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Thread: 2 Alaskans go to MA and RI to chase some eiders

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    Default 2 Alaskans go to MA and RI to chase some eiders

    About a year ago I called 0321Tony about doing a guided trip to Rhode Island to hunt Common Eiders. He thought that was a good idea, so we started doing some research. All of my research pointed towards one outfitter that consistently put clients on birds. The outfitter was Ocean State Outfitters run by Capt Jeremiah Brooks. Jeremiah is a former Navy guy and super military friendly so he hooked us up with a great deal, and also reminded us that we could get our brant and black ducks as well as the eider. That was all we needed to hear, we agreed and we put deposits down. An agonizing year went by and finally Last Thursday it was time! Tony had to fly from anchorage, and after getting diverted, and him waking up on a runway of some strange Air Force base in Oregon, he finally made it to Boston quite a few hours later where we met up and got our rental car and headed for our hotel in Raynham Massachusetts.

    The next morning we met Jeremiah at the Dunkin Donuts, and we were underway to the Canal. After we got our gear ready and waders on, we launched the boat and headed towards Cape Cod. Jeremiah had us convinced we had a really long boat ride ahead of us, but after about 15-20 min he announced that we were there. He dropped us off on a rock pile, handed me my 10 gauge, and Tony his 12 and set up our decoys. We had about 20 min to wait until legal shooting light, so the anticipation kept growing.

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    After shooting light finally came, we were being careful to not shoot brant since they were closed in MA at that time. A few birds came in, and we couldn't positively ID them so we passed on shooting. After about 10 min a really big dark duck came in, and instantly I thought scoter! I lined up my bead, the old 10 gauge rang out and the bird dropped in the decoys. Bird 1 was down. A little while later the light got better and we could see the birds a lot better. Low on the water in comes a flock of eider, we both line up and I shoot at the lead drake, only to drop the hen behind him, so at that point I was limited out on hens for the day. Shortly afterwards another group comes in, and Tony Drops his first drake eider. Another flock comes in a bit later and I finally get mine. I asked Jeremiah on the radio what the bird and species count was. He said 2 eiders and one really really nice black duck for me, and 2 eiders for Tony. The first bird I had shot was not a scoter at all, It was one of the most perfect specimens of black duck Jeremiah said he had seen taken! A day of firsts for me, my first eider, and first black duck!

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    We had singles and doubles trickling in after that at which we were really careful to only pick out the drakes. Both of us were looking for mature hens to mount, so we needed to find a hen with really nice white bars on her wings. We had one come in and Tony dropped her. Unfortunately he hit her pretty hard, so she went into the meat pile. We were really picky on birds after that, only trying to get big mature drakes. We had seen around 500 eiders fly by at this time, but most were heading to a point just in front of us, and out of range. It's pretty hard to stare at a raft of 500 birds about 500 yards out. They were flying behind us as well, but it was illegal to shoot in that direction so we had to let them pass. Suddenly a big red breasted merganser comes rocketing into the decoys, Tony raises his gun and drops one really nice drake. I started to make fun of him for shooting a merganser, but he says hey, I've never got one before and it's on my list. Apparently it was indeed a really good one, because Jeremiah asked if he wanted it, and if not he wanted to get it mounted for his wall. Tony agreed to let him take it instead of just adding it to the meat pile. After a while the wind picked up really bad, we had 40-50 mph gusts ripping through our decoys, and Jeremiah said it was time to pick the decoys up. We didn't limit out on birds, but we easily could have if we weren't so picky on which ones we shot.

    Unfortunately I'm only allowed to post two pics per post so, to be continued in a few min as I type it up.
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    Unfortunately we weren't able to do an afternoon hunt that evening due to the bad weather, and we needed to head to Rhode Island to buy our licenses and stamps. Massachusetts sells licenses online so we were good for MA, but Rhode Island doesn't, and the closest place we could find that sold them was 82 miles away. Jeremiah took our birds and told us to meet him at 4 Am at the Dunkin Donuts the next morning. Me and Tony headed down the road and finally found the little store that had everything we needed. The place was run by two really nice guys, who were really interested in how hunting and fishing was in Alaska, Me and Tony asked a lot about how things were done in Rhode Island as well. Lots of similarities, and differences. We were shocked to find that blue box Federals, and cheapo Winchester steel shotshells were 20 bucks a box! We each bought a couple boxes of shells (we didn't really have a choice), and made the long drive back to the hotel, only to crash about an hour after we'd gotten back. We woke up the next morning and met up with Jeremiah, and again headed towards the canal. This time there was no wind, but it was about 8 degrees outside. There were a couple other guys going to be hunting this morning. Jeremiah was going to put them where me and Tony hunted the day before, and he was going to put us into a new spot. A short boat ride later he dropped us off, and got our decoys put out. Jeremiah dropped us off on the rocks, and we discovered they were covered in ice. It was a pretty treacherous crawl to the spot we decided to hunt, waders don't have the best traction, and frozen seaweed and ice make for some pretty sketchy footing. We got set up and the long 1 hour wait began. After what seemed like an eternity shooting time finally had come!

    The birds came in steadily all morning, the limit is 7 seaducks but only 4 of each species. We had flock after flock of eiders fly by, but right as they passed over the decoys they would bunch up, and it would have been a bad idea to fire into the ball of birds with so many hens around. So we ended up passing on close to 200 birds and only taking shots at flocks that had a lot of drakes, or singles or smaller flocks. After about an hour we had limited out on eiders so we started looking out for scoters. After all the birds were retrieved, Jeremiah said he was going to drop the other guys off with us, and asked if we could call the shots for them since they were having a hard time with shooting birds. We didn't have a problem with that so a few min later the other guys joined us.

    They had already killed a hen eider, so naturally the first bird that came in was a hen eider, and both of them unloaded on it. Tony had noticed that one of the guys was shooting with the gun raised to his shoulder but he wasn't looking down the barrel. That was a new way to shoot to me, but hey, to each their own. Somehow they'd managed to hit the bird but it was crippled, so we told them to keep shooting until it's head was down. At this point we realized these guys must have had skeet chokes in their guns because the shot string was probably 20 feet long and 6 feed wide! I don't think a single pellet hit that bird. I also had seen one guy go, BOOM, BOOM....BOOM....BOOM! At which the shotgun knocked him on his butt he dropped the gun, and I watched the gun slide down the rock. The guy jumped back up and grabbed it before it fell into the ocean. Hmmm I thought, that was kinda weird, I could have sworn that gun went off 4 times and not 3. Apparently the guide had noticed this as well, because he came in hot and asked how many shells they had in their guns. They each answered that they had 4 in the magazine and 1 in the chamber.

    Jeremiah said "I need both of your guns right now, you can't hunt waterfowl with those unless you have a plug", he then proceeded to explain the laws on how many shells a shotgun was allowed to hold for a waterfowl hunt. Jeremiah had only 1 extra gun on the boat, But I had my benelli and Tony offered up his gun for them to borrow. They surrendered their guns and took ours and the hunt was back on. Another hen eider came in and as me and Tony were about to tell them they couldn't shoot at it, they started unloading on it. We both started yelling NO NO NO!!! You guys are limited out on those! Luckily they missed the bird but an inmature drake had dropped in about 10 feed in front of me, They fired right in front of me and sleuced it off the water. Jeremiah had watched them shoot at the hen as well as fire right infront of me and decided to pull the plug on their hunt at that point. He asked them to get on board the boat and told me and Tony to stand by for scoters. He didn't charge them for the hunt, and told them he'd like to supervise the hunt with them if they wanted to come back. He just didn't feel comfortable letting them hunt without supervision.

    After about 30 min Jeremiah had come back without the other guys and said we were going to pick up the decoys, get some breakfast and head out for divers. Me and Tony had each limited out on eiders that morning, and couldn't wait to go after some divers so we agreed, unloaded and cased our guns, got onboard and helped pick up some decoys.

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    After eating a delicious sausage, bacon and ham omlet and swapping duck hunting and Alaska stories over the table, we headed out to lake about 20 miles away. We pulled up to the boat ramp and discovered a lot of ice on the lake. Jeremiah got excited, he was saying this was good because the birds would be looking for the open water on the other side of the lake. We geared up, launched the boat and got busy clearing a trail through the ice with the boat. As we got to the other side of the lake we saw huge flocks of birds get up. We started getting pretty pumped at that point. We arrived at our spot, and got decoys set up. Jeremiah then took off into a cove with the boat and we waited.

    At this point it was about noon, and as we know this is the slow time of the day. It was about 30-40 min and suddenly a flock of bufflehead come in. Tony jumps up and gets one of the cleanest doubles I've seen. Both really nice mature drakes. My gun had gotten hung up in the tree in front of me, so I was reduced to cussing as I tried to get a shot off at the lone duck flying away. Oh well, more birds were sure to follow. After our shots had rang out, the birds got up and started flying, We had a pair of ringnecks (or ringbills, not sure what they're called these days) Tony drops the hen and I drop the drake, problem was he was still alive so I ended up using about 6 shells to finally put him down. Jeremiah swoops in and picks up our birds and heads back out. A while later a common goldeneye swoops through the decoys, I jumped up and dumped him. I've been trying to get a common goldeneye for about 5 years now and was really happy to finally have the mission accomplished!

    Then the hunting slowed down a little bit, we had a few missed opportunities as a flock would surprise us and fly through the decoys before we'd gotten a chance to see them or get a shot off at them. We also had the biggest flocks of mergansers I've ever seen fly through. Flocks 100-150 birds strong flying over. Suddenly a pair of mallards comes in, We let them get right out in front I fire and drop the drake, and Tony drops the hen. The hen was very much alive, and only had a broken wing. She swam straight for the ice and got underneath before Jeremiah could get there with the boat. Massachusetts law prohibits him from firing from the boat with the motor in the water and under motion, even if chasing a cripple, so there wasn't much he could do. This was the only bird we had lost during the whole trip. At this point we had about 30 min left of shooting light, and the birds weren't flying much anymore. We're sitting there BSing about something when a flock of ringers comes in, I jump up and fire at the lead drake and dropped two birds with one shot, which completed my limit. Unfortunately those were the last birds to come in for the day and we picked up the decoys, shot a few pics and headed back to the boat ramp.

    Jeremiah asks us what we had planned for dinner? We didn't have plans, we were thinking McDonalds or something quick. Jeremiah says no no no, you're coming to my house and my wife is making some spaghetti and lasagna for you. Well, we definitely couldn't turn that down so off we went, drinking some brews, eating some good dinner and swapping stories. Around 8 we decide to take off and get some sleep since Jeremiah says we were going to meet at 4:30 and we'd be hunting Rhode Island this time.
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    Member akdodger's Avatar
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    Great write up... Thanks for sharing and I'm looking forward to reading more. You definitely have rekindled my recently dormant waterfowling fire...
    September 1 cant come fast enough. Any use of retrievers in any of your hunts over there?
    “The perils of duck hunting are great - especially for the duck.” Walter Cronkite

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    The next morning we get up and meet at the usual spot, this time we drive about 40 miles and end up launching on a little beach. Jeremiah has another group with us this time, and tells us it's going to be a little rough so hold on. After about 30 min of running all out in 3 foot rollers we arrive at the rock piles we were going to hunt. Jeremiah drops his assistant guide and the other group off on the first rock pile. sets up the decoys and then runs me and tony off to our spot. He put us out by ourselves and warned us that there were lots of harlequins in the area. He said he put us separate because we knew what they looked like and trusted us to be able to ID them in flight. He set up our decoys and left us there to hunt.

    We could hear the other group blasting away, but we didn't shoot for a while. He had a big flock of geese off to our left and we were hoping they'd get up and come towards us. We were letting birds land in the decoys and just having fun watching them. After about 30 min Jeremiah comes over the radio asking us if we had anything for him to pick up, we said no, we were just being picky on birds. We had a flock of about 9 harlies come in and land in our decoys, and a few eiders here and there. Then a really nice big hen comes in with bright white bars on her wings! Finally a mature hen! I raise my gun and drop her. Shortly after another really nice hen comes in and Tony drops her. Jeremiah comes in and picks them up, gets on the radio and informs us we had shot two really nice birds perfect for mounting! Tony definitely got the better of the two. Mission accomplished there! Then a few drakes come in here and there and we each drop one. As Jeremiah is retrieving them a big dark bird is flying over and Jeremiah starts shouting, BLACK DUCK! BLACK DUCK! I look over at Tony and say, he's yours! Tony raises up and boom! Perfect shot! the bird folds up and goes down. As Tony picks him up, I notice he's got white on his speculum...hmmm, I thought, that's kinda weird. Tony was talking about how that shot was a lot of pressure, if he'd missed that he wouldn't have heard the end of it from Jeremiah. Jeremiah takes off and a big mature drake circles behind us on Tony's side, "take him" I say, and tony puts him down. As Jeremiah retrieves him, he comes over the radio and says how nice of a bird he is. We wouldn't know how nice until later. At this point Tony has one bird left on his limit and I have 2. The birds kinda slow down for a bit when I notice another dark bird flying over behind us, as the sun hits I see the blue speculum, grey head, and dark body and realize It's a black duck! I raise up and drop him! Black duck down! I say over the radio. 1 bird a piece now. Jeremiah comes over the radio and says we've got about 30 more min before we have to pick up. We also find out the 1 hen limit is not a Rhode Island thing, but only a Massachusetts thing, so as time ticks away a single hen comes in and Tony drops her, and completes his limit. I've got about 15 min left at this point and notice a group of 4 drake eiders coming in hot! As they swoop over the decoys I shoot and miss, but they're still coming forward so I can't shoot again or I'll blow the bird up, so I let them swoop over to the right, and fire again, and miss, then as they continue right I fire again and miss....Dang! Talk about blowing it! But just as I reload a single hen comes into the decoys and I drop her! Limit complete! As we get on the boat we look at the birds and Tony's eider was perfect, it had the horn feathers on the back, really big bodied, a perfect specimen for the wall, and his hen was huge as well!

    IMG_0984.jpg Had to include the pic where Jeremiah photo bombed us, just couldn't help myself!

    We head back to the ramp and get pictures, at this point I notice the old man in the group has a really unique black scoter, it had a white ring around it's neck as well as a little white on it's wings. I'm not sure if it's a hybrid, or some mutation, but definitely a really cool black scoter!.

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    After pictures were done, we headed for a lunch at burger king and headed out for our brant hunt...
    Some people call it sky busting... I call it optimism
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    Just before lunch Jeremiah asks us what they have to eat in that we don't have in AK...Me and Tony thought about it for a while and both said Lobster. Jeremiah says, OK, you guys go get lunch and I'm going to head down to the docks and buy some. We didn't want him to spend a bunch of money on our part, but he insisted so we agreed. After lunch, we head to the harbor, launch the boat, and head towards the islands in the distance. I'd been looking forward to hunting brant since I was 14 and used to have to mark on my HIP validation that I'd planned on hunting them. All those years and I had yet to do it, so my anticipation was building!

    We pull into a shallow bay covered in eel grass and Jeremiah lets Me and Tony off first, apparently the guys that we were hunting with had a great hunt there the night before. He hands us a bag of honker silhouettes and has us put them out on the beach as he puts out the floaters. Then after the decoys are all set up he runs the other guys around the corner and sets them up. Me and Tony hunker down in the grass and get ready for brant! About 30 min later we see a big flock get up and head down the opposite shore, then a small group head towards the other guys. We hear them shoot and the boat runs over to pick up their birds. As the boat moves more birds head down the opposite shore. Jeremiah decides to have us pick up and he wants to set us up on the opposite shore where the other birds are moving. We get the decoys picked up, and gear loaded and run across and set up again. Just as we finish setting up and getting settled in Tony notices a flock of brant land in the exact spot we had just left! Ah well, they will have to come by, they've been flying down this bank all afternoon. As we sit there another flock gets up and flies to the other guys, they drop 2 birds out of that flock and are limited out on brant. But they still were after black ducks, and a lot were flying through the area. Me and Tony had already shot our black ducks earlier that day, so we were only able to watch them fly over all afternoon. As we're sitting there, Tony says the first brant is yours, since I had been wanting one longer than he had. Well, after a while a single comes flying out in front of us and cuts over towards our floaters. 70 yards out and he starts cupping, 60 yards, 50 yards 40 yards and he's skirting the edge of the decoys, it's now or never so I raise up, put a good lead on him and touch off the Benelli, and he folds up and drops. Finally! My first brant! Tony congratulated me, and I say the next one is yours!.

    An hour passes and nothing comes in, but we see a flock about 300 yards down the beach swimming around some rocks. Tony can't take it anymore and decides to go jump them. I'm sitting there by the decoys for what seems like an eternity, when I see the geese down there get up and fly. I figured I'd see Tony shoot any time and see a goose or two fall. I'm spacing out waiting on him to shoot, not paying attention to the decoys. I turn my head and look out over the decoys and there are two brant just hovering over them fully cupped and about to land. I fumble the safety off my gun, raise up and dump my second brant! Limit done, now I'm just waiting on ducks. About 15 min later I see Tony pop out of the brush just as another flock is flying around the bay. they turn towards the other guys, and I tell Tony to hurry up and get back to the decoys so he can get a shot if they come in. He does, but unfortunately the birds don't come towards us. Tony tells me that he had a bunch flying right towards him in a straight line. They were about 70 yards out and just needed about 3-5 more seconds before he would have had a shot, when I fired my gun and hit my second brant. I felt really bad about screwing that up for him. He told me not to worry about it, there was no way I could have known they were coming in on him. I still felt bad, but he kept telling me it was fine. About 15 min later shooting time had ended and we picked up and headed back.

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    To say the ride was rough was rough is an understatement. the waves were closely spaced apart so we got beat up pretty bad on our boat ride back. I was laughing the whole time, it was a great time and all part of the adventure. As we get back to the ramp Jeremiah tells us that we needed to meet up at his house at 7 for surf and turf. We head back to the hotel and get cleaned up and meet up at Jeremiah's house and are greeted to one of the most delicious dinners I've had. Lobster fresh from the boat, steak, bacon wrapped scallops, rice and salad, as well as some beers. We all sat and ate until we were stuffed. Tony and the old man from the other group both sat and talked about the hunts they had in Africa, as well as all of us swapping hunting stories from Alaska and various waterfowl adventures. Jeremiah tells us just before we leave that night that the weather wasn't going to cooperate with us the next morning. We were looking at wind that would prevent us from hunting sea ducks, and wouldn't make the brant hunting very productive either, but we would have a good shot at black ducks, and may get some brant in the area we had hunted that night. Me and Tony both agreed that we had our sea ducks, and would love another shot at some brant, especially since Tony still needed to get one. We head to the hotel that night and get ready for brant again in the morning!

    10906124_10200091803535733_5258389956832814740_n.jpg
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    We woke up the next morning and notice its considerably warmer this time. We'd been hunting in weather ranging from 8 degrees to 18 degrees, It was 36 this morning, and really cloudy. We meet Jeremiah at the usual spot and head towards a different ramp in Rhode Island. We were hunting the same spot as we had the night before, but had to launch from a different harbor due to the winds. As we launch the boat we discover that the harbor is frozen over and we'd be busting ice to get out. The ice close to the dock wasn't bad, but as we got farther out the ice was starting to get a bit more serious. It took us a bit but eventually we made it out out to open water and headed towards the islands.

    The other group hadn't killed a black duck yet, and were really hoping to get one, so Jeremiah drops them off with a couple decoys and tells them that he'd seen about 500 in that exact spot the night before.

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    He decided to drop us off in the spot the other guys had hunted the night before. After he gets the decoys set up, and we get our silos set up we hunker down and get ready for the birds to come in. At that point it started raining, and didn't really let up for the rest of the morning. Right at shooting light we have a pair of black ducks coming right down the pipe straight at us, they're about 70 yards out and we hear the other guys shoot, and come over the radio saying they had their black ducks down. While we were glad they'd gotten their black ducks, they couldn't have shot at a worst time, because the pair of black ducks headed towards us flared and flew off. Me and Tony had a flock of bufflehead come through a little bit later but as I raise up to shoot my sling flies around and wraps over the top of my gun making so I can't see my bead. The second or two it took me to clear it was enough to allow the birds to escape. A bit later we see a flock of brant flying but they don't head towards us. It had been about an hour, and I know I had passed out at least twice while laying on that bank when we see a pair of birds coming in towards us. It was slim pickins this morning so we weren't passing on anything. As the birds swoop through I raise up and fire are the bird on the left and Tony shoots at the right. I dropped the bird and it's still alive. I quickly fire another shot and put it down. As I walk up to get a look at it, I see white bands along the side in front of the wing. My heart sank as I though I'd just shot a harlequin drake. but the bird turns in the water and I see the white on the head, and I saw the belly was white as it flew over. Tony says he was thinking harlequin as well as he saw the white bands.

    It dawned on me what I had just shot. I turned to Tony and said "you know what I just shot?"

    "What?" He replies.

    "I just shot my first hooded merganser" I said. He started ribbing me for shooting a merganser at that point, but hey, I'd been wanting one to get mounted for a long time, birds don't get much prettier than hooded mergansers.

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    We hunted for about another hour, but the birds just weren't flying. It just wasn't happening that day so we decided to pull the plug and get back early so we could get everything ready for our departure the next morning. As the Jeremiah was getting some goldeneye decoys to put over in our spread earlier, he had backed up on a rock and sheared a blade off his prop, and boogered up the rest of the blades pretty bad so the boat ride back to the ramp was pretty slow. As we approached the harbor we found out where all the birds had been sitting. We passed hundreds of brant and black ducks sitting out there out of the wind. It was no wonder why we hadn't seen any that morning.

    After getting pics of my hoodie, we head back to the hotel and get cleaned up. Then went on a mission to get Tony's family some fresh lobster to eat. We drove about 45 miles back to Rhode Island to the place where Jeremiah told us we could get fresh lobster. As we pull up we notice that the place isn't open on Mondays! I texted Jeremiah that it was closed and asked if he knew another spot. He says hang on, let me call the owner. A few min later Jeremiah texted me back saying the guy would be there in 15 min. He pulls in and Tony gets 4 lobster with claws each about the size of his hand. We then drove around getting coolers and what ever else we needed. Settled up with Jeremiah and said our goodbyes. We headed back to the hotel and got packed up and ready to leave at 3 Am the following morning.

    As we drove back to Boston the next morning to fly out we already had our minds made up that we'd definitely do this hunt again. Maybe it was a blessing that Tony didn't get his brant, because now we have an excuse to do it again. We had an absolute blast, and enjoyed every minute of the hunt. We've got a couple other hunts planned first before we return. We've got to get that flooded timber Arkansas hunt knocked out, and already planning our Chesapeake Bay canvasback hunt for Jan 2017! But still can't wait to head back to New England and do it again!
    Some people call it sky busting... I call it optimism
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    Jeremiah uses dogs in the earlier season, but the water is just too cold for them in Jan.

    We got to meet his dogs, they're typical labs, just happy to see everybody
    Some people call it sky busting... I call it optimism
    "Swans are a gift" -DucksandDogs
    I am a shoveler's worst nightmare!

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    Fantastic write up Tom I couldn't have don't it better myself. Definitely makes me want to go back, but the Chess Bay hunt is going to be epic.

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    I also forgot to mention in the post, that Tony's black duck turned out to be a hybrid Mallard/Black duck, that was what was significant about the white in the speculum, The feathers on his head also had a greenish tint to them.
    Some people call it sky busting... I call it optimism
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    Very cool. Thanks for the mid-winter story.

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    Epic Story. Makes me want to book a trip.

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    Member akdodger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by duckslayer56 View Post
    Jeremiah uses dogs in the earlier season, but the water is just too cold for them in Jan.

    We got to meet his dogs, they're typical labs, just happy to see everybody
    Ah, life in labradoria is good. Never met a Labrador I didn't like... Glad you guys had a good trip... sounds awesome.
    “The perils of duck hunting are great - especially for the duck.” Walter Cronkite

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    wow! great adventure!
    Providing trips for multilpe species for over 20 yrs
    www.kodiakcombos.com

  15. #15
    Sponsor Duckhunter01's Avatar
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    Good write up Tom...great times for sure..
    President of Alaska Waterfowl Assoc.
    http://akwaterfowl.com
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alask...78020265619952
    AlaskaWaterfowlAssociation@gmail.com
    Gen.1:26
    And God said, let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

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