OUTFITTER REVIEW ON:
Part 1:THE HUNT
Epic Alaskan Sea Duck Hunting Adventures
With Aleutian Island Waterfowlers
By Dan Wennerlind
|Traveling to the The Last Frontier of Alaska for any reason is an adventure in itself. Attach a World Class caliber duck hunt to the other end of it and you have the making for the trip of a lifetime for any serious waterfowler!|
After extensive research over the years, into the incredible waterfowl hunting destinations that the great state of Alaska has to offer, we finally booked our trip to St. Paul Island, Alaska for the elusive King Eider with long time friend and outfitter Charlie Summerville of Aleutian Island Waterfowlers. This would be our first of two trips with Charlie that year. For those unfamiliar with the name Charlie Summerville, he has pioneered several of the top waterfowling destinations in the Alaska, including the extravagant expedition to St. Paul Island, better known as Island X. Back in the late 80s Charlie set out on a couple exploratory trips into the Bering Sea and stumbled across this trip, which has now turned out to be one of the top destinations in the world for the elusive King Eider.
|EXPEDITION 1- ST. PAUL ISLAND ALASKAN KINGS|
The trip to St. Paul Island turned out to be THE most adventurous and exciting waterfowl hunts I have ever been on. We arrived exactly one year after the crew from Benelli filmed the infamous tv show- To Kill A King with our fearless leader Charlie Summerville. The trip was everything I had hoped for and more. Not only did everyone in our group have an opportunity to harvest a full limit of 4 incredibly gorgeous King Eider ducks. But we also went home with Harlequin ducks, Old Squaws and an adventure to tell the Grand kids about- hunting half way to Russia in the middle of the Bering Sea, on a remote lava rock island. You cant get any more adventurous then that as a duck hunter. And trust me you definitely want an outfitter you can trust on this trip. For our group it was everything we had wanted and more. (Just an FYI, this trip now books our 2 3 years in advance, anyone interested in the St. Paul Island Destination should make arrangements ASAP).
|During our trip to St. Paul, we had plenty of time with Charlie to hear all about what makes him tick and how he pioneered the Island X destination as they refer to St. Paul Island in the waterfowling world, so many years ago. Charlie truly has a passion for people, waterfowl and Alaska. He has been a full time guide and outfitter in Alaska since he moved up there in his early 20s. He is a competent and seasoned veteran at his profession that is for sure. After pioneering the Island X destination, Charlie did a few more exploratory trips down in the Aleutian Peninsula to Cold Bay and then out to Adak Island. He now offers an incredible trip to Cold Bay, Alaska for the adventurous waterfowler and for those serious collectors. |
I was almost in disbelieve as Charlie shared with us the diversity of waterfowl that the Cold Bay Destination has to offer. In addition, Cold Bay, Alaska is one of the most scenic places on earth. The mountains and volcanoes in the background of this remote and wild area along the Alaskan Peninsula, sets the scene for one of the most hidden gems in the waterfowl hunting world.
|EXPEDITION 2- COLD BAY ALASKA |
The main draw to this World Class caliber late season sea duck hunting in November and December for Pacific Eiders, Harlequin Ducks, Old Squaws and all three species of Scoters. If thats not enough, the over abundant wintering population of Pacific Brant geese adds to it. In fact the Izembek Lagoon boasts the largest wintering population of Brant geese in the entire U.S. topping 40,000 resident birds. That in itself would be enough to make this a premier destination.
|Add on the incredible Puddle duck and Diver duck hunting for American and Eurasian Widgeon, Green-winged and Aleutian Teal, Mallards, Pintails, Greater Scaup, Goldeneyes, Red-breasted mergansers and more, and your head starts to spin. Then try and fit in time for some World Class Alaskan Ptarmigran hunting and it makes a guy wonder if he can get it all packed into a seven day trip. |
|IN 2017 THE EMPEROR GOOSE HUNTING SEASON RE-OPENED IN ALASKA FOR THE FIRST TIME SINE 1989|
One more teaser to throw into the mix. In 2017 the US Fish and Wildlife Service opened up the Emperor goose hunting in Alaska for the first time since 1989 for Alaska Residents only. For 2018 the have allotted 25 Emperor goose permits for non-resident hunters. It is expected that after the 2018 season the Emperor goose
|hunting regulations will become a little more liberalized, allowing more and more opportunities to hunt for these trophy birds. And guess what Cold Bay has, Emperor geese and a lot of them. In fact every single Alaskan resident that hunted with Charlie in 2017 was successful in harvesting a trophy Emperor goose. |
|Our trip to Cold Bay started as most do. Arriving in Anchorage, Alaska on a Friday evening, the day before the big trip over to Cold Bay on Saturday morning. After a short 2 hour plane ride the next morning, we arrived in the promise land! Charlie and his crew greeted us with open arms and big smiles at the airport. Knowing how excited his guests usually are upon arrival, Charlie took us on a little tour of the area to show off what we were in store for during the next 6 days, before heading back to the lodge. Everyone was more than excited for our first days hunt after that.|
One of the best aspects of this trip, I would find out during our first mornings hunt, was the fact that Charlie uses a 2 man layout boat for all of his Sea duck and Brant hunts. This really made the hunt much more rewarding, having the ability to share a personalized experience with your best friend or family member right next to you. With the wind in our favor the first day, we made the trek out to the mouth of Cold Bay the first morning after the Sea ducks. Within the first hour of hunting I had 3 of the most beautiful drake Harlequin ducks I have ever seen in hand. The little birds
|decoyed into the spread like champs. My pal had 2 Old Squaws a gorgeous drake Harley and a Common Scoter in the boat as well. Sitting on the ocean overlooking a spread of decoys with the snow-capped mountain tops in the background, while seals and sea otters swan by checking us out was about as rewarding an experience as one will ever find. This area of the world is definitely some of Gods best handy work! Having sea ducks of all different varieties sailing into the decoys all morning long was just the icing on the cake. |
Eric Bakken with an absolutely gorgeous drake Harlequin duck. These little ducks are what waterfowler's dreams are made of!
|After the morning hunt was over we decided to try a freshwater pond for the rare and exotic Eurasian Widgeon and Aleutian Teal. Although these two species are not gimmie birds by any means, the Cold bay area offers the best chance in the U.S. to successfully harvest one. Our third companion on the hunt that day Eric Bakken, connected on a gorgeous drake Teal that actually turned out to be a hybrid between an Aleutian and Green-winged teal. That one is going on the wall I am sure. Although we were unsuccessful in harvesting several of the Widgeon on the pond, we did see hundreds of big salmon topping 20 lbs swimming through the shallow creeks with their backs half exposed. Something I have never seen before and for the hunters that come up in Sept and Oct, can take advantage of the amazing Cast and Blast Package Charlie has to offer.|
|Next we were able to capitalize on the incredible Brant hunting. For me, the Brant hunting was the highlight of the trip. Having flocks of 10 40 geese working their way up the bay for over an hour and a half was incredible to watch. Again we hunted out of a 2 man layout boat overlooking a large spread of top of the line Brant goose decoys. What made this hunt so special was the way the birds worked the spread. |
|They would ride the winds about a foot off the water all the way across the bay and then at the last minute would rise up right over the top of the layout boat offering a picturesque shot for the hunter. Alaska offers the most liberalized bag limit in the U.S. of 3 Brant geese per hunter, but it didnt take long to limit out on this hunt, that was for sure. |
I could see why Charlie wanted to make sure all 4 of us were with on this particular hunt, as it was just as much fun to sit back about a quarter mile off the spread in the tender boat and watch / film the other two guys shoot their limit after our hunt was done. Eric was again the lucky hunter of the day as he shot a double banded Brant goose, another trophy for the wall. That however is not that uncommon for the area as they band many, many Brant geese throughout the year in the Izembek Refuge. Typically at least one hunter if not more each week will get lucky enough to shoot a banded Brant on this hunt. To top it off the Brant geese taste amazing and as luck would have it Charlie is one heck of a chef!
|The next day I elected to try my hand at the freshwater duck hunting in the Izembek Refuge. Eric and Brandon joined me. This was really a trip. We took one of the camp vehicles the afternoon before and did a little scouting for ourselves, looking for the desired species we were after, while overlooking the numerous ponds in the area. It didnt take long to find a pond full of ducks. We saw Teal, Scaup and Goldeneyes all over it. The best part was it was a just short walk in, off the main road, to a nice little point where the ducks were resting that afternoon. |
The next morning Charlie loaded us up with a small spread of Teal and Widgeon decoys and away we went. The action was fast and furious all morning long. I connected on two doubles that day. I was lucky enough to get a pair of hybrid drake Teal and a pair of big drake Buffleheads. But the highlight of the day for me was the last 5 minutes of the hunt. Just as we were ready to take some pics of the hunt and pick up the spread, we spotted a flock of about 20 Greater Scaup coming up the lake. Now mind you I have shot many, many Bluebills in my day back in Minnesota, but in my quest to complete the North American Grand Slam one of the last birds on my list was a drake Greater Scaup. The flock banked around our end of the pond and swung through the decoys at Moch 5 speed. Brandon and I each pulled the trigger once and two big drakes splashed down in the water. What a Thrill!
HuntTheNorth's Dan Wennerlind with a beautiful drake Old Squaw. One more Cold Bay, Alaska trophy for the wall!
|The next morning we were back at it for the sea ducks again, still looking for a big drake Pacific Eider. I was able to knock down a few Common Scoters while Brandon cleaned up on the Harleys. Although I ended the morning hunt with a monster drake Old Squaw, now headed for the taxidermist, the Eiders once again eluded us. We saw several flocks of the big white birds but we just werent able to connect that day.|
That afternoon after we wrapped up the sea duck hunt, we went out after some of the area Ptarmigan. Another bird on my bucket list. My old pal Denny Ackmann from California had doubled on a nice pair the day before and showed us first-hand what we were missing out on. I jumped in one vehicle with Denny while Eric and Brandon jumped in the other truck and went out on a combo Ptarmigan /
|fox hunt I the other vehicle. It didnt take long for us to find a small covey or 4 of the little white birds just off the of the old mountain road. Although the willow brush they hide in is fairly thick, with no snow on the ground the little white birds stand out like a sore thumb. We were able to do a short 50 yard stock on the birds and each connected on a nice trophy for the taxidermist.|
|By the end of the week our trip was now winding down and we now had to decide how we wanted to spend our last couple hunts. By this point we had pretty much cleaned up on the sea ducks and hadnt been able to connect on any Eurasian Widgeon. With the winds starting to pick up on the bay, we were all in agreement that the Ptarmigan and Brant hunting were what we wanted to spend our last day hunting. And boy what a hunt we had. Again the Brant did not disappoint. The big flocks just kept coming and coming all afternoon long. Denny and I manned the layout boat first and cleaned up on the first flock that came in. They couldnt have been 20 yards out. We each doubled! It didnt take long before another single sailed in. Then another big flock came in right behind it, and we finished up with ease. In fact we couldnt keep them out of the decoys. As fast as we could we got Eric and Brandon into the layout boat and got out of the spread. Again Eric had the lucky hand that night, taking an entire limit of three Brant geese with his first and only shot to end the hunt!|
This was definitely a trip to remember. With so much beauty and diversity found in the Cold Bay area I thought to myself, I could stay here for two more weeks if time permitted.
|The last morning before we had to jump on our flight back to civilization, I asked Charlie for the keys to the vehicle one last time. While most guys just get up, have a relaxing morning with a hot breakfast and coffee and get packed up for the long trek back to civilization, I wanted one more morning overlooking the amazing tundra marsh. I went out by myself to another freshwater pond. Not with the intention of harvesting another limit of ducks, I had already shot my fair share of birds on the trip, but more so to just sit back and enjoy the beauty and tranquility of Cold Bay, Alaska.|
All morning long I had small flocks of Red-breasted Mergansers and Goldeneyes swing in and out of the spread. What a treat. I didnt even shoot one duck that morning, I just reflected on both my week in Cold Bay and my trip to St. Paul Island the previous year with Charlie. I felt very Thankful that a man named Charlie Summerville had the vision and passion for the sport to match his adventurous spirit, to put together these incredible Alaskan Waterfowl Hunting Destinations. And thus offering the ability for this duck hunter and so many others a way to make their dreams come true! And for that I am proud and honored to not only call Charlie Summerville my good friend but also naming him The 2018 HuntTheNorth.com Outfitter Of The Year!
Part 2: THE REVIEW
|OUTFITTER KNOWLEDGE / PERSONALITY: ||Score||5 / 5 |
|Charlie Summerville is one in a million thats for sure, especially when it comes to die hard waterfowlers. Not only does Charlie ensure that each hunt is the best it can be but he knows the value in the experience and makes sure that lots of high quality photos and video are taken reach day and makes sure that each hunter has copies of them to go home with. With over 2o years of experience guiding waterfowlers in the rough waters of Alaska he is the man for the job. Obviously naming Charlie the 2018 Outfitter Of The Year ensures him a 5 / 5 score.|
|QUALITY OF |
|Score||5 / 5|
|All of the equipment used on both trips was top notch. Charlie makes sure each and every season that all of the boats and motors are in perfect condition as lives may depend on it. He also has top of the line decoy rigs and it was clear that he spares no expense when it comes to his equipment 5 / 5!|
|Score||5 / 5|
|When trophy hunting the rough waters of Alaska for trophy caliber sea ducks, it is essential that you are at the right place at the right time. Charlie boasts a 95%+ success rate over the past 15 years on his King Eider hunting success on St. Paul Island and was also able to fulfill 90% of the birds we all had on our list in Cold Bay. Everyone in camp shot many birds each day. The only one that eluded us was the Pacific Eider and two of us missed opportunities on the white unicorn! 5 / 5!|
|QUALITY OF MEALS |
|Score||4 / 5|
|When hunting these isolated, remote locations the expectations of the quality and caliber of lodging must be taken into consideration. On St. Paul Island the lodging is as good as it gets for being out in the middle of the Bering Sea. During the crab season a dinner of Fresh King Crab is always on the menu on that trip. In the Cold Bay camp Charlie has set up a very nice lodge with a view overlooking the bay that most wives would die for. To be modest in the overall scheme of things we gave Charlie a 4 / 5 with the lodging and meals for each trip. |
HUNT PACKAGES AND
|Score||4 / 5|
|When trying to put a price tag on on hunt of this caliber it is not as straight forward as saying one is paying close to $5,000 to shoot a duck. Both of these trips are well more than a traditional duck hunting trip. They are truly destination hunts of a lifetime and could also be compared to a trophy big game hunt in the fact that there is no where else in the world where you can have as good of a chance to shoot a King Eider then on St. Paul Island. On top of that, the overhead to run a guiding operation half way across the Bering Sea is incredible. Charlie deserves the best score we can give but again it is still a $4,900 duck hunt 4 / 5! |
|OVERALL QUALITY |
OF THE TRIP:
|Score||5 / 5 |
|The overall quality of each of Charlies wild Alaskan waterfowl hunting destinations was incredible. Both are trips to tell the grand kids many years down the road. There is no doubt that these are two World Class destinations that anyone would consider the Hunt Of A Lifetime! 5 / 5!|
|Overall Aleutian Island Waterfowlers Scored A 28 Out Of 30 Giving Them An "A" Rating. We Would Not Hesitate At All To Refer Charlie For Either Of His World Class Trophy Waterfowl Hunting Destinations and Thus Have Named Aleutian Island Waterfowlers the 2018 HuntTheNorth.com Outfitter Of The Year!|
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Part 3: Booking Information
|Contact Information For: Aleutian Island Waterfowlers|
Outfitter: Charlie Summerville
Reservations / Bookings: Dan
Specific Hunt Alaska Duck Hunting Packages Offered:
- St. Paul Island, Alaska Trip: All Inclusive 5 Day / 6 Night Package: $4,900 (5 Trip Weeks From Dec 28 - Jan 23 Annually)
- Cold Bay, Alaska Trip - Early Season Blast N Cast Package: All Inclusive 6 Day / 7 Night Package $3,900
(Available Dates From Sept 1 - October 31)
- Cold Bay, Alaska Trip - Late Season Sea Duck Hunting Package: All Inclusive 7 Day / 7 Night Package: $4,500
(Available Dates From Nov. 1 - Dec 15)
more photos from the cold bay expedition...
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