By Matt Young
Lying side by side in a two-man layout boat, Tom Reder and I scan the dark, choppy waters of Lake Erie for diving ducks just after dawn. Waves break against the sides of the low-profile craft and occasionally lap over the gunwales, splashing us with cold water. The only thing keeping us from getting completely soaked on this raw October morning is a thin, plastic spray shield covering the back of the boat’s cockpit. But the nasty weather couldn’t be better for gunning diving ducks over a layout rig. With a steady gale driving out of the northwest, the open water beyond the protection of the Ontario shoreline looks like a scene from The Perfect Storm. The waves will force diving ducks to abandon their offshore roosts and seek shelter in protected bays like this one.
We don’t have long to wait. Reder nudges me with his elbow and says under his breath, “Bluebills on the deck.” A squadron of about a dozen lesser scaup has seen the long string of brightly painted cork decoys trailing downwind, and they are now following the “pipeline” directly toward us. As the scaup roar by my side of the boat, I sit up to shoot. But before I can shoulder my autoloader, they’re gone in a black-and-white blur.
“That’s okay,” Reder says with a chuckle. “That’s why I like to shoot ‘em with their feet down.”