While the East Coast of the United States may be famous for city living and vacation destinations it is also home to some of the greatest waterfowling tales of all time.
The Chesapeake Bay is one of the most historic waterfowl hunting locations in the United States. Although the Eastern Shore receives most of the notoriety there is an area at the top of the Bay, between Havre De Grace and Perryville, known as the Susquehanna Flats. As the name denotes the flats are located where the mighty Susquehanna River enters the Chesapeake Bay.
A hunting trip this past September gave me insight on the history of this region. There was visits to decoy carvers, waterfowl museums, hunting over stretched canvas decoys and dining on steamed blue crabs and oysters.
I was invited to join a group of fellow Drake Field Experts on a flats hunt for resident Canada geese. Although the overall hunting came up short on numbers the experience was incredible.
As a new member of the team I was a bit nervous to meet a group of experienced hunters that came in from Massachusetts, New York, Virginia and Texas. Those nerves were eased as we spent the first evening, sitting in a Mexican restaurant, exchanging war stories while the rain poured down.
The next morning, we assembled at the boat ramp and split into our four assigned teams to hit the water. After a short boat ride we had reached our destination and set out the rather unique decoy spread of silhouette Y-Boards and stretched canvas full body decoys. I have to tell you the nostalgic feeling of hunting over that spread, in this place, was pretty cool.
We managed to scratch out a handful of geese on the morning hunt and decided to head to shore for a little down time walking the streets of Havre De Grace. This quaint little town offers a boatload of historic charm. There are shops, restaurants and the Havre De Grace Decoy Museum.
After a couple hours onshore we packed up the boats and took a stab at an evening hunt. Although we saw a bunch of birds we only managed to knock down a pair of geese on the evening hunt. That being said the experience and comradery made the time worthwhile.
We used Sunday to tour the Havre De Grace Maritime Museum, The Havre De Grace Decoy Museum, Joey Jobes Decoy Shop and to partake in some of the local food specialties. As the evening approached we did what any group of waterfowl hunters would do…fired up the grill, showed off our favorite wild game recipes and told stories about our hunting adventures. As a 20-year-old kid I spent a lot of time listening and laughing.
Monday morning rolled around and we headed back out onto the water. We had been warned that Labor Day would bring a different group of people out onto the flats and it certainly did. At the first blind location we found a boat anchored, a sparsely dressed couple in a tent and a roaring bonfire. The second blind location had six boats tied off within 20 yards of the blind marker. We set up our spreads at the third and fourth location only to find out that with every passing moment more and more people were headed out to enjoy the holiday.
We spent a couple hours enjoying the show and laughing at what was taking place before we called it quits. It was finally decided that there were trucks to pack, drives to make and flights to catch. While the hunting wasn’t awesome we did manage to see birds each time that we hunted. We were able to spend some time learning about how wooden decoys were made, we got some instruction on body booting and spent some time walking around the history rich museums.
As a young hunter I understand that shooting a limit is a lot of fun. One of the things that I learned on this trip though was there is a lot more that goes into becoming an avid waterfowl hunter. It’s about learning the history of our sport, making new friends and being out there to enjoy the experience.