Updated: Mar 27
The King Eider, one of the most beautiful sea ducks in the world. As a young man I dreamed of hunting these majestic waterfowl. In the early 2000's, the only place that was known for hunting King Eiders was in Alaska on St. Paul Island or Island-X as others may call it. Along with this hunt comes the weather. St. Paul Island is in one of the world's harshest places on earth, The Bering Sea. Famous for the hit TV show, The Deadliest Catch, large arctic storms make hunting these birds out there a real extreme and dangerous endeavor. For years, I thought only the tough and rugged would go out there for this type of adventure and I wanted to be one of them. Years passed and my ambitions for hunting kings in the Bering sea grew less and less as I heard the real stories from the hunters coming back telling their experiences while out there. Many trips were canceled or cut short due to weather, others facing very dangerous situations that made them think to themselves, was it all worth it for a duck? Now I am not saying St. Paul island is not a great destination for hunting sea ducks. In fact, it is the opposite. St. Paul is one of the major wintering grounds for the King Eider. When the arctic ice pack closes in the northern parts of the Bering Sea around Russia, the birds move south to St. Paul for its rich ecosystem and food source that surrounds the islands' waters. It is this turn of events that makes St. Paul the number one destination for King Eider Hunting until now.
In 2020 I was looking to plan a trip to hunt waterfowl outside the US. At first I was looking at Argentina until Dan Bolek from Midwest Hunting Consultants LLC contacted me about hunting Eiders in Greenland. In the past, I had read articles about Greenland Hunting and everything I have researched was that it was quite a struggle to fly into Greenland from the US. At that time the only way to make it there was by boat or flying into Amsterdam, Netherlands and back out to Greenland. So when Dan came to me and said all I needed to do was book a flight to Iceland and a connecting flight from Iceland to Greenland that got me more interested and my quest for the king was now rekindled. After talking with my wife Sharon about this trip, it only took her 2 seconds to say let's go! I contacted Dan Bolek of Midwest Hunting Consultants LLC and booked our trip for the 2023 Season. For two years, I stayed in touch with Dan, planning my trip. I told Him I would love to hunt these birds over my own decoys and he was very excited to see this done. So off I went carving a small rig of Kings to drag out there and see if I could make this happen. During the design stages and carving process, I was debating on the style of decoys. Do I want them to look traditional and old, modern and clean, so on and so on? After weeks of drawing patterns and carving test birds, my brother Ed suggested I should carve the Fulix Project birds and hunt over them. I was unsure of this as I wanted to experience the birds in the wild and incorporate those experiences into the project carvings. Then I got to thinking and decided that it was a great idea to bring the decoys out there and let them float in the same waters I am hunting, and that is what I did. I designed these birds in a Courtship display. My thinking was since I will hunt these birds In the height of their pairing up stage maybe a courting drake King Eider would help bring in the large adult males looking for hens.
Fast forward to March 2023 Bags packed and we are off to our Greenland adventure. Myself Sharon, Ed and Karoline all departed from Newark Airport, a 5 hour flight on IcelandAir to Iceland. During this flight we were fortunate to see the Northern Lights as we passed by Greenland, a lovely surprise during a long and tiring flight but before we knew it we touched down in Iceland and it was time to jump on our connecting flight back to Greenland. During those 3 hours flying into Greenland I got excited. Not because I am going to get to see Kings in the wild, but I am about to experience a whole new country and culture for the first time. Today, 88% of Greenland’s population are Inuit (predominantly Kalaallit) or mixed Danish and Inuit. The remaining 12% are of European descent, mainly Danish and I am soon to find out that Greenlanders are some of the nicest and welcoming people I have ever met.
When we landed in Greenland we were greeted by Erik Jacobsen of Arctic Boat Charter ABC and his first mate Nujalina. They got us set up with our car rentals and off we went to our hostel where we will stay for the next 4 nights. As we arrived, it was not long before we quickly geared up for our day's Hunt. When we arrived at the marina, we boarded the MS STERNA and began our safety meeting and how we will be hunting. Hunting in Greenland is very much different from how we do in states, as Erik Jacobsen describes it (the Inuit way) we will be stalking and shooting under power in a boat. To us in the states many might find this distasteful or unsporting as we are used to strict laws on hunting waterfowl but for Greenlanders a nation of hunters, this is not the case at all. To them these birds are a food source not some trophy to be exploited. Erik explained this to us and asked that any birds that we did not take back you let him know as there are lots of shelters, restaurants and families that would be grateful for the birds and there is no need for them to go to waste. That was what we did. Every bird shot on this trip was taken care of properly and donated to our wonderful hosts as requested. As we headed out to the Hunting grounds as Erik calls it, my brother and I headed for the bow of the boat to have our first shots at a King. As we slowly make our way through the amazing crystal clear arctic blue waters, we are all soon to find out that this method of hunting will be one of the most challenging hunts we have ever been on. It's not long before our captain cries out (Kings at your 10 O'clock) my brother and I get set and hunker down ready for that bird to run off the water within range. As we approach, the single drake runs off the water, just out of range taking a little piece of my heart with it. As the morning goes on, one by one we get the call, Kings 12 O'clock, 1 O'clock and so on, as before the birds keep lifting off just out of range. We took our shots peppering the hardy tough sea ducks but the distance was too great as they just flew off each time. The morning slowly goes into the afternoon and Karoline switches places with Ed. Now the two of us are ready and waiting. We hear that call cry out, Kings out front. Again we get ready, closer and closer. We slowly close that gap, moving within range. I tell Karoline to shoot first. As the MS STERNA moves in, we hit the 40-50 yard mark. The bird runs off the water away from us and I spring up as Karoline takes a shot, Bang! The shot rings out like thunder across the vast water and white capped mountains! The shot pattern just hitting under the young king's tail tickling his back side! then Bang! I take my shot and Down he goes with a boat full of cheers but there is No time for cheering as the chase is far from over. When we go to pick him up, the undefeated King dives, then dives some more. With the waters so clear, you could watch him swim out away from you. I slowly directed captain Erik in the direction he was swimming. Finally, he pops up, and I put another shot on him, ending the chase. As we brought the Young prince on board, I had some mixed feelings. On one hand, I was thrilled that we finally could break the Ice and fulfill a lifelong dream that many dream of, but on another I was frustrated by just the pure effort it took to get this one bird. I kept thinking to myself, what an absolutely difficult task it was just for that one Bird. It really gave me a deep appreciation for how they hunt up there in the arctic. Throughout the day we all took shots one by one just trying to connect with one of these beautiful birds and by the end of the day we all realized that this task would not be an easy one as the photos and videos seem to show! Frustrated and tired from a long flight and day of hunting we decided two call it quits and rest up for Day two. While talking with Erik he explains to me that this day was some of the worst conditions for hunting and he assures us we will have better luck in the next few days as the weather changes.
I woke up with an amazing view, watching the sun rise over the snow-covered mountains and islands. I watched below as the Eiders feed on the rocky shoreline. The day's weather had a little more wind and clouds. A much different feel than a 32 degree sunny day from the day before. Again we headed out into those crystal blue waters and amazing snow-covered mountains. It was like being in a Bob Ross Painting everywhere you looked. Such a breathtaking view. I just soaked it all in as I made my way to the bow again. While my brother and I sat on the bow, I noticed a single hen King right off the port side. I look at him and say, hey there is a hen king if you want it. He looks at me with some hesitation, then I see the light bulb go off and he sits up and takes a clean shot. Bam! Down she goes, and the Ice was broken for him. Further we push and we run into another little group. We closed the gap but our shots were not on target. Forward we go and finally we get in range and my brother pulls off a beautiful shot on a beautiful Drake King. The cheers ring out as we pull up and bring him on board. Now that Ed and I have shot our drakes, it was time for the girls to jump up to bat. I call my wife Sharon up and we both sit down together. I stayed by her sider to help ID the birds and to point out the adult drakes from the teenagers. While we sat there talking about the living Bob Ross Painting, first mate Nujalina used her eagle eyes to scan the waters for the kings. It wasn't long before we heard, king's out front! I tell Sharon to get ready; the birds lift off the water towards us, still out of range. Erick maneuvers us into a better position for the shot and at the last possible second, Sharon takes her shot. Bang! The birds flinch and the pattern sprays just behind a drake King's Tail! A little bit of laughing and a few sighs, Sharon reloads and gets ready for the next chance. One by one, we get the call and the shots fall short! A few words of encouragement, we keep on hunting, knowing in my heart Sharon will pull off an amazing shot like she always does in the last few moments of the hunt. The morning moves quickly into the afternoon with all the excitement. Erik cries out, a large group of kings at 1 O'clock. We get ready, and I point them out to Sharon. Closer we got I noticed the birds kept moving to my side of the shooting area. I tell Sharon to get ready and move her closer to me to give her one last shot. Just like before, we hit that 50-60 yard range, but this time the birds ran off the water and right towards the bow but it was not where I hoped they would go! Erik does his best at the last second to put the birds in a shooting lane for Sharon, but it just was not happening! As the group flies off, we sit down and I notice one drake just in range right in front of me. At first I hesitated, knowing that Sharon could not take that shot, but then I thought to myself take the shot dummy! So I sit up with seconds to spare, swing through and pull the trigger, Bang! The gun goes off echoing like the thunder gods! as I follow through and watch in slow motion as the drake king folds up dead splashing down in the water!
The boat cheers as I cry out Yes!, with a breakfast club fist pump in the air! When I look back at Erik and Nujalina I can see that they were just as excited as I was, shaking their heads up and down as if to say great shot! When we brought him on board, I did not know what to expect. Every King is different and beautiful in their own way and I was so grateful for once to have a clean kill, not knowing what laid before me in the net. As I pulled him out, I looked in amazement. This bird is what dreams are made of, a full mature male! Steal blue head cap and soft Turquoise green cheeks. His lobes were so full of testosterone they looked like a large piece of fruit stuck to his face. Right at this moment, my quest for a King was over! There was no way I was going to top this bird without everyone else on board getting every opportunity to shoot a trophy such as this. The day went on and everyone faced some very difficult shooting, whether it was hitting birds and they did not go down or wounding them and losing them to their unbelievable diving abilities. By the end of the day, we were ready for a warm meal and a nice, hot shower. We all made it back happy that Ed and I got our birds and talked about our plan for the next day's hunt over decoys, hoping the girls will get to shoot their little hearts out, connecting with some long awaiting northern eiders.
Come nightfall, Greenland did not disappoint. For the second time, we got to watch and photograph the Northern Lights. The northern lights are an atmospheric phenomenon of beautiful dancing waves of light that have captivated people for millennia. In all its beauty, this spectacular light show is a rather violent event. Energized particles from the sun slam into Earth's upper atmosphere at speeds of up to 45 million mph (72 million kph), our planet's magnetic field protects us from this bombardment of energy. As Earth's Magnetic Field redirects the particles toward the poles, the dramatic process transforms into a cinematic Light show that dazzles one's imagination.