Between October and January, duck hunters flock to Maryland’s Chesapeake Shore for prime conditions. Fowl not only love the Bay for sustenance, and are subsequently driven to the waters out of necessity, but the body of water sits directly under the Atlantic Flyway migratory route.
On autumn, southbound migrations, fowl from all feathers use the Chesapeake Bay as a stopover and feeding ground by the thousands. This makes for really good hunting in Maryland, particularly on the Eastern Shore of the state. Whether by boat for a sea-duck hunt, from the shore for a diver-duck hunt, or in the marsh for a goose hunt, the Eastern Shore has it all.
Every fowl species from Long Tailed Duck to Old Squaw and Surf Scoter to Redheads, Blackheads and Canvasbacks, not to mention the mallard and geese, are in high concentrations on the Eastern Shore. This is what makes Maryland’s Eastern Shore among the best rated hunting grounds in the entire world for waterfowl.
But just like everything in this world, if not channeled correctly, the best resources available are useless. This is why when in Maryland for fowl hunting, getting a hold of a guide is your best chance of enjoying the seemingly unlimited bounty of the region’s fowl hunting. Knowing where to go and learning certain regional tactics vary from region to region. And you can’t learn the lay of the land on the Maryland Eastern Shore overnight.
When the original Chesapeake Bay Bridge span was completed in 1952, it opened Maryland’s Eastern Shore to exponential development. All of a sudden, the Eastern Shore, once a vast rural land tract, was considered part of the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area as a bedroom community.
The bridge loosened up population congestion in the western part of Maryland, allowing for more sprawl into the eastern half. There was some relief to expensive, congested living conditions found in the near suburbs to Washington DC. Suburbanites who were priced out or simply wanted a little more space to call their own now had options. But this came at a cost.
Aside from the environmental impact suburban sprawl has on any ecosystem, with increased automobile use over longer distance- and subsequent increased CO2 emissions- and deforestation for homebuilding, Eastern Shore suburban development is especially detrimental. Because thick eastern forests were bulldozed to clear land for homes and roads, bird habitats were strained. The deforestation combined with the increased CO2 emissions also compromised air quality.
Before the Eastern Shore started witnessing its suburban development boom, thanks to the Bay Bridge, it was forested and very rural. But since having taken on the role as a metro area bedroom community, this is becoming increasingly endangered. This is why we have in place such initiatives as The Waterfowl Festival.
The Waterfowl Festival, initiated by ambitious enthusiasts, was started to share with visitors the Eastern Shore heritage and ultimately raise funds to protect the wildlife and their habitat. Having kicked off in 1971 to coincide with the opening of goose hunting season, the Waterfowl Festival has grown from three small exhibits in downtown Easton to more than a dozen venues throughout the town, with an annual economic impact to the area of nearly $6 million.
With exhibits having grown to fifteen with four events since those fledging days of the Festival, awareness for protecting Eastern Shore waterfowl is strong as ever. The Festival has donated over $5million to Ducks Unlimited in conservation grants to more than fifty organizations. The negative impacts from suburban sprawl will never be completely eliminated on the Eastern Shore. But they can be minimized with awareness and fundraising efforts to best let us coexist with the wildlife on the shore present long before human impact.
Getting your kids into hunting is just like trying to create interest in any hobby or activity. If you want to generate their interest in playing Pop Warner football, garner their interest in an NFL team or NFL players. If you want to get them into hobby building, lead by example and show the how awesome your to scale boat or car is. The same goes for fowl hunting; getting your child excited about hunting will generate anticipation and a passion for the hunt.
As they say, half the adventure is the anticipation. And there’s no better way to generate this sense of anticipation than involving your young hunter in the preparations for the hunt. This can include anything from supplies shopping, packing, scouting, opening camp and any other kind of preparation. And don’t forget one of the largest components of prepping for the hunt; learning firearms safety and training.
Getting your fledgling hunter to the shooting range a lot before the season is one of the most important things you could do to prep them for hunting season. This will teach them not only best practices for aiming, but the different types of shot and in what ways they’re most effective. Before picking up a gun in the brush, your rookie hunter should have already picked it up at the range at least two or three times in the months preceding their first outing.
Remember you not only want the first outing to be a solid reflection of the preparation and education you have instilled in them, but you want it to be comfortable as well. This is why one of the fundamental steps in taking your young hunter out in the brush for the first time is ensuring their comfort. This includes making sure they have warm, well-fitting clothing. Big clunky boots that are 2x too large or a field coat 3 sizes to big not only compromise their general comfort and warmth, they also impact performance and maneuverability.
Finally make sure you are having fun with them. Kids like to have fun and if they are not, they will become disinterested quickly. And if you are forcing them to hunt and being a real downer about it, the experience will scar them and likely turn them off of it for life. So making sure you are having fun with them and they’re having a good time is much more likely to land you a hunting buddy for life.