June 22, 2018
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Feathers and fins

Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN
By Tom Hennessey

Time was when a string of Clorox jugs would toll eider ducks. But allowing that for the past 20 years or so the popularity of guided sea duck hunts has risen like a full-moon tide, that time has passed. Consequently, big flocks of eiders, which once could be duped by a dozen or more lackluster decoys, now stream past them without so much as waggling their wings. Fact is, if not for the sociability of singles, pairs and small flocks of, say, five or six, the reports of shotguns rolling from offshore ledges would be few and far between. But even so, it takes a big rig of highly visible decoys to get the ducks’ attention.

So it was that Galen Ruhlin, head guide of the Gouldsboro Point Good Times Rod and Gun Club, cobbled together a rig of 22 magnum-size eider decoys. Shaved and shaped from slabs of cork glued together, the decoys measure 18 inches long, 12 inches wide and 7 inches high, not counting keels and carved heads. The entire rig was painted to emulate the predominately white plumage of drake eiders. When tugging in the tide, then, or bobbing on gray rolling swells, the big decoys flash like strobe lights, thus attracting flocks from afar. Nevertheless, because of ebbing tides exposing ledges, points and bars that can conceal decoys, rigs often must be moved to ensure their visibility to trafficking eiders. Moreover, wind baffling around a ledge or island where hunters are huddled may create turbulence, causing incoming ducks to flare from decoys or splash down beyond them. Occupational aggravations, for sure, but all in a day’s work for guides who take sea-duck hunters under their wings.

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