Are you ready for waterfowl season? Waterfowl season is just around the corner. It is time to make sure your gear is ready.
We often take our waterfowl hunting for granted because we can go waterfowl hunting on short notice and often close to home. It is easy to get to the duck blind and realize you have forgotten something or find your equipment in disrepair.
So what should we do to prepare for the waterfowl season? Think back to last season. What did you tell yourself you would do different this season? Maybe you thought it would be good to make a jerk string for a set of decoys, or maybe you wanted to lengthen your decoy cords. Well now is the time to get it done.
When I go through my pre-season equipment check I always start with my shotguns and personal equipment. Then I work on my decoys, ensuring they have been touched up and repaired. Lastly, I work on my blinds or duck boat, ensuring everything is serviced and working, such as navigation lights, etc.
Shotgun and personal equipment – I have hunted with guys who did not clean their shotgun from the last season! 10 months later, in the duck blind they pulled out their shotgun and the bolt was rusted shut.
Hopefully you have already been to the trap range recently and you clean your shotgun religiously. Make sure you take down your gun, removing the choke and ensure it is clean, lubricated and in proper working order. If you use a sling, make sure you inspect it for rotting threads, mold and dirt. Slings should be clean, and anchor points should be lubricated.
Now is the time to check last year’s ammunition and purchase new ammunition. I have hunted with guys who showed up for a hunt and their shells had rust around the brass head. Do not take a chance using ammunition in this condition. I would also suggest you order your ammunition for the entire season now. When the season gets rolling you may find it difficult to find ammunition, so early orders will ensure you have ammunition for the entire season. Buy shotgun shells by the case, you will save money over single box prices.
Next to the shotgun, I think the personal gear is the most important items to prepare for the upcoming season. You need to be comfortable when hunting. If you’re wet and cold you will not enjoy yourself as much.
Check your waders. If you had a leak in the waders last season, maybe it is time to get a new pair.
At the very least fix the leak. Wash your jackets, hats, face masks, and other clothing items. Scent is not an issue when duck hunting, but you do not want to get dressed only to find your jacket smells like mildew. Stinky clothing can be quite distracting while you are hunting.
Duck Calls – One of the most annoying things I experience is when a hunter shows up to the blind with a bad duck call. Make sure your duck calls are in working order. The only way to do this is to practice. Duck hunting legend, Buck Gardner likes to call it the “10,000 quack tune-up.” I think this pre season tune up is important. Getting the duck calls out now and practicing will ensure the call is in tune and you get into your rhythm more quickly when you hit the duck blind.
Many duck call manufacturers will re-tune your duck call for free. Just pay for the postage and you will have a call tuned the way it is supposed to be. Don’t forget to keep your duck calls clean during the season. I like to use distilled water to clean my duck calls. Remove the barrel from the insert and clean out any debris. Wash the call thoroughly and let it sit out overnight and dry.
Dekes – Check your decoys. You should take a good look at your decoys, checking them for faded or chipped paint. If you need to add some paint to liven them up, now is the time. Maybe it is time for new decoys altogether.
Cabela’s has a great selection of quality duck decoys. An important aspect of the decoy is the decoy cord. Make sure you have decoy cords long enough for the area you hunt. You do not want your decoys floating away, just after you set up in the blind.
It is not uncommon to do a quick fix on a decoy cord in the field and not replace or repair it properly later.
If you don’t fix these cords properly, it will cost you time in the field.
I use Cabela’s Keel Grabber weights. Sometimes the stretch cords become weathered. Replace these weathered stretch cords, so they don’t break in the field.
Check your crimps, or knots and make sure they will hold for the season. If you use the Greenhead Gear quick fix decoy cord, make sure it is not weathered. If you use gang rigs for decoys, make sure the quick clips are clean and serviceable.
For those of you who use a wind powered Wind-Duk, these have ball bearings which allow them to spin freely. These ball bearings have to be oiled before the season and a few times during the season.
Blinds & Boats – If you hunt waterfowl out of a fixed blind, make sure your blind bag is cleaned out from the previous season and re-stocked for the upcoming season. If you hunt out of a boat, now is the time to clean it out from top to bottom, restock it and touch up on the camo paint. Oil hinges, check your bilge pump, check your battery(s) water level, check you anchor lines and make sure your safety equipment is in good working condition.
Have you checked your flares? Flares have an expiration date and should be replaced when out of date. Make sure you have at least on PFD per person. You must also have at least one type IV throwable PFD for any boat 16 feet or longer.
Make sure your PFD’s are clean and usable.
It is easy for PFD’s to sit in the duck boat and mildew and rot. If the stitching rots, the PFD will not be reliable.
Check your camouflage. The biggest problem I see with duck blinds is the lack of concealment. Whether it is raffia grass or netting, most blinds could use more.
A blind should actually blind your movement from the ducks. Duck hunters have a tendency to look at the blind from the ground level. Ducks fly overhead and look down at our decoy spread. So look at your blind from the top to make sure you have grassed it well.
If you hunt from a permanent blind, make repairs now.
Check for rotting boards, exposed nails or screws, and re-grass it if necessary.
If you use a portable blind, set it up and make sure it is not mildewing. If it has swing doors, make sure they don’t squeak when you open them. Look the whole blind over and make sure it is ready to hunt.
If you hunt out of a boat, set up your boat blind and inspect it carefully. Do you need to add more grass, camo netting, or natural vegetation? One of the most crucial aspects of camouflaging your blind is the color differences in the blind.
If you hunt in the middle of a barley field, then you can have a more even camo color. But if your blind is next to a bramble patch or your boat is next to the bank on a river, your camo should have color changes, to blend better with the natural vegetation.
If you are using a light color raffia grass on your blind, but you are sitting next to dark vegetation, your blind will stand out. Mix it up.
First Aid – I would like to emphasis the importance of having a good first aid kit. Aside from the standard items in a first aid kit, I like to add extra 4×4 gauze pads, and several rolls of cohesive bandages. I also carry at least one blood clot product, in case of a severe bleeding injury.
I would like to touch on first aid for your working dog. If you use dogs for waterfowl hunting you should also have a good first aid kit designed for working dogs. I have had the unfortunate experience of needing this type of kit and I am glad I had it.
It saved my dog’s life and allowed her to hunt with me for many years after.
Many bird hunters spend thousands of dollars on their working dog or at the very least the time in training is worth that. Spend the money on a decent first aid kit for your dog.
This kit should also have extra 4×4 gauze pads and a couple of cohesive bandages. I also include a full bottle of saline solution to get foreign objects out of their eyes.
I hope these tips will get you thinking about your gear for the upcoming season and allow you enough time to prepare opening day.
To find all the products pictured in this article, go to your local Cabela’s store or visit Cabelas.com.