Outer Banks Hunting
By Vic Berg –
Way back in 1977 my family permanently settled on the “Banks” after my dad retired from his post as an officer and Chaplain for the U.S. Naval Forces. Not one to sit around, Vern pursued his fascination and passion of all things water fowling and created one of the area’s most iconic businesses, Outer Banks Waterfowl, that same year. Our family has run the service to the present day.
As such, I’ve been lucky enough to hunt nearly every day of every fowling season since. Considering the oft-times extreme and bitter conditions that must be endured to experience fowling at its finest, most sane and rational humans may disagree with my sense of good fortune.
That would be, in my opinion, their considerable loss.
Currituck, Dare and northern Hyde counties are—no exaggeration—three of the most famous counties in the United States known for their rich waterfowling heritage. For better than a century, the rich, the famous and the just plain adventurous have (dare I say) flocked to this area and verified these claims.
When sane and rational humans hunker indoors during the worst of winter’s nor’easters, fowlers bundle up and head out to see for themselves—the glory and fury that is a coastal low pressure system in winter. Steady winds with gusts over 45 MPH, rain/sleet/snow/bitter cold are stringently prescribed for a successful duck hunt. Counter-intuitive to basic human survival, these brutal conditions are coveted.
Once the hunters have set their decoys in one of a marsh’s lee coves, creeks or corners and have hidden themselves out of the wind’s gale in a warm and toasty duck blind, they make themselves available to one of the most fascinating spectacles in the natural world—wild waterfowl in the rawest and woolliest environment imaginable.
With decoys and mimicking calls, the hunters can influence the wild flocks. Some of the groups of birds set their wings and coast and glide close enough for harvesting. Most don’t. Surprisingly, the few that do can very nearly alter and humble a person in profound and powerful ways.
The winds, and the power of the visual, are potent over the wind-ravaged marsh. The fowl going from near hundred mile an hour flight to fluttering at zero miles an hour over your decoys in seconds, the eruptively percussive shots from your and other’s hides upwind of you, the comradery, the conversation, the hot coffee and snacking, the working, professional dogs, the boats, the grandfather’s and father’s pride-fullness in children’s wonder and success, the harvest and, finally, giving thanks for a healthful, nourishing meal and the wonders of nature observed—these are the powerful hallmarks of fowling.
The sane and rational may never understand from their hunkered position indoors, but it’s actually very little about the shooting. It’s about the soul-deep experiences shared. Find somebody who can show you the “right way” of fowling and you’ll be hooked as sure as a marlin after a skirted ballyhoo.