King Eider are very large ducks, often measuring over 20 inches long and weighing nearly 4 pounds. They sport some wild colors, with a bright orange bill, orange plate on each side of the face, blue and green crowned head, and a stark white and black two-toned body. These large birds are sea ducks, and spend most of their time in the harsh, rocky environments of the northern coast of Alaska. They typically nest in the tundra, on the edges of sea ice, and feed on the shellfish that occupy the saltwater shallows.
King Eiders are most often found in the northern areas of Alaska during the summer, but migrations sometimes bring them as far south as southern Alaska, New England, and the Great Lakes. The Bering Sea holds the largest population of King Eiders, and the Probilof Islands and Aleutian Islands offer the best hunting for these ducks.
King Eiders are hunted very differently than most other ducks. Due to their coastal habitat, hunters do not simply put out decoys on the pond and set up in the reeds. Conditions here are harsh, and the open ocean is not forgiving.
Birds are targeted in the early morning as they move between feeding areas. Typically, decoys are strung out behind custom boats that are designed to handle the rough conditions of the open sea and allow for birds to be intercepted in these transition zones. King Eiders decoy very well, offering exciting opportunities, but sometimes only offer a passing shot as they check out the spread.
Sometimes, storms make it impossible to hunt from a boat due to rough sea conditions. If this is the case, eiders are hunted from the safety of the shore with equally high success rates.
These birds are large, smart, and tough. Because of this, it is important to be accurate with your shotgun out to 50 yards. In addition, heavy shot loads combined with a tight patterning choke help increase your effective range for these large ducks.
Hunters must purchase a base license, state waterfowl license, and federal duck stamp to hunt King Eiders in Alaska. In addition, it is required that hunters complete a Harvest Information Program when hunting these Migratory Birds.
The seasons differ depending on the unit, but the Pribilof and Aleutian unit begins in Early October and continues through January. Non-residents are typically allowed 7 sea ducks per day, and 20 for the season.
King Eider are much less common than say a Mallard or Widgeon, and offer a unique opportunity to hunt big ducks in a totally new environment. If you have killed your fill of mallards and teal and are looking for an adventure, an Alaska King Eider hunt in the Bering Sea is just what the doctor ordered.