June 19, 2019

Some things never change> Modern gear hasn’t altered the nature of hunting ducks

Perhaps you can recall when duck hunters pulled olive-drab parkas and hip boots over long johns and layers of wool clothing before going down to the dawn marshes. No thermal underwear or socks in those days, or insulated jackets, vests, hats, boots or gloves in camouflage patterns, of course. And surely you remember rubberized raingear that steamed you wetter on the inside than you were on the outside. No such thing as “breathable,” guaranteed waterproof fabrics back then. No siree.

Maybe you can conjure up memories of decoys carved from wood or shaped from slabs of cork insulation confiscated when the slaughterhouse was torn down. Or maybe you were well-off enough to own a dozen or so papier-mache decoys ordered from a Sears-Roebuck or Montgomery-Ward catalog. It’s possible, too, that you may have anchored a few live ducks among your decoys to hail passing flocks with convincing calls.

Could be you owned a retriever that wouldn’t stop whining until it was wet and if your duck gun wasn’t a long-barreled double – perhaps a Parker or L.C. Smith – bored full and modified, chances are it was a Winchester Model ’97 “corn shucker.” Full choke, for sure.

Duck boats? How about a Merrymeeting Bay sculler or a low-profile, double-ender gunning float? Or was it only a seaworthy skiff with a deck built into her bows for shedding “a little chop” and stowing gear. Chances are the boats were oak-ribbed and cedar-planked, but they were undoubtedly painted olive drab and plastered with mud and marsh grass. Maybe an outboard motor, maybe not; but oars and oarlocks, always. Obviously, that was back along. Nowadays, wooden boats are about as common as canvasbacks hereabouts.

Assuming you can recall any or all of the aforementioned, it’s safe to say you’re aware that Maine duck hunting is a time-honored tradition. Granted, the equipment has changed dramatically, but the practices of the sport are precisely the same now as they were when the limit was 20 a day and hunters weren’t required to sign duck stamps.

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