Delta Saves Historic Hunting Area

Waterfowlers nearly lost access to a key section of the Susquehanna Flats

By Kyle Wintersteen

Delta Waterfowl is The Duck Hunters Organization — your voice and advocate when duck hunting is imperiled, be it on the national level or even in your own community.

A recent threat to local hunting access occurred in a surprising place: Havre de Grace, Maryland, at the head of the Susquehanna Flats. It’s a region steeped in waterfowl hunting culture and history, where canvasbacks toll, honkers call and some of the nation’s most legendary decoy carvers have gunned. Arguably, it’s where waterfowling as we know it today first began.

The issue arose in early 2017, when the city announced plans to annex an offshore island and all the water leading to it. And because discharging firearms is illegal within Havre de Grace city limits, strict application of the law would outlaw hunting in a key area for local waterfowlers.

“There’s no place anywhere else on the flats like the sandbars surrounding Tydings Island,” said Captain Joey Jobes, famed decoy carver and Delta volunteer. “It’s great for body booting or any kind of hunting when the wind is whipping out of the northwest. A hunting ban would’ve easily affected more than 100 hunters, including a large number of youths who hunt there to learn what they’re doing before they’re ready to venture out into the big water. Unfortunately, I didn’t find out about it until the day before the city council’s vote on
the annex.”

Time was of the essence. Jobes expressed his concern to the council, and contacted Delta regional director Matt Kneisley, who in turn phoned John Devney, senior vice president of Delta Waterfowl.

“It sure would’ve been nice to enter the fray earlier in the process,” Devney recalled. “But we had Delta Waterfowl members who were faced with losing a spot they’d hunted their entire lives. Can you imagine? Every time you motored by or thought of it, you’d just feel sick. We had to try, because Delta stands up for hunters, win or lose — no exceptions.”

Devney immediately issued a letter to every member of the city council, imploring them to carve out an exemption to the city’s firearms laws for hunters within the proposed annex.

The result? The annex passed — but hunting would remain open!

“I think Delta Waterfowl’s action was the deciding factor,” Jobes said. “Some on the council probably saw me as just a guy who didn’t want to lose his hunting spot, but when someone of Devney’s stature writes a letter, people tend to listen. It’s further convinced me that Delta Waterfowl is the only organization that exists that will fight for duck hunters. Every waterfowler needs to support Delta if they want to protect their own hunting interests.”