The last leg of the North Carolina’s duck season is here, promising what is likely the heaviest month of duck activity. Although many birds have already been schooled by barking shotguns, a savvy hunter can still bring them down, and there’s no better place to fill a limit with a variety of ducks than the Pamlico Sound and the southern Outer Banks.

“Usually, you will see the most ducks in January,” said guide Stewart Merritt of Morehead City, “just because it’s colder, and they’re all pushed down to where they’re going to winter. But sometimes, they don’t decoy as well because they have had some pressure.”

A waterfowler will attest to no greater feeling of helplessness than watching a raft of 400 birds sail past, just out of shotgun range. Step one to taking wary ducks is concealment. To stay hidden in plain sight, Merritt, who runs Salt Air Ventures Charters, transforms his boat into a floating island courtesy of his custom-made scissors rig. 

Aptly named for the scissoring motion that allows the floating juniper frame to be unhinged from the bow and gunwales and slid into the water, this bottom layer will be laced with upright pine limbs to cloak the boat.  Another board, bolted to the bow and gunwales, will also be laced with vertical limbs to camouflage the hunters.

Merritt’s next step is to use the duck’s keen eyesight to his advantage.  While hunters must remain hidden, an enticing area for ducks to land must be visible. Decorating with more than 300 decoys ensures that any birds he can see can also see his spread. 

“I try to put the most decoys towards the biggest area of water I feel the birds are going to come from,” said Merritt.  “I’ll try to place them where it plays with their eyes. I