Wicked Winter Waterfowling: Essentials for December Sea Duck Hunts
Only the most hardcore waterfowlers chase fast-flying sea ducks like eiders in the coldest places during the coldest months. The hunt quickly becomes a passion, and having the right guns and gear makes all the difference between a positive experience and pure, extremity-numbing misery.
Here’s what we used on a recent sea duck adventure off the coast of Maine in December.
Mossberg 940 Pro Waterfowl
The O.F. Mossberg & Sons company, true to its founder, is continually innovating in design. The new line of 940 Pro shotguns geared toward hardcore hunters is further proof of their dedication to the craft. We had a chance to run rounds through the 940 Pro Waterfowl in some of the most inhospitable conditions – below zero, saltwater, windy, sleet, snow, and ice.
The 940 Pro Waterfowl is part of a growing family of speed-shooter Jerry Miculek endorsed, fast-cycling semi-automatics including the JM Pro competition gun, Pro Snow Goose with an extended magazine tube, and the just-announced Pro Field. All the guns utilize a durable gas system that, according to Mossberg torture testing, allows up to 1,500 rounds between cleanings – almost unheard of among autoloaders.
Internal parts use corrosion-resistant finishes, including a nickel-boron-coated gas piston, mag tube, hammer, and sear. An adjustable stock allows for 1.25 inches of customization for the length of pull, a feature each of us hunters used as soon as we got the guns. When wearing bulky waterfowl clothing, a shorter LOP can make the difference between smooth shouldering on fast-passing duck and not even getting a shot. Even with all of us hunters bundled to the max, including several pairs of gloves, controls on the guns were easy to operate and did so without fail.
Our Waterfowl version is fitted with a 28-inch barrel and wears aggressively checkered synthetic stocks with True Timber Prairie camouflage and Patriot Brown Cerakote metalwork. A bright, Hi-Viz TriComp front fiber-optic sights acquires quickly, while the X-Factor ported choke tube is a quality addition.
Premium Waterfowl Ammo
We were shooting #2 shot for the larger sea ducks like eiders, long-tails, and scoters. Anything in that size range would likely perform fine. Non-toxic shot is a legal must when waterfowling. That means steel shot is the norm, though specialty metals like tungsten, bismuth, and blends are both better performers and more expensive.
For duck hunters who don’t already have a preferred brand, we have several specialty waterfowl load choices: Federal Black Cloud TSS, Hevi Shot Hevi Hammer, Kent Tungsten Matrix, and Browning Wicked Blend. Don’t make the mistake of traveling on the duck hunt of a lifetime with ammunition that might let you down at the most inopportune time. While hunters certainly don’t need to use specialty shots to succeed, pack quality shotshells on that sea duck adventure.
Insulated Coffee Cup
We went offshore each morning with Stanley’s Classic Trigger Action tumbler in Mossy Oak Bottomland camouflage. This double-walled, vacuum-insulated companion is built of stainless steel and keeps hot things hot – even when the mercury is anything but. The trigger-action, push-button opens and closes easily for a quick sip. While we enjoyed the Stanley/Mossy Oak partnership, which stood up perfectly inside our Bottomland-matching floating blind bag, any quality double-wall-insulated stainless drink holder will be a welcome addition on a cold-weather hunt when a drink of something warm keeps you out there longer.
It’s a sad fact, but hunters often neglect both eye protection and hearing protection when they’re actually on a hunt, current company included. Dressing for the hunt, especially on a potential high-volume shoot like a duck hunt with multiple shooters in fairly close proximity, means wearing quality hearing and peeper covers. When discussing hearing protection, it’s easy to dismiss earmuffs as being too bulky or uncomfortable.
Choose low-profile, electronic options like the Walker’s Razor, Caldwell E-Max, or Howard Leight Impact Sport. They’re all slim enough to allow normal cheeking of the gun, and the electronics allow hunters to chat like normal while blocking out the loud gunfire. Let me tell you, however, that when the temperature is below zero, electronic muffs do double duty keeping your ears warm.
Now that we’ve established the importance of hearing protection on our duck hunt, hand in hand goes the eye protection. Think cold, early morning boat rides to hunting locations with salty sea spray and then scanning the horizon for flying ducks, sometimes looking into the sun. With more than a little luck, enough flying ducks will eventually cue some high-volume shooting.
A quality pair of glasses protect those peepers. We traveled with two pairs because, let’s face it, things happen. Leupold Tracers have interchangeable lenses that double as range glasses. Magpul’s Pivots fit nicely, come with a quality hard case, and are both polarized and impact resistant. Those seeking a more cost-effective option for travel should take a hard look at the Radians T-85 Kit with multiple colored lenses.
Floating Gun Case
Anytime a gun goes out to sea on a hunt, it should be dressed in a quality floating gun case. Things happen. Guns fall out of boats, get dropped while wading, you name it – It’s happened. Our Mossberg 940 Pro Waterfowl autoloaders found a cozy home inside Avery’s Folding Floating Case. When we arrived 6 miles offshore, the guns came out dry, happy, and ready to perform.
While they’d certainly handle the weather fine, there’s no good sense in abusing your firearm. The padded, waterproof cases are easy to carry with either the hand or shoulder strap. While the ducks never seem to know the difference, the Mossy Oak Bottomland coverage blended in well with the dark and weedy rock outcroppings where we hid in wait. Plus, the closed-cell foam case doubles as a comfortable cushion for sitting on the wet, slippery, jagged rocks of the Atlantic coast.
Floating Blind Bag
Gun cases that float are not the only buoyant accessory that can make or break a hunt. We grabbed a matching Avery Floating Blind Bag in Mossy Oak Bottomland camo to stash our boxes of ammunition, coffee cup, camera, hand warmers, spare dry gloves, and snacks. None of that stuff needs to get wet, much less be lost when it accidentally drops into the water and sinks.
Both the floating blind bag and gun case are often overlooked accessories that can make a major difference not only in safety and success but comfort as well. The hunter who goes out and can stay out comfortably in inhospitable conditions is the one who will be there to shoot the ducks when other hunters are back at camp.
We’re confident the guns and accessories on this list will help make your next waterfowling trip a success. No matter what gear you choose, though, we wish you a safe, successful, and memorable hunt. Like so many types of hunting, chasing sea ducks quickly becomes a joyous, terrifying, miserable, and passionate addiction.