When 1 hunted with Paul in early January, we targeted goldeneye and bufflehead because they were the most abundant species in the area.
It doesn't matter where or how you hunt diving ducks, but I promise once you've experienced a flock of goldeneye or scaup coming full-tilt toward the decoys backed by a 15 mph wind and crush a double as the birds fly by at top speed, you too will be hooked.
The reason for the unscheduled day trip was the arrival of a stunning drake Barrow's goldeneye on the Ythan estuary, about 15 miles north of the granite city.
The Barrow's goldeneye performed admirably, giving us tremendous views on an all too rare calm, sunny summer's morning north of the border.
Perhaps because of their diet, goldeneyes aren't particularly tasty (although they're not as bad as you'd think), and besides that, by the time they get into my neck of the woods, it's cold.
My experience, and the experience of most of the handful of guys I know who hunt the birds, is goldeneyes almost never actually decoy to a decoy spread; instead they strafe it, like so many black and white jet fighters in formation.
Unlike the East Coast and lake states, where goldeneyes and most other divers are hunted over large bodies of water like the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Superior, western whistlers (usually common goldeneyes rather than the more rare Barrow's) are almost always hunted on rivers, because by the time they migrate south in enough numbers to make a hunt interesting, everything else has already frozen.
Their secondary goal was harvesting a drake goldeneye.
A banded goldeneye is an anomaly, but trying to find out just how rare would prove particularly difficult.
From the moment we set decoys just after legal shooting time until the time we finished out our three-man, 24-bird limit, we saw goldeneyes non-stop.
As we picked up birds downwind, the goldeneyes continued to test the abilities of the two shooters left on shore.