Waterfowl: Hunting Tradition
Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network

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The Pusey brothers of Swan Creek , Maryland , with their English setter Dash, after a morning of hunting on the family farm. Ca. 1930s. Collection of C. John Sullivan.

Hunting the Bay's waterfowl began as a way to put food on the table, but soon evolved into a sporting tradition that drew hunters by the thousands. Whether hunkered down in duck blinds on the Eastern Shore or “living large” in exclusive gunning clubs along the Susquehanna Flats, hunters used a variety of means to bring down birds, some with devastating effect.

One of the most efficient methods was the sinkbox—essentially a floating platform with a box sunk into the middle in which the hunter reclined until sitting up to fire away. With decoys spread on the surrounding water and sometimes on the platform itself, the hunter was nearly invisible to incoming waterfowl. By the late 1800s the sheer numbers of birds being killed spurred regulation of hunting times, bag limits and the types of boats, guns and ammunition hunters could use.

Regulation continues today and waterfowling remains a cherished Bay tradition.


A sinkbox hunter on the Potomac River.


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