Home Homesteading New to Waterfowl Hunting? Here’s What You Need to Know

New to Waterfowl Hunting? Here’s What You Need to Know

by Anthony
New to Waterfowl Hunting? Here’s What You Need to Know
photo by USFWS Midwest Region on Flickr under  Public domain

If you are new to the world of waterfowl hunting, you probably have a lot of questions. Where should I hunt? What clothing should I wear? What equipment do I need? How do I identify various duck species? What type of camouflage do I need? These questions (and many, many others) are likely running through your head, and you may feel like you don’t even know where to start.

When you are new to waterfowl hunting, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered, and finding the answers you need can seem overwhelming. There is a lot to learn and no one wants to head out on a hunt unprepared. After all, preparation is vital for your success and for keeping you and other people in the area safe.

If you are thinking about taking up waterfowl hunting as a hobby, here’s everything you need to know.

The Right Gear Matters

Hunting for waterfowl isn’t as simple as throwing on jeans and a t-shirt and heading to your nearest lake. Instead, you need to outfit yourself in the proper camouflage and other gear. When it comes to selecting a camo pattern, consider where you will be hunting. If you are hunting in a wooded area, look for camo with a leafy, bark-like print. If you are hunting in an area where there is dead grass, go with a lighter grassy camouflage pattern. You’ll want a camo hat, jacket or shirt and pants. To ensure your comfort during your hunt, wear a cotton shirt as your base layer.

You’ll also need to invest in a good set of waders. Let’s face it: Ducks love hanging out in the water. And if you are going to hunt them successfully, you’re probably going to have to spend some time in the water, too. Unless you want to end up soggy and miserable, you need some nice waders. Choose ones that are appropriate for the temperature where you are hunting. If it’s cold, look for ones that are insulated. Whether you are hunting in warm or cool temperatures, waders made from a breathable material are more comfortable and do a better job of helping you maintain your body temperature.

Choose Your Firearm and Ammunition Wisely

New to Waterfowl Hunting? Here’s What You Need to Know
Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters on Flickr under CC BY 2.0

Most waterfowl hunters use 12-gauge shotguns. Some prefer to use a 20-gauge, but a 12-gauge is a better choice for beginners. Choose one that is as long as you can comfortably handle. Both pump action and semi-auto shotguns are well-suited for duck hunting, so go with whichever option you are most comfortable with.

When hunting waterfowl, you are required to use non-toxic shot and the shot size you use should be appropriate for the species you are hunting. If you are hunting for mallards or ducks of a similar size, go with number two shot as it provides the power necessary to take down larger birds. Use number three or four shot for smaller, faster species.

You may also want to invest in a choke, which is a gun add-on that allows you to alter the shot pattern. It can be used to make the pattern stay tighter together for long shots or more spread out for closer shots. There are several different types of chokes to choose from. Do your homework and invest in the one that is best suited to your needs.

Figure Out Where the Ducks Are

The best gear, decoys and calls won’t do you any good if there aren’t any ducks around. Talk to experienced friends or relatives to get their advice on the best duck hunting spots in your area. Go for a drive and look for waterfowl in fields or waterways.

Keep in mind that, while ducks have roosts, hunting the roost usually isn’t the best idea. Doing so will cause the entire flock to find a different roost. Instead, figure out where they feed or hang around. Alternatively, you can hunt in the traffic areas where they travel through when flying from one place to another.

Find the Right Decoy

Decoys are a big part of duck hunting. While there is no need to go out and purchase the most expensive decoys you can find, you do need to invest in some that will actually be appealing to real ducks. The best ones are those that feature some sort of movement. They cause a ripple in the water and/or movement in the decoy itself. Motion is important because live waterfowl don’t sit still. If you have several motionless decoys in the water, live ducks are going to know they aren’t real. Sometimes known as “robo-ducks,” decoys that feature motion can be pricy, but they’re your best bet when it comes to fooling live waterfowl.

Practice Your Duck Calling

New to Waterfowl Hunting? Here’s What You Need to Know
photo by Virginia State Parks on Flickr under CC BY 2.0

If you want to be a great duck hunter, you need to be great at calling. Calling ducks is almost an art form. You need to know how to do it, when to do it and how softly or loudly you should call. Invest in a quality call and spend some time watching instructional videos online. With lots of practice, you can become the next great “duck whisperer!”

Know the Laws

Like all types of hunting, waterfowl hunting is highly regulated. Failing to abide by the laws in your area could result in steep penalties. Make sure you have the right licenses and read up on all of the rules and regulations. Be respectful of property owners, too. Always get permission prior to hunting on private property, and once you have permission, respect the land, the wildlife and the property owner.

The Bottom Line

Waterfowl hunting is an enjoyable pastime. With a little bit of research and preparation, you can get out in the field or forest and start hunting like a pro in no time. Even if your first hunt isn’t a success, have fun and consider it a learning experience.  

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