John's Journal...

Sea Ducks on the Chesapeake with Wayne Radcliffe

Sea-Duck Hunting Over the Years

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, including Todd Haga from North Dakota, Wayne Radcliffe, George Zahradka, Jeff Kreit and other members of the Avery Outdoors Field Staff Team made this a great hunt. Today Jeff Coats, my primary guide for sea ducks, made some of the outstanding photos shown.

Question: Wayne, how has sea-duck hunting changed over the past 10 years?
Wayne Radcliffe: Ten years ago, there were so many sea ducks that if there hadn’t been a limit, you could have gone bankrupt buying shells to shoot them. But in recent years, the sea ducks have been hit pretty hard, and they’ve spread out to many areas, especially regions where they’re not heavily hunted. Hunting pressure has moved the sea ducks. As hunting pressure has increased, the sea-ducks have changed their habits and haunts. Click to enlargeThey don’t decoy now as well as they once did, and they don’t come to the big blind and work boats like they did 10-years ago. In the past, you could go out in a 40-foot boat and wear out the sea ducks every day. The people who hunt out of big boats are struggling to get a limit every day, unless they get into an area that hasn’t experienced much hunting pressure, or they hunt the sea ducks when they first migrate down the flyway. We’ve changed to using layout boats because sea ducks don’t see many layout boats. The little boat hides well in 1-1/2- to 2-foot chop, which gives us an advantage over the hunters who hunt from a big boat.

Note from John Phillips: This was my first sea duck hunting adventure. I’d heard about this type of sea-duck hunting for many years but never had an opportunity to do it. I have to admit, when we climbed out of the truck beforeClick to enlarge daylight in 9-degree weather with a 5-mile-per-hour wind, a chop on the water and ice on the boat, I was wondering how badly I really wanted to try sea-duck hunting. The ride to the spot where we’d be hunting was brutal. However, I was field testing some new extremely-lightweight Under Armour hunting clothes that were to my surprise, very warm. I’d never seen V-boards unfolded and set up and was surprised at how quickly these types of decoys were able to be opened out and put into a decoy spread. The weather was so cold that I almost bulked up too much. I had an Avery Arctic Gaiter on my head and neck, as well as a Greenhead Gear skull cap. With gloves and a heavy overcoat, I looked much like the Pillsbury Doughboy. When the first couple of flights of scoters came in, I couldn’t get my gun up quickly enough to make a shot. I felt like a tight-wire walker in woolen longjohns wearing two mink coats. I couldn’t move.

After I took off my head and neck coverings and my gloves and opened up my big overcoat, I got the gun up quicker and my shots off faster. Eventually, I took my limit of scoters and old squaws. The scoters were some of the most-unusual Click to enlargeducks I’d ever seen. They looked like they had a parrot’s head on a coot’s body. But the old squaws were one of the most-beautiful ducks I’d ever seen. I had a hard time imagining that a duck that beautiful could fly with those pointed tails and smallish bodies. However, after I downed my first couple of ducks, I felt more comfortable in the layout boat and was able to shoot more accurately than when we first started. Even after my time in the layout boat was over, and I’d taken my limit, I really enjoyed the fun we had in the tender boat, picking up ducks and cheering for the other hunters in the layout boat.

A sea duck hunt isn’t just a duck hunt. It’s a true adventure, and one of the most-exciting ways ever to hunt ducks. There’s a lot of time, effort and equipment that goes into planning a great sea-duck hunt, and I’d like to thank Wayne Radcliffe and the other members of the Avery Outdoors Professional Hunt Team for taking me on a sea duck hunt of a lifetime.

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 Visit the Mighty Layout Boys at to learn more about their boats and other products.

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 5