Prince Edward County Divers

Minimal hunting pressure and lots of migratory birds add up to high success rates.

It’s just before sunrise as we look out at our spread of diver decoys. The whistlers, bluebills, and buffleheads bounce enticingly in the one-foot chop. Sitting in the comfortable shore blind, I tell my hunting partners that I should get the first shot. After all, I’ve just had eye surgery. They both laugh and agree that this morning I deserve the first chance. Within a few minutes, a large single bluebill sights our spread and comes directly in. At 25 yards, I shoot and miss. My hunting partner drops the bird and starts to laugh at my misfortune. Frank Dunlop walks out with his 100-pound yellow Lab, Gillie, and retrieves the bird.

I’m hunting the first week in December on the Bay of Quinte with Frank Dunlop and his wife Tanya, who own County Outfitters and guide for turkey, field mallards, Canada geese, and divers. Today we are after big water diving ducks, including redheads, bluebills, bufflehead, goldeneye, and longtails. The second bird, a single goldeneye, comes in quickly, and this time I don’t miss. The action continues throughout the morning and we wind up with a mixed bag of whistlers and scaup. Unfortunately, we have to leave by 11 am, before we have rounded out a two-man limit.

Setting decoys at southern Ontario’s Prince Edward County. (Photo credit: Bob McGary)

County Outfitters is based near Wellington on the shoreline of West Lake. Owner/operator Frank Dunlop is a born and raised “County boy” with deep roots in the area. His ancestors were Loyalists that settled in the County in the late 1700s. To date, County Outfitters has secured close to 10,000 acres of private land for their guests to hunt. “With a number of locations on West Lake and Lake Ontario, and over 15 blinds, if the ducks are not coming in, or if the wind changes, we can be up and running in an hour,” he says.

Frank is one of the hardest-working guides that I’ve hunted with and has a win-win attitude towards helping his clients. “I pride myself on offering a variety of hunting experiences. If a group of hunters wants divers in the morning, then I’ll move them to goose fields in the afternoon,” he said.

Prime time for divers is from the second week in November to the first week in January. Canvasbacks, redheads, greater and lesser scaup, goldeneye, bufflehead, and longtails are all available. Having hunted divers throughout Ontario, I would rate Prince Edward County -- a large peninsula south of Belleville extending into Lake Ontario -- at the top of the list. Minimal hunting pressure and lots of migratory birds add up to high success rates. There are also excellent restaurants and B & Bs, as well as local wineries that offer tours and tastings. I first visited the area known as “The County” more than 30 years ago, and have been back many times since.

About Bob McGary

Bob has fished for a variety of game fish species across Canada. With more than 40 years of fishing experience, he has been an active tournament angler, a Great Lakes guide, a contributor to Ontario OUT OF DOORS, volunteeer for a number of youth angling clubs and a speaker and seminar presenter at a number of sportsmen shows. When he finds time to put down his fishing rod, he's hunting for migratory and upland game birds.

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