View Full Version : Going duck hunting for the first time
12-10-2006, 8:58 PM
I'm going duck hunting for the first time in about a month. Does anybody have any advice for me as to what gear I should bring with me? Calls, decoys and dogs are already provided, so no need for those. Also, what is it like sitting in a freezing cold blind? Am I going to regret this? Any advice that I can get is greatly appreciated.
12-10-2006, 9:12 PM
If you're going to be in California, it's not going to be freezing cold like you've heard it is back east. Usually temps in California are not usually freezing unless we hit a spot of cold clear weather like we had a few weeks ago. The best thing I can reccomend is to dress in layers. I prefer thermax tops and bottoms at the skin level. Pants or sweats on the second level on the bottom, a hoodie type sweater for the second layer on top, and then either chest waders for my bottom section with a waterproof jacket on top. If I wear hip boots for my lower side, I choose a pair of gore tex over pants and then put hip boots over that. The reason for the gore tex is that if the chair I'm sitting on in the blind is wet, I don't have to worry about being wet since the Gore tex will protect me from that. This is something you needn't worry about if you wear chest waders. The reason I reccomend thermax undies is that not only do they keep you warm, but if you sweat heading to the blind they will not feel clammy like polpropylene or cotton long johns do. Sure you will sweat, but it gets "wicked" away from your skin to your next layer.
I also generally carry a backpack for snacks, lunch, extra ammo, and a thermos of my favorite warm beverage. For me that is usually hot tea or hot chocolate. I may drop a bottle of water of gatorade in there too. If you are sitting in a sunken blind, you are usually protected pretty well from the wind (all except your head anyway) and if it's raining it can get kind of old. For rain protection I use my waterproof hunting jacket (camo'ed) and wear a broad brimmed floppy type hat (think felt cowboy hat, but crushable) and then put the jacket hood over that. It makes things easier to keep out of my eyes. You didn't mention where you were going, if you follow up with where, I might be able to tell you more specifics.
If the quarry is ducks, I liked the Kent 3" faststeel in 3's and for geese I use the same shell with 2's or BB's. I'm firing these with a Browning Gold hunter choked improved.
12-10-2006, 9:24 PM
If you're going in a month you'll be seeing some of the best duck hunting weather and ducks the whole season. Because the decoys, calls, etc are already provided I'm assuming you'll be hunting from a stationary blind in a private club. If being cold isn't your thing bring the following:
1. Neoprene Chest Waders - althought the water may only be knee deep always get neoprene chest waders because they keep you warm and you never know when you might accidently step into a pot hole that could be much deeper. Getting into the water unprotected and getting hypothermia is probably the #1 killer for duck hunters. If you do get wet: DO NOT take off your waders, get to land and let the water drain.
2. Long John style underwear, Underarmor thermals, sweat pants with garters, and fleece vest - it gets cold, be prepared. You can always remove extra layers and leave them in your blind but if you don't bring them you could freeze.
3. A very warm jacket - perhaps something from Hodgeman or Mad Dog (check Cabelas). Again, hypothermia is your enemy!
4. If you have extra cash get one of the procat heaters from Coleman. These catalytic propane heaters can easily be taken to blinds and I actually use one both in blinds and in my truck camper. They don't emit any Carbon Monoxide so they're safe to use indoors. I recommend the BlackCat model because it comes with a variety of mounting options and a bag to tote it. The ProCat is great if you have the cash for it and don't mind lugging DD batteries for the oscillating fan.
5. Face paint or a face mask - ducks have unbelieveable eye sight and your pink (or red depending on how cold you are) face will stick out like a sore thumb.
As for camo I use MAX 4 HD but I'm mostly hunting in the open with pack in blinds (I use the Ameristep Ringer and Hayhouse backpack blinds) where there aren't many easy spots to hide. If you're in a spot with lots of tules or a blind that uses grass to conceal you then use Mossy Oak Shadowgrass camo. The most important thing is to break up your outline and limit your movement, the birds pick up on movement more than they do anything else (which is a big part of the reason motorized motion decoys work so well).
For ammo I highly recommend using Kent FastSteel either 3 inch or 3.5 inch (I use 3.5 inch shells). Use either shot 1 or BB if you'll be hunting in January when the air is thicker, using anything larger than shot 2 may not knock them down or just cripple them. Hit them with BB or 1 to kill them when they pass over the decoys. If you're just out to sluice them (and yes I'll confess I've sluiced mallards on the water) just use shot 4. I also recommend using a carlson light modified choke tube if you have a benelli or other shotgun that patterns tightly on a modified choke.
Also the ducks are busiest between 6:00am and 10:00am. After 10:00am they really slow down and things don't pick up again until around 3:00pm. Get something to eat between 10:00am and 3:00pm or catch a nap. If you're at a club you can probably eat at the lodge but if you just hunt public land or private land with no lodge like I do I reccomend bringing a thermos with some cambells soup in it. Defnitely bring lots of water and some energy bars!
Most importantly whether or not you kill any ducks it's all about having fun. There's been plenty of times when I woke up at 2:30am to shoot ducks in the marsh and just sat there all day watching the wings spin on my motion decoys.
12-11-2006, 10:11 AM
Great advice, both replies.
If I may add, make sure you wear a tight waist belt on the outside of the chest waders, it will stop the water from getting inside if you stumble and fall in the water.
Another thing: try to stay still. Do not move an inch before the birds are within shotgun distance. Duck can see the slightest movement, but are not very good at noticing still objects. Because of their eyes being positioned on the lateral sides of their head, they also have an almost 360 degrees field of view, so do not assume they can't see you just because you have the impression they're not looking at you when they circle around.
Be patient and do not take shots over 30-35 yards. Ducks usually make a flight over the decoys at a higher altitude looking for suspicious movement on the ground. If you shoot at them, you will miss. Stay still, let them circle around and even if it may look to you they're flying away from the decoys, most of the time they fly in a 1/4 mile circle and will come back "bombing" the decoys if you just don't move. And when they come back, that's when you make your move.
Good luck and have fun!
12-11-2006, 1:45 PM
Ducks usually make a flight over the decoys at a higher altitude looking for suspicious movement on the ground. If you shoot at them, you will miss.
I hate it when other hunters shoot at birds that are way too high or are headed towards someone else's decoys when they have no chance of hitting them. They spook the birds and screw it up for everyone. DO NOT SHOOT unless the birds are within 30-35 yards... not only will you miss but you'll screw things up for everyone else and piss people off.
12-11-2006, 6:17 PM
Thanks for the replies. I will be hunting at a private club in the Chico area. I don't know what it is called, but I was told that it is 17k acres and is also one of the last two remaining Spanish or Mexican (I can't remember which) land grants in the state. I don't know what kind of blind I'm going to be in; I didn't even know there were different kinds of blinds. I was told to get some neoprene chest waders, so I'll see if I can get my hands on a pair of those. I guess I'll also try to come up with a warm water-proof jacket since I don't have one of those either.
My whole issue is money. I'm a broke college student, but right now I have even less money than usual. That being said, I'm on a limited budget for this trip. So do you guys think I'll be fine if I buy cheap quality or military surpluss stuff? Another issue is the fact that I may never hunt ducks and geese again, so I'd like rather not spend a bunch of money on stuff I'll only use once. I'm just saying that because there aren't a whole lot of places to hunt ducks in San Luis County, and I generally don't like driving several hours to be able to hunt.
Don't worry guys, I'm not the type that takes unrealistic long-shots at birds. Unfortunately three of the guys that I'm going with are those types of people (I've hunted dove with them quite a bit). Also, they will be in the blind next to me.:mad:
12-11-2006, 9:24 PM
Thanks for the replies. I will be hunting at a private club in the Chico area. I don't know what it is called, but I was told that it is 17k acres and is also one of the last two remaining Spanish or Mexican (I can't remember which) land grants in the state. ......
Sounds like you will be on Llano Seco Ranch property. Great place. It is a 18K+ acre Mexican land grant property (original). Some of the land there has NEVER had a plow on it. The property is really something else to see, it like turning the clock back 100+ yrs. in terms of the habitat there. I took my son there on a pheasant hunt that was on the main ranch property last year and it was just fantastic. It is currently a strictly private affair to get in for now, but they have also essentially locked most of the property up in conservation easements. So it will be around for some time.
12-12-2006, 5:49 PM
Sounds like you will be on Llano Seco Ranch property. Great place. It is a 18K+ acre Mexican land grant property (original). Some of the land there has NEVER had a plow on it. The property is really something else to see, it like turning the clock back 100+ yrs. in terms of the habitat there. I took by son on a pheasant hunt on the main ranch property last year and it was just fantastic. Strictly private affair to get in for now, but they have essentially locked most of the property up in conservation easements now. So it will be around for some time.
That must be the place. There can't be too many others like it. Now I'm anxious to see this place.
Also, I talked to a few people at work and I've got two people that will loan me some waders. Coincidently one of them brought in some smoked duck for everyone at work today. So looks like I just need to buy a nice warm water-proof jacket and shells and stamps of course.
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