I’m late to the duck game. Deer and upland birds took up most of my time for years, but when I started getting serious about my retrievers it was only natural that waterfowl would come into my life. As a diehard bowhunter, I didn’t imagine there was any pursuit more expensive or gear-intensive than bowhunting big game across the country, but I was wrong.
You can certainly start out cheap when it comes to ducks. I did. Since I didn’t know what I was doing, I basically jumped ponds with my dog. That wasn’t much like real duck hunting, though, so I started to sit and try to call birds in. A few sessions of that, and it’s time to start shopping for a few a few things that will enhance every hunt.
So along came the decoys of multiple varieties, better clothes, waders and on and on. It’s to the point where if my wife files for divorce any time soon, she’ll probably cite my addiction to duck hunting gear as a catalyst for the dissolution - and I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a cogent argument against her claims.
I’ve never been one for moderation whether in my hunting spending habits or just my daydreaming, which is why I put this piece together. I kept thinking, ‘what if you didn’t have to think about money and could just buy whatever waterfowl hunting gear you really wanted or were just curious about trying?’
Well, look no further, because if that rich uncle does leave you a stack of c-notes when he croaks, here’s a good treat yo’self list.
Can-Am Defender Mossy Oak Hunting Edition
I don’t own a side-by-side, but every time I ride in one I think about how sweet they are, and none is sweeter than the new Defender Mossy Oak Hunting Edition from Can-Am. This sucker is powered by Rotax V-Twin engines, which means it can tow up to 2,500 pounds. Feel free to stack up to 1,500 pounds of gear or dead snows in the large cargo box and stash your favorite duck gun in the Double Kolpin Stronghold gun boots. If you’re the kind of person who isn’t overly delicate with your gear, don’t worry because this latest Defender boasts a new heavy-duty front bumper and aluminum rock sliders so that you don’t have to worry (too much) about where you drive it.
D.T. Systems Master Retriever 1100 Camo
Cheap e-collars suck, a lot. Anyone who has gone that route knows the frustration that comes with a collar that suddenly stops working in the field or has batteries that can’t hold a charge for more than 20 minutes. That’s why it’s best to buy quality, like the Master Retriever 1100 from D.T. Systems. Their latest, which is offered in a Mossy Oak Blades camo finish, is good out to 1,100 yards, is fully waterproof and offers 16 levels of e-Stim for training and in-field corrections.
Gunner Kennels G1 Intermediate
You may never need a five-star crash test rated kennel, but if you do then spending $500 for a Gunner Kennel will seem like the bargain of the century. These double-wall rotomolded kennels are built nearly bombproof to keep your retriever safe at all times during travel. Gunner Kennels are also American-made, designed with an escape-proof, reversible door and a host of other features that you’ll appreciate after a season of use. If you’re going to splurge on a kennel like the G1 Intermediate, you might as well buy some upgrades as well like the All-Weather Kit, Performance Pad or G1 Fan Kit (or all three).
LaCrosse Footwear Aero Elite Waders
The Aero Elite Waders from LaCrosse are the best waders I’ve ever used, period. They come in three options with varying insulation, but all are insanely comfortable to not only wear but to walk in. This is no small thing with chest-high waders. Aero Elites are built off of the AeroForm boots, a lightweight and durable platform that feels so much different than other waders it’s not even funny. The waders I use offer enough insulation to keep me warm until the end of our season here in Minnesota but weigh only 13 pounds, which is feathery compared to the competition. They are also built with Active Fit to allow ease-in-movement (and for reducing the struggle of taking the Aero Elites off) and the Aero Bayou Outsoles, which work to channel mud and muck out of the treads and allow for the best traction possible no matter what kind of swamp you’re slogging through.
Sitka Gear Fahrenheit Jacket
I think everyone should own one Sitka Gear suit in their lives, just like all of us should have at least one special retriever that outperforms our expectations by orders of magnitude. Sitka Gear is expensive, but so worth it. If splurging on a whole suit is too much, pick up the new Fahrenheit Jacket, which is available in either OPTIFADE Waterfowl Marsh or Waterfowl Timber. It’s stuffed with PrimaLoft Down Blend Silver insulation, which when paired with WINDSTOPPER, makes this a truly warm jacket that is extremely lightweight. Be warned, however - if you buy this jacket and use it on one hunt, it won’t be the only charge on your credit card that reads ‘Sitka Gear.’
YETI Fully-Loaded Loadout Bucket
Here’s the deal: when YETI sent me one of these to try out, I thought it was stupid. I’ve got plenty of five-gallon buckets and didn’t think there was much to improve on them. Out of obligation, I brought it to the lake during the summer. We started hauling our fishing gear (and some fish) in it, and I realized the handle was WAY better than traditional buckets. Naturally, I started using it to carry dummies in when I went to train my Lab, and before long I was taking it dove hunting and then duck hunting. I hate to say it, but the Fully-Loaded Bucket is a killer accessory for duck hunting. It just is. You might not believe that, but if you used it you’d agree. Treat yourself to this sucker, and you’ll realize how many times in your life you need an oversized bucket with a real handle and some accessories to hold tools and other outdoor-task essentials.