John's Journal...

Sea Ducks on the Chesapeake with Wayne Radcliffe

Sea Ducks, the Set Up

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, what kinds of ducks are we hunting?
Radcliffe: Mainly, we’re hunting surf scoters and old squaw. There are three-different types of scoters – white wing, surf and common. We primarily take surf scoters. We call the old squaws a poor man’s pintails, because they’re beautiful white-and-black ducks with extremely-sharp, pointed tail feathers. Click to enlarge

Question: How do we set up?
Radcliffe: We use a Mighty Layout Boys layout boat that’s low to the water and has a splash board around the edges. You lay down in this boat, wearing full camouflage. The ducks usually come across at 2 to 3 feet off the water. When the ducks come into the decoys, you come up shooting.

Question: What kind of decoys are we using?
Radcliffe: These are custom made George Zahradka and are silhouette V-boards that sit on 2x2 boards. The decoys are oversized scoter ducks that can be seen from a long distance. They’re mounted on these V-boards, so the boards can be folded-up and easily carried to the blind site. When they’re folded-up, the boards take up very-little room in the boat, but when you unfold them, they make a fine decoy spread. Click to enlarge

Question: How many boards do you put out?
Radcliffe: Although we carry 30 boards with us, we generally only put out 15 because the ducks are scattered and not bunched-up. The V-boards sit up much higher than the decoys because often sea ducks fly really close to the water. The ducks in our area sit in small groups. One of the keys to decoying sea ducks is setting up your spread to make it look like live ducks sitting on the water. We also use a non-motorized spinning-wing decoy that’s activated by the wind. The decoy is painted black, to look more like a scoter duck. We also have a couple of strings of old squaw decoys.

Question: What are these sea ducks doing out here in Chesapeake Bay?Click to enlarge
Radcliffe: They’re feeding on mussels, clams and small invertebrates. As you noticed when we left the ramp this morning, there were no ducks. But when we reached the area where we decided to hunt, there were large numbers of ducks everywhere. The ducks are in this region because this is where they find food. We’re basically hunting the feeding grounds.

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, 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.

Tomorrow: Sea Ducks are Getting Popular

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 1