Local lore around here holds that the waterfowl migration begins on the first north wind after the full moon in October. The beginning of November is the peak of the waterfowl migration in our area. Ducks such as Pintails, Blue and Green-winged Teal, Gadwall, Mallards, Black Ducks, Shovelers, Wood Ducks and Widgeon, as well as Canada Geese, find their way back here to the farm each year. We don’t hunt the early seasons in September and October so the early migrating species are not bothered as they return each year from their breeding grounds in Canada. We believe in doing our part to conserve waterfowl for future generations. Hunting is only practical when conserving the resource is the priority.

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Perhaps most people don’t realize how much work and preparation goes into waterfowl hunting. Honing our shooting and calling skills and training our dogs is year-round work if we plan to have success in the field, but the “heavy lifting” occurs before the season.

MallardDecoys are washed and repaired.  Missing heads and lines are replaced and decoys are rigged and bagged. We make repairs and brush blinds with switchgrass and pine. Boats are tuned up. We fill fuel tanks, check batteries and running lights, stow life vests and make sure we have push poles, throw cushions, anchors and first aid kits. Waders receive the once-over and blind bags are organized. Calls, jackets, hats and gloves, thermoses, dog whistles and hearing and eye protection are checked off as they go into each blind bag. The gun room comes alive as everyone tunes their calls and checks to be sure their guns are in good working order.

Our lodge “spring cleaning” takes place in the fall and every room is readied for friends. The firebox is filled with kindling and newspaper to ignite the seasoned hardwood that we cut the previous winter and stacked in the barn in the spring. The new recipes I’ve developed are ready for guests. I want to be sure that when our friends walk through the door the lodge is filled with scrumptious smells and the warmth of a blazing fire.

Each of us has been preparing his or her dog for the entire year, but it’s game time now! Dogs are an integral part of every waterfowl expedition. They are our partners in ensuring we retrieve all of our game, so constant training is required. They love every session, as is evident by their wagging tails and excitement when they first see the training bumpers. Most importantly, from pup to old age, they are part of our family. Make no mistake about it – these working dogs know their favorite time of the year is just about here, as they’ve been listening to the whistles and quacks and watching the sky for weeks.

Mallard Image courtesy of Oyster Bay Photography

Once the season begins, it’s early to bed and early to rise! Everyone arrives in the gun room before 5:00 a.m. for breakfast, coffee and sleepy-eyed good mornings. The best hunting occurs in the worst weather so we hope for strong winds and cold temperatures. In the pitch-dark, one hears the splashes of decoys as they hit the water. Then, in the quiet of the morning, as the first light finds the skyline, the fast flying dark silhouettes begin to appear and we are reminded that for thousands of years, men and women have watched, with excitement, as the ancient tradition begins. Bring your best shot and your sense of humor. Hopefully, we’ll all shoot well and be able to enjoy a special game dinner with family and friends.

If I could make only one recipe with ducks this would be it! This is everyone’s favorite. The girls in the kitchen are thrilled if there are a few left when they clear appetizer platters from the bar. We make these for every hunt. If you do not have duck meat, they are delicious made with all pork.

Mallard Spring Rolls

Mallard Image courtesy of Melissa Grime-Guy

What you’ll need (makes 90 rolls):

  • ½ pound ground duck breasts
  • ½ pound ground pork
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped fine
  • 4 carrots, peeled and finely grated
  • 5 – 6 Napa cabbage leaves, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 2 packages wonton wrappers
  • Small dish of water
  • Peanut oil for frying

Combine all ingredients. I use my hands to mix ingredients well. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Mallard Image courtesy of Melissa Grime-Guy

To make the rolls: Place a teaspoon of filling diagonally just below center of wrapper. Roll up starting with the corner below filling and folding in each side corner before rolling up. Be sure to seal edges by dipping your index finger in water and smearing it along the edges of the wrapper before pressing the edges closed so the filling does not escape during frying.

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Fry in peanut oil heated to 350 degrees F for 5 minutes or until golden and no longer pink inside. Serve with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce or purchased Chinese mustard.

To make honey mustard dipping sauce: Mix ½ cup Gulden’s spicy brown mustard and 3–4 tablespoons honey in a small bowl. Add additional honey, if desired.


Start planning for waterfowl season in Maryland by visiting Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ website for licenses and regulations. Also, be sure to visit the Plan Your Trip section of our website for lodging options, hunting guides and outfitters, outdoor retailers, and shooting ranges.

Why not stay a while? Turn your hunting trip into a road trip and travel Maryland's scenic byways before or after your hunt to experience all our beautiful state has to offer.


This post was written by Vicky Mullaney, author of The Lodge at Black Pearl Cookbook
Instagram: @blackpearlcookbook
All images courtesy of the author, Melissa Grimes-Guy, and Oyster Bay Photography