Elite Refuge Member
- Mar 20, 2021
- Reaction score
- Las Vegas, Nevada
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I’m not entirely sure what year it was when I went on my first scull boat hunt, but I do know I was hooked on it from that day forward. Although I can not remember the date, or even the year for that matter, I am of absolute certainty that it was John Hayden who piloted the boat, and the body of water was Lake Shastina. While coaxing ducks from the sky into a carefully set spread of decoys was, and still is, something I dearly loved to do, this was different. Sculling was a spot and stalk style of hunting, more closely associated with big game hunting than anything, and the challenge of glassing a bird, or birds, then sneaking across the top of the open water in order to get close enough to shoot them, was a thing that touched me deeply. Once engaged in sculling I knew I would never willingly stop.
There is nothing fast about sculling: it is slow, methodical, and meticulous. When you succeed, you did it right. When you fail, you did it wrong. Yes, there are circumstances that cause success, or failure, which you can’t control, but by and large the outcome of the chase is determined by the skill of the operator. On the water, you are alone. There is nobody there with which to discuss plans, or strategize. There is nobody there to help you make decisions. And, right or wrong, there is nobody there to take credit for, or to accept blame for those choices, except you. No matter what, you own everything that happens. I firmly believe that those who were born to scull not only accept that as their reality…they relish in it, and would have it no other way. Perhaps that’s why I love it so much.
Another aspect of the game I embrace is the solitude. Once you settle into the cockpit, and move away from the shore, you are alone. If you want to carry on a conversation you must have the ability to talk to yourself. Obviously with two hunters in the boat all that changes, but the overwhelming majority of my time spent under the oar has been alone. I have indeed conversed with my alter egos…yes, out loud…but normally all words are spoken only in my mind. You see sculling is very much a thinking man’s game. There are never ending possibilities, all of which must be considered before starting the sneak. Experience, calculation, physical conditioning, and weather observations are all “advisors” to be consulted with, and those talks are most often held in silence.
Sculling starts long before the boat ever hits the water. Seaworthiness is the top priority and is always addressed first. Next on the list is camouflage. Making the boat hide on the water means trying to paint it so it blends in with that particular water. Normally some shade of gray is the preferred color, but sometimes a green or brownish is in order. Most go with gray as it works in the majority of situations. I get a bit more elaborate with my paint scheme, but would probably do just fine with a solid color. I also coat my final paint job with semi-gloss clear as water is shiny, not flat. Aside from the single sculling oar, which propels the boat, I come equipped with a kayak paddle, a large sponge, binoculars, something with which to bail water, and a flotation device. I use closed cell foam pads to lay on, and my bow weights, which keep the nose of the boat down to the water line, are two pieces of railroad iron weighing in at 60 lbs apiece. Other than that all you really need is a gray rain jacket for “just in case”, your gun, and your shells. Simple…I like simple.
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Sculling isn’t a easy task. It’s an art form to get the boat from point A to point B with a single oar that slides in through the transom. Your task is to the move the boat forward, usually two to four hundred yards, across open water, and get to within thirty yards or less of creatures who survive by being aware of their surroundings, and who flee at the first sign of danger. Keep in mind that these creatures are not obligated to stay in any one place while you’re trying to get close. They are often moving, which means you are constantly changing course and always trying to keep the bow pointed directly at the birds. Sometimes you move the boat forward, sometimes you stop and wait, and occasionally you turn the boat sideways in order to “herd” the birds in a certain direction. There is never a “one size fits all” approach.
I was born a sculler. I’m convinced it has always been inside me, I simply needed to be placed on the right path in order to find the end of the trail.
My buddy does it on Lake Mojave with a Hobie pedal drive kayak...he could shoot a limit of seven greenheads/seven days a week in less than 20 minutes, luckily for the ducks he understandably became a bit bored of it and doesn't do it that often.
They are akin to park ducks and when jumped have to fly right at him due to the topography...just a bad setup for those poor birds on that lake.