Capt. David Bitters

Capt. David Bitters

Capt. David Bitters is a writer/photographer and a striped bass/sea duck hunting guide from Massachusetts. His photos and essays have appeared in over one-hundred magazines. Capt. Bitters is currently finishing his first book, "A Sportsman's Fireside Reader – Tales of Hunting, Fishing, and Other Outdoor Pleasures." Contact him at captdaveb@baymenoutfitters.com. You can also write him at P.O. Box 366 Duxbury, MA 02331.

Friday, 31 July 2009 01:00

Side By Side

I have always said that if God wanted me to shoot an over under, He would have made my eyes that way. Actually, it might have been my Dad who said that first. He was a straight-shooting Yankee and I assure you, both his eyes were side by side his whole life. Dad hunted with one double-gun for his ninety-two years. It was a second-hand, 12 Ga. Tobin that he bought from a market gunner named Lincoln, in Accord, Massachusetts, back in the 1930’s. I still have that old fowling piece, and even gunned ducks with it myself in my early teens. Some day, I am going to have it restored just like new.

Me? I grew up with a 20 Ga. double in my hands. It was my own gun and I got it for Christmas when I was ten years old, back in 1972. I hunted with it until 2009, when I pulled up on a pair of incoming woodies and it failed to fire - for the first time in thirty-seven years. My Dad paid $80 for my little double at F.W. Woolworth’s when I was nearing my tenth birthday. He wrapped it up and put it under the Christmas tree and I had to wait until Christmas morning to open it. The first thing I shot and killed with it was an empty milk carton out behind the house. I started my writing career that day, and have recorded every game bird and animal I have ever taken with that gun. I remember well my first grouse, woodcock, pheasant, quail, black duck, mallard, eider, rabbit and a whole mess of other game I have hunted with that wonderful, little double because I have written it all down through the years.

My side by side fit me like a glove when I was a kid, and it grew into an extension of my body. 28” inch barrels, 14” LOP, and say what you want about a cheap double imported from Brazil, but it closed up tight as a drum. It still does. I was so comfortable with my double that it gave me a lot of confidence growing up. I remember going 21 for 21 on clays thrown from a hand trap in the sand pit, using only the rear barrel. And that meant a lot to a young boy coming of age, especially with all of his friends watching wide-eyed, and then talking it up at school. Word got around that I was a shooter and hunter and that I was a pretty good shot. I walked a little taller in the hallways between classes and kids looked at me a little differently from that day forward.

My double has seen a lot of hard use and is scratched, pitted and worn almost beyond recognition now. But if it could talk, it would tell you about all the places it’s been, including duck blinds on the Massachusetts coast, pheasants in Ohio, grouse, woodcock and snowshoe hare in Maine and New Hampshire, cottontails and beagles in Indiana, deer in New York, and a whole bunch of other places I’ve had the pleasure of carrying it.

I know you will think I am crazy, but I’m going to find a gunsmith that won’t laugh at me when I bring it by. I know it’s a cheap gun, not worth anything to anyone, but I’m going to ask him to rebuild it for me from the ground up. But one thing I am not going to have him change. I want him to leave the scratches and the worn, smooth spots just as they are. And I hope he will understand.

Capt. David Bitters is a writer/photographer and a striped bass/sea duck hunting guide from Massachusetts. His photos and essays have appeared in over one-hundred magazines. Capt. Bitters is currently finishing his first book, A Sportsman's Fireside Reader - Tales of Hunting, Fishing, and Other Outdoor Pleasures. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (781) 934-2838. You can also write him at P.O. Box 366 Duxbury, MA 0233.

Wednesday, 01 July 2009 07:00

Thoughts On Waterfowl

One day last season, another hunter and myself put up a flock of seven-hundred black duck as we cut across the bay. That’s one continuous flock, all at once, of seven-hundred birds. Earlier, that morning, we put up another flock of two-hundred black duck. This has been the norm for many years where we gun on the Massachusetts coast.

According to the USFW, DU, and DW, the black duck is in decline. But from what I have seen in the past five years, you would never know it. The biologists tell us this is because the black ducks have shifted their range and we’re just seeing more ducks because they’re more concentrated. I remain skeptical. From my observations, I would say the black duck is thriving on the Massachusetts coast.

It bothers me to no end that our Canadian brothers can shoot four black ducks per day, but as soon as those same ducks enter the United States, we can only shoot one black duck per day. Why not get together with our Canadian brothers and level the playing field? Two black ducks per day, no matter where you gun. Of course, if you’re a Canadian, that would mean your daily bag limit of black duck would be reduced by fifty percent. Turn the tables and see how Americans would react if another country imposed such a restriction on us. What would Americans say then?

Eider duck numbers, everyone agrees, are way down. Maine to Massachusetts, we have all seen a huge reduction in birds in the past three years. Prior to 2003, we were seeing 2,000-5,000 flight birds per morning on the Massachusetts coast. Didn’t matter where you were gunning, the birds were thicker than flies. Three years later, we count ourselves lucky indeed, if we see 200-300 birds per morning!

The USFW and Tufts University are two organizations trying to figure it all out. I’m sure others are involved as well, but they need to toot their horn a little more and let us know what they are doing. I’d love to read full-length articles in magazines such as Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, Outdoor Life, Massachusetts Wildlife, among many others, telling us about the problem and what biologists are finding out. On Cape Cod, thousands of eiders were found washed up on the shores in the summer and fall of 2007. Why? What can Sportsmen do to help?

Whatever happened to the media frenzy about Avian bird flu? “It’s definitely coming,” “get ready,” “huge death toll in American population possible,” were just a few of the threats. Warnings to waterfowlers were posted in all the hunting magazines. “Wear rubber gloves,” “wear surgical masks.” Cook your duck meat to a charred crisp!!! Forgive me, but I have to rank the Avian Bird Flu epidemic in America right up there with Global Warming and Darwinism. You don’t still believe in the big bang theory and that the human race came from monkeys, do you?

Capt. David Bitters is a writer/photographer and a striped bass/sea duck hunting guide from Massachusetts. His photos and essays have appeared in over one-hundred magazines. Capt. Bitters is currently finishing his first book, A Sportsman's Fireside Reader - Tales of Hunting, Fishing, and Other Outdoor Pleasures. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (781) 934-2838. You can also write him at P.O. Box 366 Duxbury, MA 02331

Monday, 01 June 2009 14:46

A New Office

I'm going to build myself a new office. One that is far away from the house, away from the kids, away from the wife - away from everything. But not too far. Just across the lawn at the edge of the woods. A place where I can think and write and dream all alone or with a special friend.

I'm going to keep it pretty simple and put a little wood stove in the corner right over there. I'll add an old, leather couch against the far wall, and a couple of old, wooden chairs with lots of character, and an antique table for my desk. A rod rack hung from the rafters and a nice gun cabinet with a few doubles and a rifle, so I can dream of the guns of autumn and the rods of summer whenever I want.

I'll put an old refrigerator beside my desk like the one I had in college - in case I get hungry or thirsty while working. And a fly tying table. Got to be able to tie some nice saltwater flies while dreaming of stripers, bonito and albie - all while working on my next column, of course...

Let's not forget the big book case piled high with sporting books and magazines of every kind. All my friends will be there: Hilly, Hennessey, Tapply, Foster, Bryant, Sheldon, Woolner, Spiller, Ford... The list goes on. One of the joys of stretching out on the old leather coach by the wood stove with a good book, while looking around at the fine rods and guns, is dreaming of the way things once were. And discovering when you get out there, that its all still there. You just got to get up and go. You got to go a little further and look a little harder, and find the magic that is still there for those of us who long for a life outdoors. The grouse and the woodcock, the ducks and the geese... The deer and the bear and the snowshoe hare... The quail and the pheasant and even the snipe. Striped bass and brook trout, giant tuna and footballs. "Bucket-mouths," "tommy" cod and coolers full of flounder. It's all there if we really want it, if we are really willing to get up and go and see and learn.

So, amongst my rods and guns, decoys and ice traps, pack baskets and tackle boxes, I will sit in my new office and think and write. And hopefully I will inspire others to consider a simpler life, a rewarding life, a joy-filled life of living and working in God's great outdoors.


Capt. David Bitters is a writer/photographer and a striped bass/sea duck hunting guide from Massachusetts. His photos and essays have appeared in over one-hundred magazines. Capt. Bitters is currently finishing his first book, A Sportsman's Fireside Reader - Tales of Hunting, Fishing, and Other Outdoor Pleasures. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (781) 934-2838. You can also write him at P.O. Box 366 Duxbury, MA 02331
Sunday, 29 March 2009 14:41

The 3 ½ Inch Magnum

I've been shooting waterfowl now, for over thirty years and have arrived at a few of my own conclusions. One of them being that the 3 ½ inch magnum waterfowl load is a completely unnecessary American obsession.

The 3 ½ inch load punishes my shoulder, makes me flinch, causes my Browning Gold to jam, and does nothing that I cannot do with a standard 3 inch shell. Gene Hill said something to the effect that, if you can't reach what you are aiming for, find a way to get a little closer. I assure you, he was not suggesting the 3 ½ inch magnum as the answer!

I dare say, in the not too distant future, we may happily see ammunition manufacturers touting the "new" 2 ¾ inch waterfowl load that "does everything the three-inch shell can do...and more." I for one, certainly hope so. If we can land a spaceship on Mars, why can't we make a non-toxic waterfowl load in 2 ¾ inch that "knocks 'em dead" at fifty yards?

Now I will shock you by telling you I will not buy a waterfowl gun that is chambered to take anything less than 3 ½ inch magnum loads. I will not shoot 3 ½ inch loads of any kind, but I want a duck gun (and I think you should, too) that's made to handle the 3 ½ inch loads. Here's why.

I have been in duck blinds, duck boats, lay out boats, salt marsh ditches and a few other enjoyable places where three different gunners, all side by side, are shooting shotguns with three different length chambers. Ammunition is often freely shared and more than once, I have seen a 3 ½ inch chambered gunner hand one of his roman candles to a 3 inch chambered gunner - or worse! I tremble to say I have also sat beside a 3 inch chambered gunner and seen him load 3 ½ inch shells into his gun - and fire! I grabbed the next one out of his hand and asked him to read to me the engraved chamber length on his receiver. In all sincerity and innocence he said to me, "what's the receiver...?"

Until common sense and proper gun safety are back in vogue, my vote goes to the 3 ½ inch magnum duck gun, loaded with 3 inch waterfowl loads. And as soon as the ammo manufacturers roll out the new 2 ¾ inch non-toxic waterfowl loads, that can and do everything a 3 inch waterfowl load does, we will dine on roast mallard, teal and black duck with grace. Maybe even some geese. And yes, I will even let you give me the ol' sporting, college punch, right in the shoulder.

Capt. David Bitters is a writer/photographer and a striped bass/sea duck hunting guide from Massachusetts. His photos and essays have appeared in over one-hundred magazines. Capt. Bitters is currently finishing his first book, A Sportsman's Fireside Reader - Tales of Hunting, Fishing, and Other Outdoor Pleasures. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (781) 934-2838. You can also write him at P.O. Box 366 Duxbury, MA 02331
Monday, 16 March 2009 07:43

March

As I sit here at my desk, a heavy blanket of snow is falling outside my window. It is the month of March and the first day of spring is not far behind...

March is a kind of "down time" of year for me, a time of putting things away. The hunting season is long over and the fishing season is still a ways off. The decoys - it is so hard to put them away for another year... But reluctantly, I take them one by one to their resting places in the basement. The plastic ones, anyway. The woods and the corks stay up in my office where I can keep an eye on them. The best decoy of the bunch gets to ride around in my car to keep me company for another year. I like to keep a decoy on the dash to look at and my kids get to play with it when they ride along. Decoys are both toys and art. They hold the keys to some of life's greatest lessons.

The guns have been cleaned and oiled and put back in the rack. A few weeks pass, and I take them out again - for the third time - to check and make sure they are all cleaned and oiled, even though I know they all are. It feels good to throw one to the shoulder and swing through on an imaginary grouse or woodcock or duck. As I sit by the evening fire, it's a hard thing to be content looking at them through the glass. But it's time...

The gunning coats and vests are hung up in the "gunning closet", their pockets not quite sure if they're ready to be empty for another season. A few shells here, a couple duck calls there. A rusty pocket knife or two. A pair of old gloves and a favorite hat. Way far too many candy bar wrappers... The gunning coats still smell of autumn, as they always do, and as I put them away I am reminded of dogs past, gone but not forgotten. I stand at the closet entrance one last time and close my eyes, letting the smells of October and November and December fill my senses. A hundred thoughts flash through my mind like so many flickers of crimson and gold and burnt orange. Maybe its time for a new dog... How can my children grow up so fast... How does one balance the passions of job, family, and a life outdoors... No answers come as I close the door and turn the key. It's finally over for another season and a tough time I have.

Capt. David Bitters is a writer/photographer and a striped bass/sea duck hunting guide from Massachusetts. His photos and essays have appeared in over one-hundred magazines. Capt. Bitters is currently finishing his first book, A Sportsman's Fireside Reader - Tales of Hunting, Fishing, and Other Outdoor Pleasures. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at (781) 934-2838. You can also write him at P.O. Box 366 Duxbury, MA 02331. Please visit his web site at http://www.baymenoutfitters.com

Friday, 01 May 2009 07:08

A New Gun

Ladies, how about a new gun for the old hunter? He may have a birthday coming up or maybe Father's Day, or maybe "just because..." As you know, your hunter has been trying very, very hard not to look at another new gun. But how can he look the other way for the millionth time when his favorite sporting magazines are jammed with all the latest beauties in steel and walnut!  I'll bet he's been eyeing that Caesar Guerini for a while? Me, too. Gold inlaid pheasants, quail, woodcock...Drop dead gorgeous! And the fit? They were made for gunners who adore their wives...

How about the new F3 Blaser Baronesse? Crisp, clean, and smothered in scroll or engraved with art scenes - if you want. There's plenty of choices to dress it up or dress it down. Personally, I prefer the one with mallards locked and committed on the side plates. Of course, there is the one with a pair of English setters on point with the gunner walking in for the flush. They are all laced in gold for that little something extra!

Like something a little more traditional? Something with a more "old New England" look? How about a custom-made little beauty to dress up the gun cabinet and make him sigh every time he holds her (and you) in his arms? Connecticut Shotgun's got just the ticket! The new RBL-28 Round Action Game Gun. It will make him feel rich, humble, and lucky all at the same time. Like you, it is a perfect "ten" and he will love it!

Ok, maybe you are ready to move up to the top of the ladder. Good fortune has smiled on you both - again, and you are ready to give him a real treat. An investment that will only increase in value over time. One that nobody in your presence or his, will glance twice at, as your loader, with gloved hand, offers the first of a matched pair for the driven shoot. May I suggest the Holland & Holland - M'am? And not the "cheap ones" either. You want the real deal: A matched pr. of Royal Deluxe Sidelocks, in 12 bore, for just $175,000...

As you can see, there is something for everybody when it comes time to treat the man of your life to a new gun. Whatever your tastes (or his), whatever your budget, the heydays of gun manufacturing are now. However, if you run into me this season in the field, don't feel too embarrassed if I'm carrying my old, pitted double I got for Christmas when I was ten years old. My Kreighoff or Boss or Purdey is probably back in London having a little work done on the triggers.

Happy shopping, my dear. And if you need a little help, just ask.

With all my love,

Capt. Dave

Capt. David Bitters is a writer/photographer and a striped bass/sea duck hunting guide from Massachusetts. His photos and essays have appeared in over one-hundred magazines. Capt. Bitters is currently finishing his first book, A Sportsman's Fireside Reader - Tales of Hunting, Fishing, and Other Outdoor Pleasures. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (781) 934-2838. You can also write him at P.O. Box 366 Duxbury, MA 02331
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