Sea Ducks are Gaining Popularity with Wayne Radcliffe
Editor’s Note: One of the most-exciting waterfowl hunts you’ll ever go on is a sea-duck hunt along Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Tons of ducks, a layout boat and plenty of good friends make this a different type of hunt. This week Alpen has talked with Wayne Radcliffe of Glenn Arm, Maryland, the territory manager for Avery Outdoors, a company that specializes in waterfowl equipment.
Alpen: Wayne, are there many people who hunt sea ducks?
Radcliffe: There used to be hardly any at all. But the popularity of sea-duck hunting has grown drastically over the past few years.
Alpen: Why have more people started hunting sea ducks?
Radcliffe: Sea duck hunting is a lot of fun. Also, during a mild winter there aren’t as many puddle ducks to hunt as there are in times of severe winters. Often, people get tired of hunting ducks and geese every weekend. Sea ducks are a different type of duck, and sea-duck hunting is a unique way of hunting ducks. Sea ducks are also extremely beautiful birds, and many sportsmen want to take them so they can mount them.
Alpen: How many people usually sea-duck hunt together?
Radcliffe: We take at least six to eight hunters to make the trip worthwhile. We put two hunters in the layout boat, and the other hunters stay in the tender boat to pick up the ducks the hunters in the layout boat take.
Alpen: Why and how do you use your Alpen binoculars ?
Radcliffe: We use Alpen binoculars to spot the ducks. When we see ducks sitting on the water, we determine if they’re old squaws or scoters. Oftentimes, we try to get upwind of them so that as other duck boats or work boats (crabbers, oystermen, clam hunters and others) go up and down the bay, they’ll flush the ducks, causing them to fly into the wind. By identifying what ducks are downwind of us, we can better know at what type of ducks we’ll be shooting. Our Alpen binoculars are also important when we start searching for the ducks on the water the hunters have shot. Using binoculars, we can spot the downed ducks and know what type of ducks they are and how to approach them with the boat to pick them up. We also can watch the other hunters and see how many and what type of ducks they’re shooting.
Alpen: What shot do you use for hunting sea ducks?
Radcliffe: I shoot BBs. Sea ducks are very-tough ducks because they live in the Arctic and then fly down here to live on Chesapeake Bay. They have to be tough to fly that far and live in a rough environment. They also have heavy, well-matted feathers over their heavy down feathers. Most of our shots from the layout boat will be taken at ducks 20 yards in front of us in our decoys. Traditionally, sea ducks have been shot out of big center-console boats. But we’ve found that we can get more action and take more ducks by using layout boats.
Alpen: What gun are you shooting?
Radcliffe: I shoot a Remington 870 Express Super Mag with a Patternmaster extended-range choke.
Alpen: How many boxes of shells do you usually take on a sea-duck hunt?
Radcliffe: That depends on the shooter. Sea-duck hunting is much like a dove shoot, except you’re flat on your back in 1-1/2-feet of sea water and bobbing like a cork. This type of shooting is a real challenge because you don’t have a stable shooting platform, and you’re not in a steady position when you stand up to take the shot. However, the more you shoot from a layout boat, the better you get at shooting from a layout boat. I won’t go on a sea-duck hunt without at least a box or more of shells and my Alpen Binoculars.