Monday, May 14, 2012

North Carolina Duck Hunting Bucket List

North Carolina has a long and storied history as it pertains to waterfowling. The Old North State has always been an important wintering ground for several different species and in several different time periods. The ebb and flow of the proverbial tide will see changes in localized ecosystems, meaning different birds favor different areas throughout history. Nevertheless, somethings just don't change. Any North Carolina Duck Hunting connoisseur should have a bucket list of things to do within our great state's borders! Here's mine...

10) Attempt to shoot one of all species of Atlantic Flyway Species...and get them taxidermied. The Atlantic Flyway is most heralded for it's Black Ducks and Canvasbacks - and with good reason. Historically, these species have been our bread and butter when it comes to rounding out the bag. However, the two have restricted seasons and limits. Still, a nice Greater Scaup is a good bird to pursue, as are any of the scoter family. Eiders and Harlequins don't exist here in apprecialbe numbers and Harlequins are also off-limits anyway! The most 5 important birds, to me, in the Atlantic Flyway are the Wigeon, Scaup, Redhead, Black Duck, and Pintail. Good Luck!

9) A tundra swan hunt should be on every North Carolina Duck Hunting Bucket List! Sure, it'll involve luck and travel, but it's worth it. Approximately 5000 Tundra Swan permits are issued through a lottery draw each year. No state sees more Tundra Swans than North Carolina, but it'll take a great location, possibly a guide, and a big gun to bag one of these trophies. Tundra Swan hunters should apply for and receive a permit from the NCWRC...the deadline is in October, usually. Excellent places to seek the birds are over open waters and wheat fields in the northeastern section of our state.

8) Go on a sea duck hunt! Sea Ducks love the open waters of Pamlico and Core Sounds, but have been taken on larger inland lakes as far west as Lake Norman. Hunting for these is usually done from a Scissor Rig or other Open Water-style boat blind. Lots of decoys are needed, as well as Dramamine to combat sea sickness. Nevertheless, there are several tactics that are very successful. While the birds aren't overly delicious on the table, they make spectacular mounts. Still, it's the pursuit of these birds that makes them so remarkable. Hunting in No-Man's Land adds an element of adventure, if not extreme risk!

7) Hunt from a Curtain Blind near Ocracoke. This experience is on my to-do list! It's as close to an old-style sinkbox hunt as there ever will be. The old Ocracoke salts will put you on the birds in this old-fashioned and very uncomfortable hunting method. Curtain blind hunts often see full limits of pintails, redheads, buffleheads, and brants...and often with "in-your-face" gunning. Generally, these hunts are affordable, but accessing Ocracoke Island is a tall task in the winter. Rough winds can hamper ferry travel - and boating over on your own accord is as risky as anything in the duck hunting world!

6) All North Carolina Decoy Carvers should at least attempt to carve their own stand of duck decoys. While North Carolina's decoys were always considered crude, they are the epitome of southern folk art. Still, it's a hobby I enjoy and I can also testify that my decoys are convincing enough to bag birds. Cork is the simplest medium to work with, but many choose wood. Painting the decoys in the off-season is an excellent way to combat the Duck Hunting Blues, too!

5) Take a child hunting every youth day. There is no more important thing a North Carolina Duck Hunter can do to perpetuate and protect the sport than to commit such a decent act. Set a good example for the youth that you take and always remember to take plenty of snacks!

4) Visit Lake Mattamuskeet in the winter months! Yep, it's the Stuttgart of the state and an excellent opportunity to see the most birds you'll ever see in your life. The area is steeped in duck hunting tradition, but not in the way that Currituck and Core Sound areas decoys were the norm in Hyde County hunting grounds (until they were outlawed, of course), but Harvey Flowers and Percy Carawan turned out some real gems for decoys with their roothead Canada Geese and Tundra Swans. Better yet, tooling around in local businesses might allow you th privilege of seeing even rarer Percy Carawan roothead mallard and pintail decoys. Hunting in the area is at it's best with guides and clubs, but good luck  as they fill up early! The lake itself has a draw hunt and on it's best days is as good as anywhere in the world. And while you're in the area, pick yourself up an Allen Bliven Championship Duck Call...they really are special!

3) Attend a waterfowl's one way to capture the tradition of hunting in our state in as little as three hours. Almost all festival feature contemporary and antique decoys, a retriever demo, and a calling competition. The Core Sound Decoy Carvers Guild puts on the very best waterfowl show. It's usually the first weekend in December. Current day carvers exhibit their works, and collectors wheel and deal in other booths. Duck call makers are also at the show. Still, don't go looking for plastic and non-traditional style work - the show is for traditional materials only - and it's in the cradle of of some of the world's finest and most prolific decoy builders ever!

2) Collect an old decoy. There are lots around and you don't have to spend the big bucks to get something you truly like! The famous carvers of yesteryear have surnames such as Fulcher, Wright, Dudley, and Burgess, but there are other lesser-known carver who turned out real functional works of art. Even old shorebird decoys are fun to pursue. And if the old birds don't impress you, find contemporary carver with surnames such as Pope, Hood, Talton, Roberts, and Eubanks....they all have their own, recognizable styles.

1) Hunt Mecca. Mecca, as far as North Carolina is concerned, is the sounds and ponds surrounding Currituck County. There's nothing more historic than this area for North Carolina Duck Hunters. good luck getting a blind permit, as the process is tricky. It's not impossible, though. Your best bet is with a guide, though. Visit the old clubs if you can, too. And while you're sitting in the blind, just think about all of the corn that was dumped in the area over a century ago. Daily takes around 1900 might have been more than 200 birds. Market hunting was a family affair with the men deploying sinkbox rigs, wives shooting cripples on the banks and picking the take for market, and children reloading brass shells in the wee hours of the night. The hunting isn't anything like it's glory years, but it can still be spectacular. Intrepid freelancers can apply for state and federal draw hunts in the area, too.

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