I was fortunate enough to cross a “bucket-list” hunt off my list this past November when I went on a layout boat duck hunt near Long Point on Lake Erie. Big water diving ducks were birds that I had not had a chance to hunt in the thirty years that I’d been waterfowling, and I snapped at the chance when a friend proposed and organized the opportunity.
Being run out to the layout boats at the crack of dawn, I was literally vibrating with nervous energy. Our guide gestured to huge rafts of redheads in the outer bay as we settled into the UFO boats, and despite warning us that a potentially slow, calm, bluebird day was in the cards, I only heard “huge rafts of redheads”. I had always wanted to take a stud drake redhead, and that day looked like the chance to do so. The first group decoyed perfectly just after dawn broke, and we scratched down a drake apiece, and throughout the day we whittled our way through a two-person limit, finishing the hunt as the sun slipped below the horizon behind us and a near-full moon rose in front of us. As we took some photos and packed up back at the wharf, I was already thinking of how to prepare the birds we had on hand.
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Since I had a handful of redheads, I decided to make one of my favourite “red” dishes; a wild game take on General Tso’s chicken. Diver ducks can be dogged by a reputation as tasting “fishy” or “muddy” but I experienced none of that. Instead, I found myself devouring crispy, tender duck bites in a sticky sauce that perfectly balances sweet, salty, and spicy. This dish was immediately addictive, with the duck adding a pleasantly rich, and might I say, more aggressive flavour than just bland old chicken.
Serve this with sesame seeds, over rice and stir-fried broccoli, and try not to eat it all by yourself.