Thousands Expected for Ocean County Decoy and Gunning Show

Sep 20, 2017
Photo by: Pat Johnson The New Jersey Duck Calling Contest takes place at the Ocean County Decoy and Gunning show each year.

The 35th annual Ocean County Decoy & Gunning Show this weekend, Sept. 23 and 24, promises to attract up to 20,000 decoy and hunting enthusiasts and hundreds of their canine companions in a celebration of the traditions of Barnegat Bay.

The show is so large that it requires two campuses, Tip Seaman County Park and, across Route 9, the Tuckerton Seaport, to accommodate all the festivities sponsored by the Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation in cooperation with the Seaport, the New Jersey Waterfowlers and the Pinelands Regional School District.

Some two dozen decoy companies and individual carvers will display and sell their goods as well as manufacturers of sneakboxes, canoes and kayaks. You’ll also find knives, clothing, boots and duck calls galore, not to mention wildlife art and pet supplies.

Representatives from many environmental organizations, such as the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection, the state Division of Fish and Wildlife, N.J. Ducks Unlimited, the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust and ReClam the Bay, will be on hand.

Overall there will be about 80 exhibitors.

Both days are also packed with competitions. Tuckerton’s air will be filled with the sounds of shotguns much of the weekend as skeetshooting contests at the Tip Seaman Park’s skeet/dog area kick off at 7 a.m. both days and run throughout the mornings, culminating with the world championship skeetshoot finals from 11:30 a.m. to noon on Sunday.

The afternoons will go to the dogs, with popular retriever contests running from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday (when skeetshooting will return through 5 p.m.) and again starting at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Meanwhile, the action over at the Seaport parking lot will be hot and heavy as the Delmarva Dock Dog Competition will take place from 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. (open registration begins at 8 a.m.) on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (again, registration kicks off at 8 a.m.) on Sunday when the big air finals will begin. If you’ve never seen this competition, in which dogs seem to fly after leaping off a dock into a waiting pool of water, you’re in for a show.

Decoy contests – youth shorebird, Delaware River gunning, contemporary gunning, traditional shorebird rig, miniature and Barnegat Bay gunning – will take place from 10:30 a.m. through 3:30 p.m. in the decoy tent at the park on Saturday. The fun will continue on Sunday at the tent from 8:30 through 11:30 a.m. when the action will include working fish, Delaware River and Barnegat Bay gunning decoy rig, cork gunning, head whittling and contemporary Barnegat Bay gunning contests.

And what would a decoy show be without duck and geese calling contests? Adults will compete on the park’s stage from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday while kids will rule the day on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Finally, the awards ceremony is scheduled from 3:30 to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

The Seaport, which offers free admission during the show, will be serving up plenty of things for kids to do – they can dress like a pirate, learn to make crafts, visit live aquatic critters, lift 50 pounds with block and tackle, see a clam walk (huh?), make a train run, feed some animals and hang 10 on a surfboard.

Meanwhile, adults and kids can explore a working boatworks, meet a decoy carver, climb the Seaport’s lighthouse tower, encounter the Jersey Devil and visit the largest surfing museum on the East Coast.

Everybody will enjoy the music across the street at the park. Gary Struncius and Debbie Lawton will perform from 10 a.m. to noon on both days; the Basement Musicians Guild will follow both days from 1 to 3 p.m.

Parking near the sites is at a premium, so it is recommended attendees park in the Pinelands Regional High School lot at 590 Nugentown Rd. or Freedom Fields County Park at 1160 Route 539 in Little Egg Harbor Township. Free and frequent shuttles transport people to and from the festivities.  —R.M.


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