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Duck shooting on Maine's icy ledges
Duncan Barnes
November 30, 1964
The search for eider can be a miserable experience, but Ransom Kelley makes it comfortable and rewarding
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November 30, 1964

Duck Shooting On Maine's Icy Ledges

The search for eider can be a miserable experience, but Ransom Kelley makes it comfortable and rewarding

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"Sculling," he warns, "is fast becoming a lost art, because today's bag limits are completely unrealistic. But they could be made realistic, if the price of the federal duck stamp was raised and the extra money used for more sanctuaries and stricter law enforcement to increase diving and puddle duck populations. With today's gunning pressure Canada can't produce enough ducks."

Sea ducks are doing much better. The worst threat to the nesting eiders on Maine's offshore islands is the black-backed gull, or minister bird. The minister pierces eider eggs and sucks out the embryos, and it kills a number of fledglings by plucking them right out of the air or beating them to death in the water with its wings. At one time the Fish and Wildlife Service successfully kept the minister population down by spraying their eggs with an oil solution, which clogged the breathing pores of the shells and killed the embryos inside. The gulls sat on the eggs until it was too late to renest. Unaccountably, the experiment was stopped in 1950, and the ministers are making a comeback.

But there are still more than enough eiders and other sea ducks, and biologists say they could stand greater gunning, thereby taking some of the pressure off other ducks which are over-gunned. But while the frigid weather and the thought of having to endure it on an exposed rock ledge in the ocean turns many a shooter away, the sea duck's tough, fishy meat discourages others. "There are ways to cook sea birds," Kelley insists. "You can skin the breasts, soak them in water with salt and soda to get out the fishy odor and then saut´┐Ż them or use them in a stew." Or you can give them away, preferably to some innocent friend with a mild disposition.

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