Most South Carolina waterfowl hunters cut their teeth chasing wood ducks in century-old cypress sloughs or maybe a gaggle of greenheads in acres of flooded grain, but available duck-hunting opportunities are now in high demand. Lease fees and land prices continue to rise, and premiere waterfowl grounds under public control are steadily becoming overcrowded.
Luckily, there is another option for fantastic waterfowling along South Carolina’s coast, and the prime waters around Georgetown are available without the competition.
Sea ducks are a group of migratory species that skirt the beaches along the Atlantic seaboard to eat on the plentiful resources of mollusks, crustaceans, and even some small fish. According to Dean Harrigal, waterfowl biologist for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, scoters are the primary sea duck species that winter along South Carolina’s coastlines.
“Our most-common sea ducks are surf scoters, black scoters, and white wing scoters,” Harrigal said, “but we will get old squaw and a few other species of sea ducks if we get a prolonged period of cold weather to drive them further south along their migratory path.”
While sea ducks don’t mingle with dabbling ducks and other ducks in freshwater and brackish environments, they typically migrate concurrently with other species’ movements over the fall season. As soon as hunters see ducks arriving inland, they can count on sea ducks showing up along the coast.
Hunters can also look for January’s cold blasts to contribute to growing numbers of sea ducks along the beachfront. Brief periods of arctic weather will drive them south, making Georgetown’s waters fill up, and specifically off North Island and around the Winyah Bay