April 07, 2021
When I was a kid hunting waterfowl in the 1970s, very little gear was available compared to today. Sure, it would have been nice to have a propane heater in the blind instead of a metal bucket of briquettes, and a camo duck hunting jacket with a warm liner and multiple pockets instead of a thin rubber slicker, and waterproof gloves that actually worked, but we got by with what we had; we didn’t know any different.
Today, waterfowl hunters have a lot of gear options, and what you choose will come down to personal needs and preference, as well as fitting that gear to where — and when — you’ll be hunting. An early season teal hunter in Texas, for example, will have much different gear needs than a late season sea duck hunter in the rainy Pacific Northwest or remote Alaska. And duck hunters will have different needs than goose hunters. The list goes on.
While this video — shot with world-renowned guide and waterfowl expert, Jeff Wasley, of www.fourflywaysoutfitters.com — focuses on physical gear options, there’s more to consider. Start by checking every piece of gear you’ll be using on your hunt, prior to heading afield. A hunt is no place to test gear. By the time you leave home you should know how your gear works, or fits, how it will perform, and if there are any adjustments that need to be made in order to maximize the intended design.
If you have a new shotgun and loads, pattern them from 30 to 60 yards, in 10-yard increments. This will allow you to see how the combination performs. Patterning at extreme distances lets you know what to expect when needing to finish birds. If you don’t like the pattern your shotgun throws, try different loads and different aftermarket chokes, as they can each have a direct impact on your gun’s performance.
If you have a new duck jacket, test it out. Wear it, shoot with it on, even practice sitting up and shouldering a gun with it if you’ll be hunting from a layout blind or layout boat. Make sure the jacket is not too bulky or loose fitting, as this can result in hangups at the most inopportune time. Also, put shells and other pieces of gear in the pockets, so you know how it fits with the added bulk and weight.
While it’s not gear-related, being in good physical shape can greatly increase your waterfowling success. Hauling loads of decoys is far from easy, and being in shape ensures you’ll go that extra 100 yards in the mud to reach prime decoying water, not settle for where you are because you’re whipped.
Maintaining core and leg strength, along with flexibility, go a long way in improving the hunting experience and keeping you healthy. At the same time, having a solid and confident mental outlook will greatly enhance the overall hunting experience, and this starts with good physical health.
When it comes to gearing up for waterfowl hunting, no detail is too small. Plan ahead, anticipate what gear you’ll need throughout the season, and physically and mentally prepare. If you do this, your waterfowling hunting adventures will be much safer and enjoyable.
Note: Scott Haugen is a full-time author. Learn more at www.scotthaugen.com, and follow him on Instagram and Facebook.