John's Journal...

Sea Ducks on the Chesapeake with Wayne Radcliffe

Sea Ducks are Getting Popular

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Without question, one of the most-exciting waterfowl hunts I’d ever taken was a sea-duck hunt this year along Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Tons of ducks, a layout boat and plenty of good friends made this a great hunt. To learn more about sea duck hunting, I talked with Wayne Radcliffe, the territory manager for Avery Outdoors, a well-known company that specializes in waterfowling products.

Question: Wayne, are there many people who hunt sea ducks?
Radcliffe: There used to be hardly any at all. But the popularity of sea-duck hunting has grown drastically over the past few years.

Question: Why have more people started hunting sea ducks?Click to enlarge
Radcliffe: Sea duck hunting is a lot of fun. Also, during a mild winter, there aren’t as many puddle ducks to hunt as there are when our area has severe winters. Many times, people get tired of hunting ducks and geese every weekend. Sea ducks are a different type of ducks, and sea-duck hunting is a unique way of hunting ducks. Sea ducks are also extremely-beautiful birds, and many sportsmen want to take them to mount them.

Question: How many people do you usually take sea-duck hunting?
Radcliffe: We take at least six to eight hunters to make the trip worthwhile. We put two hunters in layout boats, and the other hunters stay in the tender boat to pick up the ducks the hunters in the layout boats shoot.

Question: Why and how do you use your Alpen binoculars for sea-duck hunting?Click to enlarge
Radcliffe: We use Alpen binoculars to spot the ducks. When we see ducks sitting on the water, we determine if they’re old squaws or scoters. Oftentimes, we try to get upwind of them. Then as duck boats go back and forth to their blinds, or work boats (crabbers, oystermen, clam hunters and others) move up and down the bay, they’ll flush the ducks, causing them to fly into the wind. By identifying what ducks are downwind of us, we can better know at what kind of ducks we’ll be shooting. Our Alpen binoculars are also important when we start looking for the ducks on the water that the hunters have shot. Using binoculars, we can spot the downed ducks and know what type of ducks they are and how to approach them with the boat to pick them up. We also can watch the other hunters and see how many and what types of ducks they’re shooting.

Question: What shot do you use?Click to enlarge
Radcliffe: I shoot BBs because they pattern best in my gun. Sea ducks are very-tough ducks because they live in the Arctic and then fly down here to live on the Chesapeake Bay. They have to be pretty tough to fly that far and live in a rough environment. They also have heavy, well-matted feathers over their heavy down feathers. Most of our shots from the layout boat will be taken at ducks 20 yards in front of us in our decoys. Traditionally, sea ducks have been shot out of big center-console boats. But we’ve found that we can get more action and take more ducks by using layout boats.

Question: What gun are you shooting?
Radcliffe: I shoot a Remington 870 Express Super Mag with a Patternmaster Remington Extended Choke.

Question: How many boxes of shells do you usually take with you on a sea-duck hunt?
Radcliffe: That depends on the shooter. Sea duck hunting is much like a dove shoot, except you’re lying flat on your back in 1-1/2-feet of sea water and bobbing like a cork. This type of shooting is a real challenge. You don’t have a stable shooting platform, and you’re not in a steady position when you stand up to take the shot. However, the more you shoot from a layout boat, the better you get at shooting. I won’t go on a sea-duck hunt without at least a box or more of shells.

For more information on hunting sea ducks in Chesapeake Bay, write Wayne Radcliffe at 11413 Glen Arm Road, Glen Arm, MD 21057, or call (901) 481-6253, or email To experience a Maryland sea duck hunt, contact Jeff Coats, the pit boss, who has all the equipment and has hunted sea ducks for most of his life. To set up a sea duck hunt with Jeff Coats, call (410) 937-4034, or email, or visit To learn more about Avery Outdoors’ top-quality waterfowling products, go to

Tomorrow: Weather for Sea Ducks

Check back each day this week for more about "Sea Ducks on the Chesapeake with Wayne Radcliffe"

Day 1: Sea Ducks, the Set Up
Day 2: Sea Ducks are Getting Popular
Day 3: Weather for Sea Ducks
Day 4: From North Dakota to Sea Ducks at the Chesapeake
Day 5: Sea-Duck Hunting Over the Years


Entry 440, Day 2