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Hunting Marsh Hens Made Easy

Moorhens, or marsh hens, are medium-sized water birds that are often spotted around Brays Island Plantation. Mostly brown and black with some white markings, marsh hens make for easy hunting as they feed in plain sight on open water.

“I had never hunted marsh hens until moving to the Lowcountry” says Paul Burton, partner in Brays Island Realty. “It’s a great sport and a good way of introducing children to wingshooting.” Marsh hens are not fast flyers, making them a particularly good target for young or inexperienced shooters. They also offer a great opportunity for water fowlers to give their retrievers some reps prior to duck season. Paul has taken all three of his children bird hunting at Brays Island this season, including his 13-year- old daughter Emma. “It is more than just shooting,” Emma explains. “Dad paddles us around in a kayak, so we get to enjoy a boat ride in a beautiful environment while hunting.”

Ready to try hunting for marsh hens at Brays Island? Here are five tips for success:

  1. Follow the flood tides: The best marsh hen hunting is on flood tides, as the increased water levels tend to concentrate birds in smaller areas. It’s illegal to shoot birds from a boat under the power of either an outboard or a trolling motor, but the higher-than- average water levels also make it easy to pole or paddle boats through the spartina grass.
  2. Target birds by sight and sound: Marsh hens have a distinctive cackle. You can listen for the birds or you can paddle or pole your boat and have a hunter in the front shooting as birds flush. If you’re quiet, it isn’t the least bit unusual to see the birds well in advance, allowing you to position your boat while giving the shooter time to prepare.
  3. Go tandem hunting: Consider finding a hunting partner and renting a kayak from the Brays Island boating department. For just $16 a day, you can take a two-man kayak and leave from the boat ramp at the gazebo.
  4. Choose your shotgun: Target marsh hens with a light-gauge shotgun and light loads. Lead shot is legal, and limits are a liberal 15 birds per hunter.
  5. Pack your fishing gear: Since the optimal conditions for marsh hen hunting are the same conditions needed to target tailing redfish, it’s definitely worth throwing an eight-weight and a couple of flies in the boat.