In a matter of days, Saturday to be exact, I’ll make my way to one of the most inhospitable places on earth to hunt for one of the hardiest, most desired ducks known to waterfowlers – the king eider.
St. Paul Island, found within Alaska’s Pribolof chain, is located in the remote reaches of the Bering Sea. Closer to Siberia (500 miles) than to Anchorage (about 800 miles) and home to a few hundred full-time residents, St. Paul Island is “Deadliest Catch” territory; Bering Sea crabbers drop their catch at the island’s processing plant when plying the killer water surrounding the small land mass.
The wicked weather of the Bering Sea during this time of year means two things:
1) Commercial fishing boats with crab-filled hulls, which means some of the finest dining to be found on the planet – always an important attribute when it comes to Ramsey Russell’s GetDucks.com, choosing a guide and hospitality that matches the quality of the best duck hunting locations around the world. I’m almost as excited to gorge on crab as I am to hunt – you better believe I’m bringing a box of whatever species is in season home with me.
2) Perhaps the best location on earth to hunt the crown jewel of the waterfowlers’ beautifully feathered treasure trove.
It’s not an easy hunt. It’s not a cheap hunt. It’s not even an easy place to get to. And there’s no guarantee that you’ll even get to hunt if you get there; an arctic storm can sock the island in for days on end, making conditions too dangerous to hunt.
But the reward for trekking to the very edge of the American frontier, a place where Russian influence is more pronounced than anything Pilgrims stood for, is a shot at the king eider.
King eiders are large sea ducks that live year round in high arctic and sub-arctic areas, coming only as far south when wintering so as to stay ahead of sea ice. The location and underwater topography surrounding St. Paul Island lends itself to being a perfect wintering area for kings. And, if anxiety surrounding getting to the island, packing for some of the most extreme weather on the planet and hoping Mother Nature cooperates enough weather-wise to allow you to get out and hunt, and that birds are in the area and moving, isn’t enough, consider that king eiders are among the deepest-diving waterfowl on earth – plummeting to depths of 180 feet. That means that if you don’t the kill duck with your first shot, or maybe a quick follow-up, your travel-to-the-ends-of-the-earth trophy will disappear beneath the surface of the deadly waters, never to be seen again.