There are few hunting experiences as true breath taking as the pursuit of waterfowl. Not only do ducks and geese inhabit some of the most picturesque waterways our nation has to offer, but the quarry itself is some of the most majestic.
If you are only able to partake in pursuing one game animal, waterfowl would need to be near the top of the list. Not only is the experience alone enough to make it rewarding, but those intent on filling a freezer are rewarded with increasing numbers and an extremely long season. In many states, you start in late summer with resident Canadian geese and not finish until the snow goose migration in March.
But how do you get started? If you spend any time watching the many cable TV hunting shows it seems like you will need a boat, an award winning Retriever, enough decoys to cover a small farm and thousands of dollars’ worth of miscellaneous odds and ends. Rest assured, although all of this gear has a place and is great if a sponsor is giving it to you, there is no reason to break the bank to get your first duck.
How to Start Duck Hunting
As with any hunting experience, it is possible to start small and then, if you enjoy it and have the funds available, increase your arsenal as you gain experience. For waterfowl, you need a few simple items to get started- a good pair of waders, a basic shotgun and a handful of decoys to draw them in.
Shotgun – Although you could easily spend $1000 on a high-speed semi automatic model complete with grass marsh camo designed specifically for waterfowl, it is not necessary. To get started there’s little out there that beats a simple pump action 12g, such as the Remington 870. It is suggested that you select a model with a 26″ or longer barrel and ability to handle 3″ magnum shells.
Decoys – Although decoys are a must for most waterfowl hunting, you do not need to buy the $200 per dozen versions. The cheaper models may not last as long, but they will still draw in birds. To save even more money check out the bargain bins at the local sporting goods store, you can often pick odds and ends for a fraction of the original price.
Waders – There is no doubt a boat greatly expands your water fowling opportunities, but you can successfully hunt without one. Waders will allow accessing many smaller glasses of water, especially backwoods streams, and eliminate the additional cost of upkeep required for a boat. This is, however, one area where not advised to skimp. Figure out how much you can afford and plan on spending it. A good pair of waders should be neoprene, have attached sole heavy boats, a front pocket for gear and as much insulation as possible.
Think Small, Think Fast…Wood Duck Hunting Tips
The meager gear listed above will, of course, limit your opportunities. But that does not mean it will limit your enjoyment. Now, you may find it difficult pursuing the scores of mallards of Arkansas’ flooded timber. Nor will you be outfitted to gun for the sea ducks that swarm the Chesapeake Bay. But you will have all you need to down your limit of wood duck nearly anywhere they are found.
The wood duck is found throughout the swamps, marshes, shallow lakes & ponds and winding creeks throughout North America and Mexico. This means two things of importance to any would be water-fowler. One, they are nearby regardless of where you may be. Two, they are easily accessible with minimal equipment required. No boat, no retriever… No problem. Prime wood duck hunting grounds can be easily taken advantage of with the waders you can wear and the gun & decoys you carry. Find a hide near a shallow wooded waterway, set your decoys and hunt away.
But do not think of the tiny wood duck as a second string target. While the gear needed may be able to be pulled from the bargain bin or back shelves, the wood is no less a prize. There is nothing as exciting as hearing the quick whistle as a pair screams low over your blind as they take to your decoys. Plus, your skills will only increase as you learn to outwit and out gun this small, fast moving quarry. And once you see the beautiful, multi-colored plumage of the ornate male you may wonder why others wish to pursue anything else.
Good luck and good hunting.
Image by lvfeltz