take my time and approach these ducks with caution, they were at least several hundred feet away.

At 12:30 p.m. and increasing snow, I hit the shore via the north side of the wharf. To my surprise, well maybe not, two mallards took flight into a high southeast wind with driving horizontal snow. Talk about frustration, if I had known they were there, it would have been an easy double.

Upon this blunder, I continued towards this square rock behind a ledge out towards the picked rock and again was pinned by two more ducks. They promptly lifted into the high wind and flew in the head of Cranberry Cove. Taking a shot are either of these would have been futile and would have erased any possibility of my original strategy.

At this point, I felt uneasy about the ducks I had spotted out by the picked rock for they could have been alerted by two consecutive pairs taking flight. I continued hand and knee, moving towards the picked rock and reached the ledge prior to the rock. In all the wind, snow, and cold, the remaining pair rose into the wind, suspended making no headway at all. I sprung up, anticipated and acted on the mallards with three straight shots of failure. The pair turned to the west, then veered into the wind only to turn with a tailwind back by me at a fairly high clip. I offered no additional fire at them as they cheated towards the shoreline. This was not a favorable shot and I opted not to cast steel in that direction.

I immediately ran back up to the house and garnered four black duck decoys out of the bed of my pickup. While setting them out across the drain my father came down with a line of six more and he placed them in the drain below my string so that they took a “T” formation with the bottom of that “T” directed windward. Dad wished me good luck and he sped towards the cape. I chose to set up next to the rock by the wharf where the new extension ended, unfinished but near completion. Here I could tuck in to the lee and quietly watch the dekes behind two old traps laid by the rock.

It was here I would remain for the next three hours with snow gathering on my nose, my fingers reasonably frozen, and the circulation of my behind down to my toes creating that prickly feeling which I assume will drive any person to a wit's end. My thoughts focused on how my earlier failure had transpired and how I may proceed in the future if a similar opportunity presented itself. But again, I clinically was freezing...

While out there, I asked myself why am I here? After another half hour of witnessing the never ending horizontal frozen precipitation, it occurred to me: I have a passion for duck hunting and to be passionate about something you must endure the difficulties that may arise in pursuit of that passion.

This is what our younger generation lacks, passion. There exists this short term memory persona to our teenagers today that doesn't allow a passion to be developed. When any difficulty occurs, they're done. Simple as that and they're on to the next convenient thing that will curb the boredom.

If my father intended for me to learn anything from my upbringing, it must be the value of hard work and the commitment to what you have before you. To give 100 percent for one person isn't the same as 100 percent for someone else and in a culture that seems to become increasingly more lax in this slipping ideology of 100 percent, I question how our world can improve. My father is the hardest worker I've ever seen and even though I don't want to be him, I always aspire to be like him. He exemplifies hard work and what 100 percent stands for... and maybe that's why I stayed there.


Monday, May 19, 2008

When you have been given a shotgun...


Just recently I acquired my father's old 1100 Remington autoloader and I'm not sure why I have taken on this project... And yes it is a project, this 12 gauge firearm had spent some time secluded amongst some old lobster trap gear nestled exactly 20 feet from the downeast coast in an uninsulated, unheated building with three damaging affects- moisture, salt air, and time. When my dad tore down the building, he managed to discover his faithful weapon that had been conveniently missing for quite some time! The story goes that as ducks (blacks, mallards, buffleheads, and such) would move into the cove he could better sneak to the shore without the gun and then acquire it just before he slid behind the wharf to snipe his quarry. But as things happen and least we forget, the 1100 Magnum felt into sort of retirement as steel shot became the required load, new guns replace old, and how much time can one person spend looking for a beater that he can't use?
Having been very interested in amateur gun repair and modification, I had begun a lengthy and exhaustive project restoring a 1919 Remington Model 11 that had been given to me by this old geezer. Unfortunately, this is a story in itself but to make a long story short, my gunsmith had the gun for 4 years and when I finally decided enough was enough, I reclaimed the gun in its disassembled state with a grudge. The gunsmith died two weeks later. I always joked that I needed to get that gun before he died, I do hope that my words weren't part of the plan. Discouraged with a gun 79 years old and little way to fix it, I gave up on my gun smithing dreams until now.
I live across the road from my parents and I was kicking around in their basement looking for some of my decoys when I fell onto the old belle I thought, "no way, not again" but then my wheels began to spin and a more optimistic dream began to settle. First, this gun is far more current and 1100 parts are relatively easy to acquire, looked fair in its appearance less the corrosion, and this was my father's primary waterfowling gun of choice. His legacy will include his gunning and I am part of this heritage, it almost seems expected for me to honor his dedication to a lifestyle he has given to me whereas this gun deserves to be given a little attention.
I suppose any effort like mine begins today with a world wide web hunt for information. The shotgun needed a birthday, raw data about it, and any prior listings, forums, and sites that could educate me about this new project. I'll be honest, to research a shotgun doesn't really cause a person to wander through useless websites. Almost all forums, sites, and blogs were very helpful in establishing my personal baseline for this process. The challenge became organizing the material so that I could effectively structure my collected material for reference as I continue the process. So I now have several folders on my desktop with archived specific sites for bluing, treating the stock, and mechanical processes. In addition, I have bookmarked key sites that provide interactive discussion on the previously mentioned topics. It's amazing how one can become quietly and quickly educated about something of interest, the challenge for people years ago must have been discouraging. But I do believe that there must have been more basement gun shops with knowledgeable people who could exercise their talents in basic gunsmithing or had the contacts if they couldn't. This breed is quietly disappearing and my efforts just might become the new wave in do it yourself gunsmithing. But just in case, I have acquired the names of men who do live at least one hour away.
So here's the status thus far on my 1100... It was made February of 1974 and my father bought it in Bangor, Maine that fall. It was a full choke barrel for lead shot, but was made a modified choke in the spring of 1975. It is a 3 inch Magnum but my dad swears he used lots of Winchester Super-X 2 3/4 loads with no problems whatsoever. The gun was structurally intact with no exterior damage less the basic effects of 2 two years hiding in layaway. After some basic cleaning and inspection, the 1100 is clearly salvageable and will be repaired. For a man who doesn't have enough time to do anything, I've once again found myself dedicated to another important project.