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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Duck Hunting without the Crowds

A sampling of public waterfowling hotspots often overlooked by hunters
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  • photo by Michaelfurtman.com
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Coastal Waters

Great public hunting is available all along the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific coasts. Bays, marshes, islands, flats, and other coastal habitats often harbor large numbers of ducks and geese. Waterfowlers who seek out these areas can enjoy great shooting for a variety 
of species.

Richard Stavdal has experienced the joys of coastal hunting for more than three decades. This retired U.S. National Park Service ranger lives in East Yaphank, New York, and hunts public shorelines and marshes on Long Island, where he routinely takes a mixed bag of Canada geese, brant, and puddle ducks. With 280 miles of coastline, this area offers ample public hunting opportunities. In fact, Stavdal says he usually has the spots—and the birds—all to himself.

"There's very little competition here after opening week," Stavdal says. "I typically don't hurry to get set up by shooting time. I can sleep a little longer and come in later and still have any spot I want."

Some stretches of the Long Island seashore are private, but hunters can find public areas by referring to maps published by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 

"You have to do your homework," Stavdal says. "Besides identifying public areas, you have to figure out how to access them. I launch on public ramps as well as on some private ramps, where I pay a fee."

Stavdal takes a mobile approach to hunting Long Island's coastal waters. Sometimes he runs the shoreline in a 14-foot open-water layout boat and sets up on grass points or in coves where birds are loafing. Other times he drives the beaches, then hikes over sand dunes and hunts along the shore. In either case, he recommends using oversize decoys.

"My typical spread is 13 Canada geese and six black ducks," Stavdal says. "The brant and ducks trust the geese. They'll come to them with no hesitation. Plus, the goose decoys are more visible from long distances. By going with bigger decoys, you don't need as many to get the attention of passing birds."

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