Monday, January 6, 2014

Firsts are special

Duck hunting is a great pastime on so many levels, but I think one of my favorites is getting to watch "firsts".  A kid's first duck, a puppy's first retrieve, a first double (or even better, triple)...they are all special.

A couple of weeks ago, I got to experience "firsts" over and over.  My old college roommate, Laurence,  and I try to hunt together every couple of years, and we were overdue.  When we were discussing where to go we decided to go somewhere he had never been. My buddy is a longtime duck hunter, with puddle ducks galore to his credit.  Big water duck hunting, REALLY BIG water duck hunting, however, was a different matter.  We decided to hit the Atlantic Ocean for sea ducks, and contacted my buddy Jeremiah Brooks of Ocean State Outfitters.

Roux and I set out driving from Ohio, and met up with Laurence at the Providence, Rhode Island airport.  Soon enough we were settled in at the hotel, prepping for the next day in the salt.

The next morning, the "firsts" began. Jeremiah set us up in his boat blind, next to some large rocks at the mouth of a bay.  I got to watch my buddy drop his first sea ducks, including a beautiful drake common eider and a stunning old squaw drake as well as a common goldeneye.  I even checked a first off my list with a great old squaw drake, a bird that has eluded me on three other sea duck trips.  Roux was a workhorse, fighting tidal currents and submerged rocks to retrieve our prizes.  I couldn't have been prouder.

Happy Duck Hunters!

My (and Roux's) first Drake Old Squaw!

The second day was a continuation of new experiences.  Laurence got an opportunity to shoot divers
out of a 2 man layout boat, dropping his first bluebills and buffleheads ever.  I was lucky enough to get my first greater scaup, a species we don't get often at home.  Jeremiah and his wife showed us some real New England hospitality that evening, home-cooking a true surf and turf of steak and steamed lobsters...we ate until we could barely stand!

Day three was an unique experience for sure, just as Jeremiah had promised.  We climbed out of the boat and climbed up huge rocks in the bay, sitting a good story and a half above the water, watching longlines of eider decoys bob up and down, well below us.  Shooting was festive early, allowing us the unique opportunity to shoot DOWN on incoming eiders.  Laurence got to shoot his first scoter, as well as collecting a banded hen eider.  To say he was excited doesn't do it justice!  Brown Dog had a blast, retrieving sea ducks and even his favorites, Canada geese, which got "just a little too close" to our hide among the rocks.
Roux surveying his domain

Banded eider!!!

We wrapped our trip up by eating one last huge seafood meal, and reluctantly packing for the travel home.  Many memories and many firsts on a very special trip with a great friend and a truly professional guide.  It was a thrill to know every species my buddy took on this trip was one he had never shot before!  We have already decided to continue the "firsts" theme this summer...with a trip to Las Flores Argentina with Ramsey Russell's!  All new territory there for sure!!

Next time you plan a trip, consider something you haven't done before and remember...

Brown is Beautiful

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