This week wraps up the 2016 waterfowl season, a 107 day liberal framework season once again as we have been after them since mid-October. That’s a full season here in the Pacific Flyway ! Bird numbers were good this season with plenty of opportunities on multiple species and a 100% success rate on trophy drake harlequin ducks once again for our hunters. We enjoyed the company of groups from Pennsylvania, Georgia, Illinois, Oregon and California out hunting with us this year. Barrow’s goldeneye had a strong showing and there were more birds wintering in familiar areas from late October on through the season. Common Goldeneye were plentiful as well. Surf and whitewing scoter numbers were strong, oldsquaw in their usual deep haunts, plus plenty of bufflehead and mergansers to keep us entertained on many of the hunts. In regards to puddlers, mallards were strong throughout the season and the pintail/ sprig were plentiful in the late season. Full plume gadwall, gw teal and wigeon were “bonus” birds over the last month. On to the offseason for some gear and boats maintenance, decoy repairs ( you know who you are ) and start getting the tackle ready for fishing this Spring… Salud !
The 2017 summer Dungeness crabbing season is in full swing now and it’s been a banner one so far. Those pinchered , delectable local crustaceans have been running larger than usual w/ a 7-8″ average in most of the areas we’ve been dropping the pots. A few bruisers even went over 9″ carapace ! Most of these large male crab have been in very hard shell condition, prime for the boiling pot and crab crackers. The summer season lasts until the first week of September so here’s to hoping the good fishing continues ! We haven’t had our fill yet.
The majority of our guided duck hunts cater to collectors and hunters seeking that spectacular plumed drake destined for the taxidermist and ultimately a proud spot in their homes, offices and memories. All of us here at Peninsula Sportsman appreciate the challenges of these hunts and the reward of successful days on the water and in the blind. In addition to beautiful ducks on the wall this reward also includes the enjoyment in preparing, cooking and eating the wild game we harvest and waterfowl are some of the best of the wild meats. Most of the ducks we hunt here in coastal Washington have similar flavored meat regardless of species due to their diets in the saltmarsh and estuaries where they spend the Fall and Winter. These birds are a long way from the grain fed goodness of the Canadian prairies and interior. Certainly some of the species take a little more creativity and marinating than others ( the fish eating mergansers being one of the more challenging ), but all of the waterfowl we hunt including the sea ducks and divers are definitely edible, versatile and delicious if prepared and cooked correctly. This starts with properly cooled down birds that are plucked, cleaned, boned and meated out w/ all of their skin and fat removed ( this is what often retains the “off” flavor of many wild ducks ). Soaking this meat overnight in a light saltwater brine helps remove any of the residual blood in the meat and the result is a clean heap of boneless “organic” lean meat that is delicious and versatile in a variety of recipes. A handful of our favorites include Scoter stew, Tiffany’s famous duck chili, duck poppers, Scoter’Roni and a variety of Asian Stir Fry dishes among others.
Stir Fried duck w/ Broccoli and Snow Peas
Jalapeño Duck Poppers with fresh grilled Hood Canal Oysters
We enjoy these smoked sticks and jerky throughout the year – fishing , hunting, camping, football games and get togethers– they are the perfect snack anywhere.
Goldeneye ducks. Striking, beautiful black and white ducks that migrate into our waters from the Boreal forests of the North. We enjoy two species of them in the West– the Common or American and the Barrow’s Goldeneye. Common’s are plentiful in the rivers, lakes and tidewaters of our state with wintering populations in the tens of thousands– Barrow’s are a special Western bird — far less plentiful than the Common’s with 8-10,000 of them wintering on our Coastal waters here in Washington. We start to see both species of Goldeneye after Halloween, mostly juvenile birds and hens arriving first– then as the breeding areas get frozen up North a better push of birds start showing up November thru the late season. The older drakes arrive in our wintering areas already sporting their best plumage. We just wrapped up a few days hunting with repeat clients from Mississippi that wanted to target both species on their hunts with us. Cliff had never shot a mature Goldeneye drake before last season and was lucky enough to take a hybrid Common X Barrow’s last December as his first– what luck !
Barrow’s X Common hybrid
Good hunts were in store for them again this season as both Cliff and Will took some fine drakes of both species over the past few days. They will look great on the walls of both their trophy rooms. It’s shaping up to be another fantastic Goldeneye season around here !
As we head into the Labor Day weekend and the final fishing charters of the season I have been reflecting on some of the great fishing days we had this year. Good calm weather throughout the spring and summer got us out on the water quite a bit. Charters started in May with the halibut, lingcod and spot prawn openers. Although we ended up releasing more halibut than we kept ( very limited possession days ) this halibut season will go down in the books as a decent one with ‘buts running in the 45- 80lb range. The lingcod followed suit w/ good fishing throughout May and part of June. Several BIG oversized fish were carefully released and plenty of the slot limit sized fish taken home for fish and chips. Spot prawns was a blink w/ only 4 open days this year , but we limited the boat on the few days we fished them. Summer crabbing in Port Townsend Bay was very good, as the Dungeness crab were on the large side w/ 7-8 inch shells and plentiful most days. In July we found a new hotspot for some really nice rock sole in the 2-3lb range. The Summer combo Crabbing/ Bottomfishing charters were a lot of fun– as were the post-charter crab boils and fish fry’s back at the Cabins ! A couple more days left of Summer Crab and some September coho fishing … then it’s headlong into our hunting seasons. Can’t wait !
~ Elliott and Capt. Dave spent this calm late season morning practicing the art of sculling one of our local bays. I’m not talking about rowing one of those fancy Ivy League skiffs, this is scull hunting ! A tradition that was born over a hundred years ago from the ingenuity of East and West Coast market gunners that wanted to take advantage of rafting flocks of waterfowl. Gunners are tucked up under the gunnels of this very stealthy craft propelled only by a single oar out the stern. The rower paddles slowly in a figure 8 motion until you can get close enough to the birds for a shot, then one or both gunners raise for the shot. When it works you could almost reach out and touch the ducks. Sculling is an extremely exciting way to hunt, especially in the late season when the high pressure sets in, the bays calm down and there are plentiful rafts of full colored waterfowl out there. Long gone are the days of laying down a hundred duck raft for market with a the punt gun… now it’s about the quality of the birds and not quantity. Often a great day sculling requires a lot of hard work and maybe only a bird or two in the bag. On this mid- January morning we enjoyed a long scull on a flock of unsuspecting puddle ducks and E started us off with a great shot on a really nice drake pintail , followed by an exciting scull into an openwater flock of over a thousand greater scaup. Only a few days left to hunt the 2013/2014 waterfowl season, this year has been full of some fantastic hunts and great memories.
~ One of hunters took a unique Goldeneye on a hunt this past week. What we thought was a primo Barrow’s Goldeneye drake upon closer inspection appears to be a mix of the two species– Common, American Goldeneye X Barrow’s Goldeneye. This uncommon hybrid has the attributes of both species w/ the partial crescent moon pattern of a Barrow’s, green and purple iridescent head color w/ the back and scapular feathers of the American plus a wing coloration being a mix of both species. This drake is destined for the wall of this lucky hunter from Mississippi along with a dozen other species they took on their 3 days of hunting with Peninsula Sportsman this week.
One of our hunters took a really nice whitewing drake on a scoter hunt this
morning, and whatdya know … it was wearing BLING ! congrats Scott. The stainless leg band was still dime bright even though this scoter was banded as a
3 year old bird wintering here in Washington 2005. That’s a 10 year old bull drake !
~ Here at Peninsula Sportsman Headquarters we’ve had the pleasure of hosting a father/ son duo from CA for the past few days. Dad Russ presented this trip to his son RJ as a graduation gift for completing college last year ( nice Dad ! ) Highlights of the trip–Day one RJ gets on the board early with a primo bull drake harlequin and a few other msc. greenheaded birds ( his co-workers back at Bass Pro Shops in Ca. will be envious ) It doesn’t take his Dad Russ long to take a near perfect match bird … these feather perfect drakes were brought down w/ single shots of #4 HeviShotand they both look almost tranquilized. Quite a mix of early season ducks on the log by mid-morning.
Day to brought a scoter hunt, the birds came quick and it didn’t take long to carve out some nice drake whitewings and surf scoters from the flocks. Father/ son each took good representatives then we watched as many, many, many more landed in the rig … luckily some black and white made a show with some of the first buff flocks and a really nice Barrow’s drake dumped in as a capper.
Three days hunting with these guys was a fun as it gets. Great company, and positive attitudes even when the weather shifted w/ 50kt winds yesterday and we were “forced” to hunt from the beach. Some really nice birds taken on their trip, their taxidermist back in CA is going to be busy.
~ The local summer Dungeness Crab season opened on the first of July and our crew set out to find where the crusty critters were hiding. Amidst beautiful July weather in the high 70’s pots were set in the morning and when we picked them a few hours later we were rewarded with some nice BIG Port Townsend Bay Dungies…The first crabs of 2013, hard shell bucks averaging 7-8″ across their carapace . Ooooooh Ya ! The first crab of the summer season are just that much sweeter !
Check out this video Spencer put together. We sunk the Go-Pro in one of the morning pots for some really cool footage… lots of action, enjoy !