Photo: Mark Sandlin

Easton’s Waterfowl Festival Ushers in Bay Bird Season

Waterfowl hunting is a tradition whose roots run very deep in Chesapeake Country. To celebrate all things wild fowl, you can do no better than attend the Waterfowl Festival, a three-day party that honors the sporting traditions of wild geese, duck and other birds. Now in its 49th year, the annual celebration kicks off this Friday, November 8th and runs through Sunday, November 10th in Easton, Maryland.

No doubt one of the main highlights is the “World Waterfowl Calling Championships” that features the nation’s top duck and goose callers in raucous competition on November 8th and 9th. 

But for the “wow” factor, it’s pretty tough to top The North American Diving Dogs® Event, held at the Sportsman’s Pavilion for 2019 for all three days. Dogs of all sizes and shapes will soar through the air to see which canine competitor can launch the furthest. Organizers say it is the Festival’s most popular attraction, drawing crowds of more than 7,500 people for the weekend. 

Other festival highlights include retriever demonstrations where bird dogs show off their skills. For the kids, there are calling clinics, decoy painting and a fishing derby sponsored by the Coastal Conservation Association of Maryland. Rounding out the weekend fun are the works of world-class bird carvers and artisans on display as well as the Maryland Migratory Bird Stamp Art competition for 2020-21 season.

“It’s time to celebrate everything Eastern Shore–our love for the birds, our unique hospitality and heritage, the sport of waterfowling and calling, not mention the incredible wildlife art, and (the gathering) of families and friends and good food,” said Margaret Enloe, executive director of Waterfowl Chesapeake. “We have been prepping for the 49th annual Festival for months, and the crisp mornings really get the fall buzz going.” 

Enloe notes that the Festival is almost completely led and run by volunteers, adding, “this is an incredible achievement for an almost 50-year old organization. I think (volunteerism) is what makes the Festival so successful.” 

If you’re worried you could miss Maryland’s opening day of duck season, fret not.  The second split kicks off the following Saturday, November 16 and runs through November 29 (with a six duck bag limit, no more than two mallards, only one hen). The third and final split is from December 16 through January 31, 2020. 

The Canada Goose season’s first split opens December 20, 2019 and closes January 4, 2020. The season reopens on January 14 and runs through the end of the month (January 31, 2020). This year, hunters can take one bird per day, a reduction from previous years because of below-average reproduction seven out of the past ten years due to poor weather conditions on their sub-arctic breeding grounds. 

Chesapeake Bay Magazine is proud to be a sponsor of the festival. Click here to buy tickets and view the complete schedule.

-Capt. Chris Dollar