Waterfowl season is just around the corner. I’ve been watching the geese moving around and I’ve even been seeing some ducks showing up in more ponds around town. This is a very exciting time of year for me. I spend all year just waiting for the days in the marsh, watching the sunrise and feeling the adrenaline run through my veins, while I wait for the first flight of ducks. The other thing that gets me excited is getting all of my gear ready. I pull out all of the decoys, my waders and jacket, my layout blind and I clean everything and make sure it’s all in working condition. When the night comes and I have to go hunt on that first day, I know everything is ready to go and I just have to load up the truck and head out.
Waterfowl hunting does require quite a bit of gear. Guys do go crazy with their hunting gear but I choose to keep things basic. Even then I still have a bit of gear that I have to go through every season. This year I got a couple of new decoys and I still need to get a few canvasback decoys to complete my set up. In the spirit of helping out fellow hunters, I’m writing this post to show what I do and also give a checklist of things to do before the hunt starts. I’ll share links where I can so that if you need something you can pick it up online and hopefully, have it delivered in time for your first hunt. My list isn’t comprehensive but it works for us. Here’s the gear we have, what we carry depends on the hunt:
- Long Johns/Thermals
- Merino wool preferably
- Decoy Gloves
- Decoy Bag
- Duck Strap
- Layout Blind
- Duck Stamp/License
- Mountain House meal
- Decibullz Percussion Filters
All this gear is with me keeping it minimal. Some people carry more then I do. The most important thing is that the gear works when you need it to work and that you know how to use it. Otherwise, all the gear is just random stuff to pack around. I’d like to talk about a few pieces of gear a little more.
Waders and Layout Blinds
Waders are an essential piece of equipment. They allow you to get into the water and access areas that you wouldn’t be able to access without a boat. There are 2 kinds of waders. There are insulated and breathable. The kind of wader you use depends mostly on weather and personal preference. I wear an insulated wader all season long. I just get extra hot in the early season. There is a new wader out there that you can layer up and go from a breathable to an insulated wader. To me, it’s like wearing pants that you zip off the bottom and now you have shorts. I don’t have any personal experience with this fancy wader but maybe one day I’ll give it a shot.
In prepping for the new duck season, taking care of my waders consists of rinsing them off and making sure all the mud is off the boots and the wader itself. Waders do seem to magically get holes or leaks in them. Mine is 3 seasons old with heavy usage and it has a small hole somewhere on my right leg. I believe that it’s right behind my right knee. There are patch kits and ways to fix waders. This is dependent on the manufacturer and the material the wader is made of.
Layout blinds are kind of in the same category. There are a million different kinds but they are mostly similar. Prepping my layout blind is simple. I make sure all the mud and grass I’ve used is washed off. I check that all the loops to brush my blind are intact. Then I also check the bottom of my blind. My blind has a waterproof bottom that allows me to lay in a couple of inches of water. This comes in handy on those days that start out freezing but thaws out during the hunt. If I need to make any repairs, I make sure to make them. I also make sure that my blind will set up and break down like it should, this allows me to go hunt with no worries when I get to the spot.
Decoy maintenance is one of those things that some guys have made hobbies out of. I think one of the things that first come to my mind is painting decoys. Every season as you hunt and hike around with decoys in a decoy bag, the decoys tend to rub and lose some of the paint from when they were originally painted. I am not very artistic so I really have no advice on what to do to paint decoys or even touch up decoys. Nevertheless, I do know that Native Americans used to tie grass together in the shape of a duck and used those as decoys and they worked. That leads me to believe that having a decoy that looks perfectly like a duck isn’t as important as setting up in the right spot.
One of the things I do as I check my decoys is checking my decoy weights. I used to put together my own lanyard and weights but I recently changed to some pre-manufactured Texas rigs. Either way, it’s important to check every connection. Part of why I do the commercially made rigs is because I have lost decoys before from them coming untied. I also have a motion decoy. It’s new to me so I made sure to put fresh batteries on it and make sure it worked. Checking these simple things helps ensure that come time to set up your decoys, they’ll work just as expected.
The most important tool is the shotgun. At least I see it as a tool. When it comes to duck hunting, special attention to my shotgun is very essential. My shotgun takes a beating every duck season. Hunting 2-3 days a week and always being in the water is not very friendly to a shotgun. Of everything I can say, the most important thing is making sure you have your shotgun plug in. I seem to lose mine every year. Right now I have a stick in there limiting my magazine to 2 shells. I still plan on getting a new shotgun plug. Some need to be cut down to size and some fit just right. Either way, it’s important to have a shotgun plug that fit the specific regulations in your area. This will make a difference when you meet that Conservation Officer. Unless you don’t want to keep your shotgun.
The other thing I like to do is give it a good clean. I make sure everything is fitting right and working as it should. I make sure I have all the moving parts lubed and that my shotgun is ready to go in that way. I also like to take my shotgun, with the ammo I plan on using and go do some patterning. This ensures that the shotgun still fits and that I’m shooting loads that will pattern well with my different chokes. Remember that shooting ducks is federally protected and with that, we can’t use any toxic shot. Meaning, no lead. This means that you have to buy either Steel or Tungsten or Bismuth loads. They each have their pros and cons but I choose Hevi-Steel and it patterns well. I did use HEVI-X last season on my swan but it’s twice the price of steel and to me, it’s not worth the money. Maybe when they find a way to lower the price of Tungsten I’ll switch over.
Last but not least is duck calls. This is where I need to tread lightly. There are a lot of very passionate people when it comes to duck calls. My pre-season prep mostly consists of making sure everything looks correct and sounds correct. I make sure the reeds are clean and not sticking. I also make sure that everything is put together and fits together properly with no air leaks. If you have a wood call, make sure you pull it apart after using it. Wood and moisture do not go together well. The most important thing is practicing. During the offseason, I really don’t practice much. Leading to duck season, I like to practice my single quacks, then my come back calls and then practice my feeder calls. I’m not an expert duck caller but I try to not scare the ducks away if I can help it. Youtube is a great source for duck call instruction videos.
Even though this is a hobby that is heavy in gear, having the gear you can rely on is very important. I’m a firm believer that proper maintenance is essential if you want your gear to last. I’m still figuring out good ways to do all of it but so far it’s working for me. At the end of the day, what matters to me is that my gear works when I need it to.
Thanks for reading this post. All of the links do go to the best deal I could find online. Feel free to reach out with any questions. Last, of all make sure you subscribe for weekly posts and don’t forget to share this post to help other hunters out.