Beginner Duck Hunting Gear Essentials
Beginning duck hunters can sometimes get lost in the unfamiliar gear and equipment staring back at them from sporting goods stores and websites. Getting started into hunting ducks shouldn’t seem daunting or unattainable to a new hunter wetting their wings into the duck hunting world. There are a few essential gear items that will make the pursuit of ducks over water a realistic endeavor, but the investment will last many seasons to come.
Let’s take a look at a few must-have items to get you started hunting ducks this season.
While there are plenty of pieces of equipment that are nice to have or provide an added convenience while duck hunting, there are a few pieces of gear that every duck hunter should have in their tool kit.
The pursuit of ducks during hunting season can take multiple forms depending on the terrain, weather conditions, and the migration. One simple tool that is necessary for your hunts, but may be easy to overlook is the right blind bag.
The blind bag is used to carry in and organize all of your gear before, during, and after the hunt. Duck calls, shotgun shells, hunting license, spare gloves, coffee thermos, and a duck strap are just a few items you might keep in your blind bag.
There are a few styles of blind bags to choose from. For the beginning hunter or a hunter trying to keep things lightweight and simple, a basic rectangular wide-mouth blind bag with a shoulder strap is the perfect choice.
Duck hunters planning to hunt all day, bring new hunters along, and pack gear for two hunters in one bag should consider an upgraded blind bag with extra pockets, shell holders, and maybe a tree hook to securely hang your bag.
For the duck hunter planning on long treks into public marshes and packing plenty of extras like a sack lunch, a small camp stove, or extra clothing, consider a backpack-style blind bag. Utilizing a backpack style blind bag will help you pack in extra gear, especially over longer walk-ins.
Cupped Waterfowl’s Large Waterfowl Hunting Backpack with an EVA waterproof bottom, 6 outside pockets, and molle loops.
Whatever style of duck hunting blind bag you settle on, look for a bag with a sturdy shoulder strap that will fit comfortably over a coat or a jacket. Large zipper pulls for gloved hands are a must, and a natural color or camouflage print to conceal your bag in the field is a critical factor as well. Floating blind bags are always preferable so you don’t soak your belongings if it slips off your shoulder.
Arguably one of the most exciting and unique aspects of hunting waterfowl is getting birds to decoy. Duck hunting decoys have an amazing rich history for waterfowlers. The oldest known duck decoys are canvasback decoys found preserved in a cave in Nevada. These decoys are thought to be over 2,000 years old, and most likely were used to hunt ducks during the retreat of the last ice age. For the beginning duck hunter, a simple spread of a few quality decoys is the right way to go.
Pre-rigged 6 pack of duck decoys makes it easy to purchase and quickly get an affordable, field ready, duck decoy set for beginners.
Less can be more when it comes to your duck decoy spread. Flooded marshlands, shallow lake pockets, and duck potholes can easily be hunted with two dozen or less floating duck decoys. Most puddle duck species can be hunted over mallard decoys, while mixing in another species or two like pintails or even a diver like ringnecks sure won’t hurt anything.
Look for duck decoys with a realistic head to body ratio, and colors that are true to life. Your duck decoys should sit fairly high on the water, and be light enough to produce action in a light wind. However, duck decoys must be weighted to keep them in place in the water. Texas style decoy rigs are convenient to set, pick up, and store with your decoys. Decoys rigged with the Texas style rigs can be hooked together with a large carabiner. J Hook decoy weights and keel wrap lines are a great, more traditional way to rig your decoys as well. If you opt to rig your decoys with lines and weights, a decoy bag will make carrying and storing your decoys much easier with fewer tangles.
Waders for the Beginning Duck Hunter
One of the most unique and intriguing aspects of hunting waterfowl is the water itself. Ducks spend the majority of their time on, in, and around water. Whether you find yourself hunting a public marsh, flowing river, large reservoir, or bank of a small farm pond, water is key. When it comes to setting and retrieving decoys, fetching downed birds, and sometimes even the hunt itself, plan on getting into the water. Waders have come a long way over the years, and many quality waders can be purchased on a tight budget. There are a few factors to consider when you are purchasing waders for duck hunting.
Most duck hunters opt for the extra protection and warmth of chest waders. If you only hunt shallow marshes, flooded timber, or agriculture fields that are knee deep or shallower, then hip waders may work for your hunts.
While a couple manufacturers are still making a true rubber wader, most hunters would consider neoprene and breathable waders the only two real choices. Breathable waders are much more comfortable and lighter than neoprene, although you may give up a small level of durability compared to a heavy 5mm neoprene wader.
Cold weather, ice, and snow are the main factors that push ducks to migrate. If you plan to hunt in an area in the north or central portions of the migration, a warmer wader with a high insulation factor will prove to be key to your comfort. If, however, your hunts take place in the south along the tail end of the duck migration (like the Gulf of Mexico, Florida Keys, or Southern California), then a much lighter wader will fit the bill.
If you take care of your waders, they will take care of you. Clean your waders from mud and debris with clean water and a soft brush after your hunts. Hang wet waders upside down to dry, and consider a wader bag to store your dry waders and protect them during transport to and from your hunt.
Hunting ducks does require a few unique items aside from decoys, a blind bag, and waders. These items may seem self-explanatory, but it’s important not to leave anything out.
Hunting ducks requires a hunting license from whatever state you are hunting in. Additionally, most states require a state duck stamp and a HIP or Harvest Information Stamp. A federal duck stamp is also required to hunt migratory birds like ducks and geese. Revenues from these stamps and licenses help to fund conservation and waterfowl habitat programs.
Ducks, like most other game birds, are taken with a shotgun. Twelve gauge and twenty gauge shotguns are popular with most duck hunters. Additionally, migratory birds are managed by the federal government due to their interstate travel. The federal fish and game department mandates that migratory birds can only be hunted with non-toxic shot shells (e.g., steel, bismuth, tungsten alloy, etc.).
Ducks are social birds that use quacking, chuckling, and whistling to interact with one another. While you may not master a duck call right away, don’t be afraid to practice soft quacks to help guide working birds into your decoys. Consider hanging your duck call on a lanyard so you don’t lose it.
Duck Hunting Blind – Layout Blind/Bed
A layout blind can be an essential in certain situations requiring extreme cover, such as a field hunt, and corn field goose hunts. While concealment is a top prioirty, a layout blind doesnt have to be an extremely steep purchase, there are plenty of affordable layouts that can get the job done.
Cupped Waterfowl’s Hunting Layout Bed is perfect for quick hunts, with an easy and effortless setup and takedown, low profile, and lack of constricting frames.
With a little know-how and an investment into a few tools, hunters interested in the fantastic endeavor of duck hunting can get out there, spend some time, and hopefully bring home some ducks at the end of the day. As your passion and experience in the field develops, so will your hunting style. Eventually, you may consider other nice-to-have items, such as marsh seats, layout blinds, and floating gun cases. But they’re not necessary for beginners.