What Gear Do I Need To Hunt Ducks And Geese?
Starting out with waterfowling is fun in all sorts of ways. There's learning about the different types of ducks and geese, and there's learning about where to find these birds come hunting season. Then there's stocking up on the gear you'll need to get in the field and put your new knowledge to work.
Depending on how far you want to go, the must-haves for waterfowling can be as simple as waterproof gloves and as sophisticated as a 21' fiberglass/Kevlar open water duck boat.
To get you started, here are some basics to consider:
- A waterproof jacket
- Warm clothing
Do It Duckie Style
Like the names says, waterfowling involves water. That means getting wet, and getting wet is the first step to having a rotten day. To stay comfortable, you need to stay dry. If you think about, ducks and geese have the same problem. They're wet pretty much 24/7, 365. So, what do they do? The same thing you're going to do. They dress in layers.
The plumage that covers a duck or goose is their version of foul--or fowl--weather gear. Mallards are covered with up to 12,000 feathers in three types: contour feathers (on the exterior), down feathers (closest to the skin) and flight feathers (around the edges of their wings and tail). Contour feathers are a duck's rain gear. Down is the insulation layer.
For your contour feathers, start with a pair rugged, bootfoot waders. Look for an aggressive tread, good foot insulation and features like hand-warmer pockets, shotgun shell loops, and D-rings for hanging gear. Reinforced knees and seats are also nice. While many duck hunters like the warmth of neoprene, lightweight, nylon-style waders also work. But for these, you'll have to buy a pair of wading boots.
For your top half, you'll need a roomy, waterproof jacket. Ones made with Gore-Tex® or other waterproof-breathable materials are nice, but not necessary. What's more important is a jacket roomy enough to let you to raise arms and shoot, a hood that fends of the rain without blocking your vision, and cuffs that seal out water and keep it from running down your wrists.
To complete your outer layer, pick up a pair of waterproof gloves and a hat. For your gloves, be sure you can handle and shoot your shotgun while wearing them. For the hat, just be sure it fits under the hood on your jacket.
There's No Upside To Down
Under your waterproof layer, add insulation. But while down works for ducks and geese, you should stay away from it. While it's great for warmth; it's useless if it gets wet. Instead, try synthetic pullovers and pants. Soft, Polartec-type fabrics are something to look for.
In colder weather, add a t-shirt or long sleeve with a zip neck, underneath. Again, stick to synthetics or even wool. But avoid cotton. It holds onto moisture. And sitting in a cold blind in a wet cotton t-shirt is a great way to get chilled.
Camo: Do The Ducks Care?
Ducks and geese come in all sorts of colors and patterns. In their various camos, today's waterfowlers do, too. While all this camo looks cool, it can be expensive. The big questions is: Do the birds care? Well, no. And yes.
Waterfowl are always on the lookout for predators. They're very good sensing when something in their environment isn't quite right and they have excellent eyesight--better than your's. To hunt them effectively, you need to stay out of sight or blend in with what's around you. Or better yet, do a little of both.
If you're fully enclosed in a blind, gear that's brown or olive may be enough to keep you concealed. But if you're exposed at all, you'll need to blend in. The smallest detail (like an uncovered face) can cause an incoming flight to flag. Camo helps you avoid these problems and it can give you an edge. So why not wear it?
Once you've dressed for waterfowling success, there's still plenty of gear to bring to the blind. We'll cover it in upcoming articles. Until then, here are few more things to throw in your hunting bag.
- Headlamp: A lot of duck and geese hunting happens at first light. Setting up for it means working in the dark. A headlamp will take a lot of frustration out of your efforts.
- Cell phone: Whenever you're hunting, it's important to stay safe. If you get into trouble, this puts help a phone call away. Just make sure the ringer is turned off.
- Heat packets: In your boots, pockets or gloves, mini hand warmers take the chill out of a frosty morning by keeping your toes from freezing and your shooting hand ready to go.
- Shell belt: Boxes of ammo are a pain to carry. Instead, stuff the cartridges into a belt covered with shell loops. It will keep your hands free while keeping plenty of ammo right at hand.