Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Waterfowl of North America Project"

I wanted to write a bit about a project that I think is both a very good idea and an excellent educational tool. It's called The North American Waterfowl Project. This project is being spearheaded by Kevin Booth, who I first met on a hunting trip to Alaska several years ago. Since then, Kevin and myself have kept up with each other, and he's actually finishing the Utah waterfowl season hunting over one of my carved blue bills from the TRAVELING DECOY RIG.

Considering his passion for both waterfowl and the heritage and tradition of waterfowl hunting, Kevin is the perfect person for this project.

Kevin's the one holding the immature Drake King Eider he shot out of a layout boat on the hunt we met on:

Please follow the link - The North American Waterfowl Project - for an overview of the project.

It's my hope you'll book mark his blog, as it will be a very interesting project to see to fruition.

Thanks, Justin

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"From 150 to 5, Magellan at Willow Break Day 2" by Jeffrey Estes


Jeffrey Estes
Tad "Tadpole" Williams

Date: Sept 21, 2010
Temp: 68 F

Wind: West 5mph

Location: Duckhole Blind, Willow Brake

On the ride back to camp yesterday, we found about 150 teal in duckhole. It seemed like every teal on the club was in that hole, which would make for a quick limit the following day. Pierce and Provance were a little under the weather and decided to pass on the morning's hunt. It took a good 20 minutes to get "Tadpole" motivated enough to get up and go hunt, even after telling him about all the teal spotted from the day before.

After getting setup, we didn't have any action until 15 minutes after shooting time started. We had 3 come in low on the deck, about 2 feet off the water. We knocked down all 3, but one got up and left by some sort of a miracle. Ten minutes later a single comes in the same way and was dropped at about 15 yds, a few feet from Magellan. Another ten minutes passes until another single swings into the dekes and was folded by "Tadpole". We sat there another hour before calling it quits, hoping that all those birds would show up. Why only five decided to show this morning, no one knows ...

Magellan in the spread:

Tad with a handful:

Magellan with some Blue Wing Teal:

Jeff and Tad after the hunt:

THANKS Jeff and Tad for your hunt over Magellan.  These two show up again later in the season for a fantastic hunt.  Hope everyone enjoys the stories, check back often - Justin

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Mississippi Red - by Mike Hruby"

You know they say you can see a man’s soul if you look him in the eyes. Well, if you’re a decoy carver, you can see it in his work.

This is a short story of decoy sharing venture with someone that started carving roughly the same time I did. I’ve yet to meet Justin Harrison; but I can already tell by the way he writes, the things he takes pictures of, and the decoys he carves, what kind of man he is.

Justin contacted me on a thread of a decoy carving forum that we frequent. His request...simple. He wanted to send me one of his decoys of birds prevalent to the area I live in and could hunt. I would take the block, hunt over it, photograph and document it. I thought it was a tremendous idea and agreed!

My wife called a few days later. “Mike, there is a box here from Mississippi for you. I’ll leave it on the counter.” Well I already knew what was in that box, and I couldn’t wait to get home to see the bird I dubbed “Mississippi Red” (MS Red). I knew Justin preferred white cedar and oils; and was using his own patterns, something I don’t have the nerve to try yet, as I’m still making decoys with my cork and wooden heads. In other words, Justin was doing it right in my opinion. Going old school the way the old carvers did.

I cut the box open and there he was. A handsome Redhead drake ready to work! Ironically enough, Mississippi Red made it to Texas a day before we would leave for the windswept middle Texas coast. Perfect timing! MS Red was loaded up with the rest of my gear, and we’d make the trip together in the morning.

We got to Rockport early in the evening enough with a brilliant, sunny day gracing us. As we unloaded the truck expeditiously to launch the boat to find some of our quarry; I found the perfect time and place to take a picture of MS Red in his temporary home for the weekend. It was taken overlooking a back lake that on this day was nothing short of gorgeous with serenity.

Old man winter was to be up to no good on this weekend in December. We arrived to mid 70’s temps and 30+ mph gust from the south/southeast; only to be faced just the opposite in the coming morning. On our scouting trip in the area to look for birds; it was soon apparent that a shortage of divers would not be a problem. What would be an issue is that the thousands of them we saw were rafted in huge, tight bunches in the middle of the surrounding bays making hunting them tough the way we are rigged to do it. We were damn sure hell-bent and determined to try though!

The first morning would be an indicator that the bluebill and redhead would stay bunched in the relative safety of the middle of the bays. On this day only a couple ducks fell victim to our spread, but MS Red got to make his maiden voyage in the Lone Star state. I have to say he looked damn good doing it! I love the way solid wooden decoys float in the sway of a slight chop. The way they toss and turn makes them more realistic than plastic decoys could even remotely resemble. The redheads showed briefly and a hen would fall; but I wanted and hoped for a big drake for a photo opportunity!

Due to the terrain we hunted in the first morning and the proximity of the retriever with her handler whom she no doubt would take the birds back to; my camera would not see much action. The second morning we again were met with horrible conditions. Once again MS Red swam in his chosen place, and hopefully the species of his makeup would swing by for a visit. Well with the north wind absolutely howling, the divers that morning once again rarely left the safety of the middle of the bays where no waterfowlers ventured. On occasion a boat carrying fishermen would stir the raft in which they resembled a swarm only briefly to sit back down. Frustrating to say the least!

MS Red would see some birds fall on this chilly morning but only bluebill and bufflehead. I had to get up and run, but I did catch one of unlucky buffies only seconds after impact!

So goes the story of the little wooden decoy, handcrafted from a carver in the great state of Mississippi, who came to Texas to job…and a working decoy he is.

I have a large collection of decoys from all over North America some in which date to the early 1900’s. I often look at and or hold them and wonder what the maker looked like or what his mindset was while crafting such a beautiful piece of Americana. Like my signature says on one of the carving forums I frequent - ”If only decoys could talk”.

And as stated earlier, I’ve never met Justin Harrison, yet! But when I finally get to look him in the eyes, shake his hand, and say hello, I will already know what type of person I’m dealing with. We’re damn near two peas in a pod. Justin will join Craig and I next year, and I hope he brings Mississippi Red back for his sophomore year! I look forward to it, and to forging a lifelong friendship.

Funny what a piece of cedar or cork can do to men who craft them into ducks for hunting.

Thank you for including me Justin!

THANKS Mike and Craig for taking the lil redhead from Mississippi on a Texas coast hunt!

Hope everyone is enjoying the stories of the rig as they travel across the country!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"What Every Traveling Hunter AND Guide Should Read"

The idea for this article stems from both personal experience free lancing across the country; along with, paying an outfitter for guiding services, and hearing both the satisfied client's experience and the disgruntled hunter's take. In fact, a couple of recent experiences - one a free lancing debacle, the other a paid hunt which saw better than average hunting opportunities but left a good bit to be desired in the safety department - led me to start seriously considering my options when it comes to out of state hunting opportunities.

Question my experience concerning the matter?  Let me tell you my freelancing experience from last turkey season.  I spent 6 days in the mountains of New Mexico, climbing mountains, and traversing snow banks attempting to kill my second Merriams turkey.  Every hunt attempted was met with other hunters coming to the sound of my calling and the responding gobbling. Every last hunt was ruined by other hunters. After six days of frustration and coming home empty handed, I tallied what was spent, not to mention valuable time from my family.  Had I booked from a reputable guide that had already done the manual labor and home work, I could have spent half that time away from home for much the same amount of money. This also would have increased the odds that the only thing keeping me from harvesting a Merriams would be my own ability.

As previously mentioned, another experience in which I was a paying client led me to seriously reconsider the way I handle out of state hunting. Basically this is to say - how I handle my hard earned money and vacation time. I should first say that I was told upfront how hard the hunt could be, and that it was going to be a very hands-on type of hunt. I went on the hunt understanding everything. I also went on the premise that I would relay my thoughts concerning the hunt - what was good and bad - so that the guide, who is not officially taking clients yet, would use the info to become better. After thinking about the hunt itself, as it stands right now, there is no one I could recommend that hunt to on a clear conscience - it's just too dangerous. We hand lifted the sink box out of the boat, and placed it in the water. It's too heavy and there's too many moving parts, to accomplish this safely. At some point, someone is going to go overboard or get seriously hurt. I told our host as much, and I truly believe he's going to reevaluate the process. A wench, pulley, and solid steel spar will go along way to accomplishing this.

Please understand, I'm not writing anything I haven't expressed to the guides I've used before. In fact, it can not be said enough, but I've had nothing but solid hunts when using outfitters. It also can not be said to a guide enough - there's always something you can do better. I'll not list a guide or service by name. I've wrestled with this, and I'm not here to disparage anyone nor am I getting paid to advertise for anyone either. What I want to do is give you (the reader, be paying client or outfitter) some things to consider when you book a "destination" hunt or when you take money for hunting opportunities.

Over the last 10-15 years I have been fortunate enough to do quite a bit of traveling across the continent chasing both ducks and turkeys.  On those travels, I have been both freelancer and paying customer/client, and see the value in both.  But, as I age, my family becomes ever larger requiring more time, and I begin to realize the value of "time", it's becoming more important for me to spend less time in a more quality environment.  Five years ago, I would have thought nothing about taking off for a couple of weeks to Montana to hunt ducks, geese and upland game (and, I didn't think twice about it several different times).  Over the last several years, I have seen the traveling hunter population explode.  My best guess is it's the internet and the increasing popularity of hunting "message boards".  Never has it been easier for a guiding service to post immaculate photos of a hunt, tell the story, and garnish fame from the membership. 

Conversely, never has it been easier for someone with a boat and an internet connection to promote themselves as a guide service, leaving out the important stuff/little details, and post to a message board the one good hunt they had last year.  And, typically, it takes one group of hunters with the same internet connection to post their experience while on the outfitter's hunt (or, more likely the lack thereof), disgruntled over half truths, few opportunities, and lack of planning on the guides part to seperate the wheat from the shaft.  These hunters have lost both time and hard earned money, they feel it, and want others to as well.

But, who's to blame?  The guide who's trying to make a name for himself who promotes half truths and, at times, outright lies in order to make a buck?  Or, is it the group of hunters who failed to do their homework, failed to get proper references from other hunters, and who were probably wanting to invest little to nothing in hopes of a grand return?  In my opinion, BOTH parties are to blame.

Never in our history has time (or lack thereof) meant more.  I've realized that substituting time with money makes best use of my time and money. I work hard and want a vacation, not a goat roping. I'd rather go on a 5 day excursion to Canada in September or October, shoot more birds in that week than many will in a year, and make the most of the few days of vacation I have.  In fact, I contend that it's best to pay a premium to a reputable guide service, who's backed by proper references (and lots of them), and who consistently puts hunters on the quarry. This allows the hunter to spend less time away from their home and family.

But, what is a reputable guide?  What should you ask of the guide as a minimum before laying down that deposit?  Below are my own thoughts on the subject, and by no means am I saying I'm an expert or this is an all-inclusive list.  I'm just trying to outline from my own experiences what I have started looking for in a service.  While focusing mainly on duck hunting excursions, one could easily insert any form of wildlife hunting pursuit, with minor tweeks here and there, and begin to form your own list:
  •  SAFETY - I can't stress safety enough.  Having hunted sea ducks in Alaska, New England, and the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, I have come to respect those guides that refuse to put their clients in harms way.  While the above examples are extreme environments, it's just as important for the rice field or flooded timber in the lower Mississippi River valley.  Clients should feel safe at all times, and feel as though their guide is experienced enough to pull them through in the case of the "worst case scenario".
  • CONSISTENCY - considering time = money and that hunters are paying for the opportunity, you better be able to deliver under most any situation or you will reap the whirlwind.
  • TRUSTWORTHINESS - sadly, this has to be mentioned, but it does. Basically, did the hunt end up "as billed"? Where the opportunities there for the game being pursued?  A potential client should remember that an outfitter isn't selling you the birds, they are selling you the hunt.  If they don't sell hunts, they can't pay their guides, leases, or bills.  To that end, many may put honesty on the shelf in order to make money.  So, who can you trust?  Experience is a great teacher, but face it, if you're like me, you don't have the time or extra money laying around to take many gambles. Later I'll explain one method that may help ensure you're going on a quality hunt.
  • CONTINGENCY PLANS - when people are paying to hunt, there's no excuse for "weather" days.  Not now, not ever.  Sure "weather" may keep you from where you want to hunt, but there's no excuse for it shutting the entire day down. If taking paying clients, one should have the equipment, resources, knowledge and where-with-all to maintain a quality hunt; regarless of rain, snow, high winds, or heavy seas.  And, in the rare event that it is so bad that there is no where available to hunt and maintain the safety of the client, refunds of the value of the hunt should be strongly considered.  A client is more apt to be a returning customer if he/she sees the guide as doing all they can and offering reparations when they come up short. Along similar lines, every hunt I've ever booked was a "cost per day". I want everyone to read that again - PER DAY. If I'm paying for a day, I want a day's effort from the guide. If I'm in New England on a sea duck hunt, and we get our birds early, I don't want to hear "great job, see you tomorrow fellas". I want to hear "guys let's go get something to eat, maybe check a few areas out for the morning and by then, it'll be time to go shoot some black duck on the ponds in the evening." This example really happened. We had eider limits by 8 a.m. two mornings in a row, and short of a trip to a decoy shop and some breakfast, we were basically on our on. We had other sea ducks we could have set up to hunt or black ducks on marshes. Instead, we paid close to 300 per DAY, and didn't get a day's effort from the guide. Do you think I'll ever go back on that hunt? Do you think I'll ever recommend the guide? Not on your life. There are too many guides in the area that have those same sea ducks, yet won't stop working for their clients until shooting time comes to a close.
  • PROPER EQUIPMENT - it's a hard sale to load a group of hunters in a 14 ft john boat and hunt the Mississippi river. As a paying customer, I get a bad feeling when I look on an outfitters website and see no mention of what equipment will be used. I want to know, before I waste my time making a phone call, that if we're hunting rice fields, we're doing so from pits or sleds or layouts. I want to know I'm not heading out to sea in a 16 foot Carolina skiff.
Also, as stated previously, the best value is not always the cheapest; it's the right hunt.  If it's a limit of Greenheads one is looking for, it's probably not the best idea to book a hunt on the southern end of the flyway in mid-November, just because the hunt is available and the price reduced.  If it's a King Eider, pay the money, and go where King's are consistently killed.  This will help ensure a more pleasurable experience.  While I'm on the subject, if all of the above have been taken care of by the outfitter, and the opportunity to harvest the animals were afforded as advertised, yet you failed to connect - it's NOT the guides fault.

Another thing to think about is that the majority of the guides are in the business "part time". While not being a deal breaker, it does make the feeling of complete professionalism on the guides part imperative. If an outfitter has the ability to run several groups at a time, one client should never feel less important than the others. That client is paying for the hunt just like the TV crew or crew using the latest in layout boat technology. I also don't need to sit in a boat and listen to the guide I'm paying drone on ad nauseum about another guide. Running another service through the mud is not what I'm paying you for. When a client pays a fee, they should always expect to be treated with courtesy and respect the entire time, until the services are fully rendered. If that's asking too much of you, I can find another outfitter in your area to use...and, I will.

Now, how do we ensure we're paying the right people for the right hunt?  Well, we (the paying client) could spend literally hours filtering through the available information in the hopes of hitting pay dirt.  Honestly, I'm realizing I don't have that kind of time.  My guess is that many reading this don't either.  The answer then is to utilize an outfitter booking service such as GETDUCKS.COM - It's Duck Season Somewhere, owned and operated by Ramsey Russell.

Ramsey's service is highlighted, not because I consider him a close friend, but because I've known him since GETDUCKS.COM was a small blip on the world wide web.  I've watched him work tirelessly to deliver hunts that ensure his clients both have a pleasurable, complete hunting experience, while being afforded ample opportunity at their chosen quarry.  From Argentina Duck Hunting to Gould's turkey hunting in Mexico to Alaskan sea duck hunting to just about any other destination in the Americas and becoming the world. Ramsey has burned the midnight oil to ensure his clients get what they pay for.

When a hunt is listed on Ramsey's website GETDUCKS.COM the hunter can rest a little easier at night understanding that prior to it being listed, Ramsey or an associate has been on the hunt and seen the guide in action. Ramsey is after the complete experience on the hunts offered. He wants his clients to be able to take away the dead birds on the wall, ask themselves "was it worth it?" and the answer never in doubt.

Can I say that when using GETDUCKS.COM that there will never be problems? Of course not. But I can say that when problems arise, someone that can AND WILL find answers for you is just a phone call away. Remember that New Mexico hunt? All the time and money wasted. Had I booked the hunt through Ramsey at GETDUCKS.COM - It's Duck Season Somewhere I could have spent half as much time away from my family AND had the travel and accommodations taken care of, for much the same price.

In short, TIME and MONEY - you'll never have enough of either.


Friday, December 17, 2010

"Turkey Nuggets" by Jason Con

As Magellan (and the rest of the rig) have made their travels across the country, I've asked that the guys add content not only in the form of the description of the hunts, but photos, stories they'd like to share, and recipes.  I have to say that so far the guys are hitting on all cylinders delivering everything they can.  On a personal note (and, it's still early in the season for most of us) this has been one of the most enjoyable duck seasons I've had in a while.

In any case, Jason wanted to pass along a simple turkey recipe that's sure to win over the hearts of anyone from fellow hunters, to wives...and even mother in laws.

I speak from personal experience that this recipe is great.  Jason cooked it for a group of us the night after he and I took our Merriams up in the mountains of New Mexico.

Turkey Nuggets

  1. Take wild turkey breast and cut into 2to3 in thin slices .
  2. Soak the slices in orange juice over night
  3. When ready to cook (next day), heat vegetable oil to approximately 325 degrees
  4. Mix 2 cups of milk and 1 beaten egg
  5. Place turkey slices in milk/egg mixture
  6. Place strips in seasoned flour (anything from Toni's, cayenne, salt/pepper, etc)
  7. FRY
It goes great with rice and tomato gravy.

THANKS Jason for the recipe, Justin

"So It Really is the Luck of the Draw - part 2 - by Rick Daughtry, photos by Jason Con"

The day started off early with text messages from my hunting party telling me they were going to have to cancel. That was at 0247, so the day wasn’t starting off much better than yesterday’s hunt ended. While having 2 less hunting meant we’d have to hide fewer hunters, it also meant we didn’t have a dog. I left mine at home with a limp. As we approached the main office, I saw exactly what I expected to see – half the crowd standing in line as yesterday. We got inside, signed in (3rd on list the list again), and we talked and joked about yesterdays circus. We only hope for a good draw this day, and you can bet that I was not gona be the one to pull the peg from the box . I told Jason it was his turn, and he just laughed saying, "ha ,gona put the pressure on me!". As luck would have it, he pulled a “5” and we managed to get my favorite hole on the entire place. It was a cold and still morning as we got our stuff together and loaded the sled . Once done, we stood there a minute or two and listened – not the first sound of ducks overhead. Hopefully they were not gone, or they would at least filter back in as the morning wore on. We put the sled in the water and set out. As we made the short walk, we jumped several groups of birds, which gave promise of a nice hunt. Shortly thereafter, we got set up, placing decoys on both sides of the willows, and settled in the trees with the sun to our backs. We had it all covered, great decoys with Magellan looking his best, live coots swimin round the dekes, white herons all round the outside of the trees - confidence at its best. The woodies bombed us early, killing one, and unfortunately, loosing one – wish we would have had a dog. A bit slower start than expected, but we had birds work us off and on throughout the morning. One of the coolest things to this morning was having two bald eagles fly right through our hole over Magellan. No photos as it happened too quick. Truth be known, we would have finished much earlier than we did, but the group one unit over lined their levee with hunters. Consequently shooting at everything in sight. Not to mention the guy riding around on his 4-wheeler on the unit levee shootin coots. He did get a ticket for the riding on the levee, thank goodness for cell service. We worked some great groups of mallards and greys, some finishing, some not. Jason and I finished the morning about 9 a.m. with 8 mallards, 2 grey ducks, 1 teal, and 1 wood duck. I told ya Magellan that i would make it up to ya. I was honored to have you in our spread, and hopefully you will be again someday.

Rick, Magellan and a limit of ducks

Jason, Magellan and a limit of ducks

Thanks to Rick and Jason for taking us on a successful hunt over Magellan.  Be sure to check back later today, as Jason's turkey recipe will be uploaded to the site!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"So It Really is the Luck of the Draw - part 1 - by Rick Daughtry"

Well as everyone anticipated, the opening day of the MS season was a mad house at most public areas across the state. Arriving early, Alan and I realized we had never seen so many trucks at the office - even past openers.  Luckily, we were in on the "pre-draw".  You could hardly squeeze through the mass of hunters to get to the sign in table. Finally we did, and shortly thereafter, the draw began.There were so many folks the the local LEO did not know how to handle it.  I actually made the suggestion that everyone go outside except for the guys that were actually goint to draw the numbered pegs.  Realizing this was probably the best move, he quickly agreed, and everyone went outside to wait, except the 53 guys drawing - which is still crowded.  Anyhow, I was the third hunter out of 53 to pick, and as luck would have it, I drew "25". Now, let me remind you there are only 26 units open to hunt - NOT GOOD.  We wind up with a unit that I have killed many birds in, but with the new 5am draw, it did not leave us much time to get there.  As matter of fact we didn't get finished setting up until after shooting time.  This may have cost us a few shots, but honestly, there were just very few birds using our unit.  The particular unit we were relegated to only had a few inches of water, most of which could be found in the drainage ditches and few potholes.  Again, NOT GOOD.  Conditions for the hunt equated to a cold, hard wind and as stated, little to no water in the unit.  This equated to high flyers giving us no effort to come to our calling.  Luckily, we did have a group of 3 mallards come within range, and we managed to kill the greenhead.  Those were the only shots to be fired that morning.  Had we hunted from layouts, we may have been able to move and have more shooting opportunities, but as the LUCK of the DRAW would have it, that was the end of the MS opening day at Mahannah for Magellan.  Sorry ole boy, but I'll make it up to you.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Time Travel - My Experience on East Ironbound"

There are very few times in life when you can say "this experience was nothing short of complete".  That would be like grinning at the fella that just laid down a full house.  That's life, when heading out on a hunting trip, meeting someone you've only corresponded through via email, knowing you're going to be spending a week on an island in the middle of the North Atlantic...well, let's just say the times you hold the high card are rare.  This past week was one of those rare occurrences.  When you go to "Ironbound", you're not necessarily going for a hunt but rather, a history lesson in which recess is a sink box hunt.  Truly, the information overload to a man that enjoys boats, decoys, and an old, long forgotten yet self sustaining life fulfilled by doing most everything under ones one power is heady.  Honesty, what brought me to Ironbound initially was the opportunity to hunt from a sink box - a method of hunting that's been outlawed in the US for almost 100 years.  After hunting in it for a few days vs hunting in what has become the "standard" layout boat, I'll hold my opinion - as that'd be too much like talking religion or politics.

This is where I found myself this past week - in the middle of no where, hunting, getting some history lessons, learning nautical terms, and rummaging through stuff that was made in the first part of the LAST century.

To be honest, I'm still having trouble putting it all in perspective, so I'll let my photos do more of the talking.

The first feeling one gets when motoring to Ironbound is "this place is's different" and I think this photo shows that well:

Ironbound is very different.  In fact, ask anyone of the two or three permanent residents about their gardens, and you'll find out just how self sustaining this place is.  If is organic matter, it goes into the garden as fertilizer.  Here is what I call "fish house row":

In the old days, this was where the fishermen brought in their catch to be cut up.  You'll notice that they have a second floor.  While not being 100% sure this was true for every fish house, the main one's second floor was the "net room", as seen here:

The net room was just that.  A place for the fishermen to gather in the extreme winter and repair the nets used over the season.

Here's an old carving/shaving horse made in the late 1800's that Philip's brought out.  It's located upstairs in the main fish house:

Just a cool old building on the island:

Another view of Ironbound:

I believe the permanent number of folks inhabiting Ironboud at any one time is around 2 any given time that is.

The old Ironbound lighthouse, erected around the turn of the century, and the last of the lighthouses in that part of the world to go electric:

Looking down on the houses from the top of the lighthouse - very cool by the way:

The sign for the school in which the children of Ironbound where taught:

What one may not be able to appreciate until taking the ride out is the fact that you are on an island, and going to town on the spur of the moment is no easy task.  Everything done on the island during the time frame that folks lived there full time equated to utter self sufficiency.  From schools to the daily chores, it could be grown, taught, made, or mended on the island.  I have personally never witnessed anything quite like it.

Note the draw and lure of this - sharking and codding:

As well as the date of this accounts receivable:

When you're headed out on a hunt around Ironbound, the first thing you realize is just how harsh the environment is:

And that's just the beginning.  Sink boxing is not for the faint of heart nor the weak of back.  It's work and you absolutely have to be aware of your surroundings...and, that's just while dropping the boat overboard and picking it up.  Sitting eye level  with the rolling ocean, waves lapping over, and watching your only chance of survival should something happen boat off, takes nerve.  In order to help understand the hunt, I drew out a quick sketch of what I saw:

Kris laid out, waiting:

Note the hen eider above Kris in this photo, the box is flat out deadly:

I had scoter and old squaw land so close to me, they splashed me when they hit the water.

A bit closer look at the tub with Kris in it as we shove off and he prepares to hunt:

Can you imagine sitting in the tub and having one of these things poking his/her head up feet from you???

I speak from experience - unnerving.

Heading out on the last day I spotted a decoy from above that quickly became my favorite decoy Philip had.  The shape just appealed to me and it had been repainted many years ago, so the "old" was there.  I took this photo of my decoy and that decoy on the edge of the upside down tub as we motored out to hunt.

For the decoy carver, this was an enlightening experience.  The decoys in Philip's rig are tanks.  They are chunked in the boat, kicked on the floor to get the out of the way, grabbed by the gaff, have the tub dropped on their heads and everything else in between.  A bill may or may not be nailed back on and the same w/ the heads.  Alot of the body's carried hatchet marks where the old guys cut them roughly out, and the paint was whatever house/boat paint was on hand.  Having never entered a decoy contest, I'm leery to say this, but I would imagine a judge scoffing at the rig...but, we weren't concerned with human judges:

Here's one for those of you that like the "watch your horizons" when taking photos....very difficult at times.

And, just like every great hunting trip I've been on, it was surrounding by incredible food (often indigenous to the area):

Like I said, the only word that truly fits is - COMPLETE.

Hope you enjoy, Justin

Friday, December 3, 2010

Baked Duck-n-Rice

This is going to be a 4-part series written by Rick Daughtry, with photos by both himself and Jason Conn, and also a couple of recipes.  The actual stories of the hunts will be 'bookended' by one of my favorite parts of the hunt - cooking and eating.  The first recipe is from Rick, the second will be a turkey recipe from Jason.


1 plucked duck (skin on)
2 cups of min rice
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 chopped onion
1/2 stick butter
2 cans GOLDEN mushroom
1 package of onion soup
2 tbl spoon lemon juice
2 tbl spoon worshire (sp)

Boil the duck for 45 min with celery and onion.  Keep broth, set aside, and hand shread the duck.

Melt the butter and combine it with the rice over heat, until the rice takes on a brownish color.  Mix everything together, and boil to a bubble.  Place in a pyrex dish bake @ 350 for 1 hr.
Best served with rolls or bicuits, and a cold IPA (if you so choose) from your favorite craft/microbrewer.

Hope you enjoy, Rick

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My Morning With Magellan

Got to hunt with Magellan the other morning with an old college friend in Louisiana.  Our primary target was Canvasbacks, and his little diver honey hole came through.  In fact, having never shot a Canvasback up to this point, just seeing the birds was a treat.  Heading out in the boat we must have bumped 50 or 60 feeding contently.  Not long after setting up and getting the rig out, they started coming back.  I shot the first drake that came in, and then just watched the show.

It was a rainy, very cold morning, and after I had shot my bird, we packed it up and came home.  To be hunting as long as I had without shooting a canvasback, seeing close to a hundred of them rafted up (many coming back and sitting in the decoys), and having the hunt end so quickly was rather surreal.

My friend never fired a shot.  I'm not sure he appreciates the divers as much as I do.  Or, maybe it was the 40 degree falling temperatures and the torrentual downpour we were in that made him want to hustle back to the truck.

Here's Gauge with the canvasback, a hand carved rig of canvasbacks, blue bills, mallards, teal, and a black duck:

Sorry for the awful photo, this was a 5 second break in the weather coming back home.

Hope you enjoy, and please check back often, Justin