By Michael R. Shea, Atlantic Flyway Migration Editor
Massachusetts waterfowl hunters enjoyed a fantastic early season for puddle ducks, and with the second split and sea duck season under way, most remain optimistic that the best hunting is yet to come.
Capt. Jack Golini, owner of Jack Charters, which operates from Cape Cod to Maine, reports that the puddle duck hunting earlier this season was especially good. “The first week we had lots of woodies and not many black ducks or mallards, but then the migration picked up,” he says.
Eider numbers are building along the Cape and the south coast, along with a few scoters, but local hunters are talking about black ducks.
“I’ve seen more black ducks in the last 30 days than I’ve seen in the last 10 years,” says Lou Othote, a longtime DU volunteer who lives a mile from Buzzards Bay. “It’s been relatively mild here, but I’ve seen two groups of black ducks of more than 20 birds each. Normally they’re in pairs and triples on the marsh edge, not big groups.” This season, the bag limit on black ducks was increased from one to two birds.
Othote explains that the bluebills haven’t shown up yet, but there are good numbers of geese and plenty of buffleheads in his area.
Cape Cod duck hunter Eric Mulak reports that along the coast the eider flight has been spotty—good in some areas and sparse in others. “In the freshwater ponds, there are a lot of black ducks and other puddle ducks, but I’m not seeing many ringnecks or bluebills yet,” he says.
Cape Cod has more than 350 freshwater ponds, and while many of them are surrounded by homes, those with hunter access have been providing good hunting.
Michael Donnelly, a veteran DU volunteer and former state chairman, says the puddle duck hunting has been so good in the central part of the state that he hasn’t even started eider hunting yet. There are also good numbers of ringnecks inland, he says, along with plenty of largely resident Canada geese, which have become very challenging to hunt.
“They’ve learned they’re safe in the golf courses, industrial parks, and ponds where people feed them,” Donnelly says.
As more wintry weather moves into the region this week, the waterfowl hunting in Massachusetts should only get better.
Michael R. Shea is a New York–based freelance writer, who hunts waterfowl throughout the Atlantic Flyway. Shea will be providing habitat and hunting reports for the Atlantic Flyway during the 2016−2017 waterfowl season.