February 15, 2008

Duck hunting season on the islands ....with Slideshow and Video

By IRENE NOLAN



The season for hunting ducks on Hatteras and Ocracoke is over for this year, but we thought you might like to see some of these photographs of a popular winter sport on the islands.

The photos were taken by Rom Whitaker, who is the captain of the charter boat Release, and other members of his hunting parties.

A few of the first photographs were taken in Currituck County and one toward the end is from a day of hunting tundra swans in Currituck. But most are from a day of hunting on Jan. 21 on the reef in the Pamlico Sound behind Frisco and Hatteras villages that is known locally as Clam Shoal.  On the reef, several miles offshore of the villages, the water is shallow and hunters construct blinds on stilts and curtain boxes that are sunk into the sound’s bottom.

Whitaker and his hunting companions travel to the blinds in shallow-draft boats that are parked under the small structures in “boat hides.”  They climb into the camouflaged blind and hunt from it or wade out to a curtain box that is some 500 yards away in shallow water.

The curtain boxes, Whitaker explains, are elaborate to prepare.  The box is 4 feet-by-4 feet and accommodates two hunters, who don’t mind being a little close together.  Hunters take the pre-constructed boxes out in the sound and use a pump to sink them four feet or so under water.  The boxes are basically a box within a box that uses canvas curtains to keep it watertight. The hunters crouch in the box and wait for the wild fowl to come in to check out the decoys.

Hunters usually arrive early at their blinds or boxes and set out elaborate displays of decoys in the hope that the wild fowl passing overhead will come in and land to check out the crowd.  Whitaker’s set-up includes two dozen geese and brant and about 100 ducks.

The season for hunting waterfowl in eastern North Carolina is during the winter months, and hunters know the very best days for shooting birds are the very worst weather days – cold, cloudy days with gusty northwest winds are preferred on the reef off Hatteras.

Most of these pictures were taken on a calm and quiet day on the reef, but the hunting was good.  Whitaker’s hunting buddy since high school, Graham Knott, standing in the curtain box, shows off pintails and redhead ducks taken by the party.

Other photos include Knott and Whitaker in their waders in the shallow reef waters, displaying the fowl shot by members of the party and the decoys backlit by a setting sun.

In the spring, summer, and fall, Whitaker is busy taking parties out on his charter boat, Release, to Gulf Stream waters for billfish and gamefish.  In the winter, though, during hunting season he heads out to the reef three or four days a week with his sons Rom, 18, and Cameron, 14, and with friends.
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This winter’s hunting, he says, has been good for pintails and above average for redheads but disappointing for brants.

Though Whitaker hunts only with friends and family, there are a number of guides on Hatteras and Ocracoke who take out hunting parties. See a list at the end of this article.

Though Rom Whitaker has spent most his winter hunting, he says he has had a few good days of fishing for bluefin tuna. You can contact him through his Web site, http://www.hatterasrelease.com.


CLICK HERE TO VIEW SLIDESHOW


CLICK HERE TO VIEW VIDEO

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Hatteras and Ocracoke hunting guides

On Hatteras Island:

Ken Dempsey Guide Service. 252-986-2555.
Diamond Shoals Guide Service. 252-475-0402.


On Ocracoke Island:

Ronnie O’Neal. 252-928-4841.
Open Water Duck Hunting. Wade Austin. 252-928-7170.
Russell Williams. 252-928-4408.
Island Guide Services. Kenneth Tillett and Earl Gaskins. 252-928-2504.
Ocracoke Waterfowl Hunting.  Monroe Gaskill. 252-928-5751.


Hunting licenses and waterfowl seasons

For information on licenses, seasons, and bag limits, check out the North Carolina Wildlife Commission’s Web site at http://www.ncwildlife.org/





   

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