Down East duck hunting filled with quiet moments, expectation

Originally published in the Bangor Daily News

I am not a good duck hunter but I don’t let that stop me from duck hunting. The only sound I can make through a duck call is a single, mediocre-sounding “quack” and I miss many more ducks that I hit.

My headlamp dangles around my neck; there is enough moonlight that I don’t need it as I walk across a marsh near Machias, my hometown, toward the coast. I love hunting Down East. The coasts are sparsely developed and the ducks are not pressured by other hunters. Though it’s a frigid 15 degrees I’m starting to sweat. I slow my walking. I’m wearing bulky neoprene waders, carrying a layout blind on my back, a backpack backwards on my chest, and my Benelli shotgun slung over my shoulder. In my arms I carry a small blind for my dog, Argos. I don’t want to sweat in these temperatures because once I stop moving, my sweat will chill me.

I reach the spot I want to hunt in the small tidal cove and survey the water. A trickle of fast moving water cuts through the middle of the cove. I look at my watch. One hour until legal hunting, 1.5 hours until sunrise. It’s an incoming tide and will soon hold enough water to appeal to ducks. Perfect. Outside the cove, the open ocean is calm. A slight breeze from the north annoyingly blows my hair across my face. I plop everything I was carrying down on to the marsh, and dig a few black duck decoys out of my backpack. I slop through the mud in the cove and toss decoys in the mud. In an hour they will be floating in water.

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