There’s not much I don’t like about mallards. They’re the most common duck in North America, drop-dead gorgeous, and—for a duck, at least—good to eat. The only problem with mallards is that sometime around late November in my neck of the woods, they leave. That means I have to invite some other kind of duck to the party.
Lately, that’s been goldeneyes. Although I understand they’re a bit more popular on the East Coast than where I live in Montana, out here they’re virtually ignored, though they shouldn’t be.
Goldeneyes (also known as whistlers, for the whistling sound their primaries make as they rocket overhead) are sporting enough for just about anybody. When the mallards have long since left the ice-rimmed rivers hereabouts, goldeneyes are still bobbing happily among the ice floes. Considering that they’re born and raised in the Far North, it probably still feels warm to them.
Goldeneyes don’t decoy particularly well, but they’ll swing over mallard blocks or just about anything else you feel like throwing out as they rocket up and downstream, providing pass-shooting that’s as good as it gets. I’ve swung ahead of birds passing 35 yards out and sent up a column of spray 6 feet behind them. That’s fast! They’re tough customers, though, so if you fringe one, anchor it immediately if it hits the water with its head up.
As for eating goldeneyes, about the best I can say is that they’re not as bad as you might have heard. If you’ve got a smoker, by all means smoke them and serve them as an appetizer with cheese and crackers … and don’t forget the beer.