Submitted by: Caleb Wilds
WARNING! Duck hunting can be highly addictive and may change the way you spend your time, money and energy!
If you want to learn the art of duck hunting there are a few basics you need to get started. I’m not going to lie, it is possible to go to your local sporting goods store and buy a dozen duck decoys and go to your honey hole and have a good hunt. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. But what I am going to recommend is going to help you have more enjoyable, successful hunts.
When someone asks me about duck hunting the first thing I say is once you start it is hard to stop. The second is I am serious. I have converted a lot of deer hunters into duck hunters. The third thing I tell them is before you go out and spend a lot of money on decoys, waders and other hunting accessories go on a couple hunts first and see if you really do like it. Even though I love it! It is not cut out for everyone.
Ask a buddy- Having a friend who knows what they are doing is a big asset to have when you first start out. Even if you don’t have waders, decoys or even a spot to go to they more than likely will. So you won’t have to worry about wading in the water to retrieve ducks and decoys or where to go. They might even have a pair of waders you can borrow. The other bright side is it gives you an opportunity to ask questions and learn about the do’s and don’ts. I can’t emphasize enough on asking questions. Because the more you know the better chance you will have of having a successful hunt when you go out on your own. A friend can also help you identify breeds of duck you are shooting and help make sure you are hunting within the regulations.
If you don’t have a friend to show you the ropes the second thing I recommend is go on a guided hunt or two. They are professionals and more than likely the reason they are guiding hunts is they know what they are doing and usually have a high success rate. Another good thing about being guided is the only thing you need to bring is you and your gun and it will give you a taste of the sport. Again ask a lot of questions. Learn as much as you can and they will usually have good pointers for beginners.
Places to Hunt- If you don’t have anywhere to go hunting go online and look for public hunting lands. You can usually find lakes that allow hunting to the public. But if you want a little less competition spend a little time and gas and drive around looking for waterfowl and once you found them ask the property owner for permission. You might get told no a few times. But you will never find a place unless you ask. Offer your services to help around the property doing work in exchange for permission to hunt will also help you get your foot in the door.
Decoys- A dozen decoys to start out should do. I will recommend getting mallard decoys as they are the most persistent breed of ducks in North America and most other breeds will land with mallards. Don’t forget a decoy bag. In a perfect world I always recommend setting up with the wind at your back and set the decoys in a U or hook with the biggest group closest to you. I know it is not always possible so you can set up with the wind coming from your side and never set up with the wind blowing in your face.
Remember do your homework and scout ahead. You can have all the decoys in the world and the ducks still won’t come if you are not where they want to be. The only point of decoys is to get them to land where you want.
Concealment- You will never shoot any ducks if you stick out like a sore thumb. Use natural grasses and vegetation when you are building a duck blind. Ducks have very good eye sight and can see color better than we do and depend on that to keep them safe. Also having a roof or some sort of cover over your head will help hide you more and come in handy later in season when the birds become more weary and fly around a couple of times before committing.
Shotguns and Shells- There are an assortment of shotguns and ammo to choose from and you really can’t go wrong with any. You don’t have the best of the best shotguns that are semi automatic and chamber three and half inch shells. A 12 gauge pump that chambers three inch shell will do just fine. In fact many hunters use a pump and brag about their dependability. It’s also important to pattern test your gun to see what shell and choke combination gives you the best result. If you have to choose one choke I recommend a modified for most beginners and many waterfowl hunters prefer them. Try and refrain from sky busting. Even if you are having a bad day, all that results in is wasted shells and injured birds that you will not retrieve. Remember no lead!
Waders- Wader’s one of the most important things to have when duck hunting. A pair of hip waders will get you around. But a good pair of chest waders will get you all most anywhere. Waders aren’t a thing to go cheap on either. Go ahead and spend the money and buy a good pair with at least 800 grams of insulation. The more insulation the better! If you don’t you will get cold and miserable and give up before you even get started.
Calls- Buy a double reed and instructional CD. You will be able to learn while you drive around. Even if you are only able to give a quack it will help make your spread look more realistic. The number one mistake most novice callers make is they call too much and you are better off leaving it at home until you become a decent caller and understand how it should be used.
Conservation- Once you get hooked I recommend that you get involved in waterfowl conservation. They do a lot great things for the sport and make sure that great duck hunting will be here for years to come.