How to Get Started Duck Hunting
With all of the excitement surrounding duck hunting these days, many people want to know how to get started duck hunting. There is a possibility of going to your nearest sporting goods retailer, picking up a dozen decoys, driving to a local lake, and having a decent hunt. Like I said, there is that possibility, but typically, it is not that simple.
When I am asked about duck hunting, my first response is there is nothing as addictive. In all seriousness, there is nothing else like it. Sitting in a blind on a cold, crisp morning, the sun just starting to break the horizon, the sounds of the marsh waking up, the whistling of wings overhead, and the sight of greenheads cupped and committed to your decoys, makes you thankful that God created this opportunity.
Duck hunting can be expensive. Before you invest your retirement fund on waders, decoys, duck calls, and shotguns, ask someone to allow you to tag along on a few hunts. Duck hunting may not be for you. I love to duck hunt, but not everyone is cut out for it. Most duck hunters have extra waders and gear you can borrow, when you go with them. Going with someone allows you to ask questions and learn what to do and what not to do. Take advantage of this opportunity and learn as much as you can. The more knowledge you gain now will increase the chances for your own successful hunts.
If you cannot find someone to hunt with, the next best thing is hiring a duck guide. As a professional, they will know how to hunt with a high rate of success. With most guided hunts, all you are required to bring is your shotgun. This is a great way to get your first duck hunting experience. Also, guides will often have great tips for beginners.
Once you are ready to hunt on your own, you need a place to hunt. If you don’t know where to go, a little time spent online will usually reveal several local public hunting areas. If you would prefer less competition, scout around for ducks landing on private property and ask for permission to hunt. You are going to hear a few refusals, but you will not find a private location without asking. It never hurts to offer to help out the land owner in exchange for hunting privileges.
In addition to a hunting location, you need at least a dozen decoys and a decoy bag to get started. To keep things simple, start out with mallard decoys. They are one of the most prevalent duck species, and most other species will freely land with mallards. Try to set your decoys with the wind behind you. Place the decoys in an offset “J” or “U” shaped pattern, with the bigger portion of the group closer to you. If you cannot sit with the wind at your back, set up with the wind at your side. Never position yourself with the wind in your face. Ducks land into the wind. Use the wind and decoy position to force the ducks to land where you want them to land.
You will not have much success if the ducks can see you from a mile away. You have to blend in with your surroundings. Use the natural vegetation to camouflage your duck blind. Also choose clothing with a camo pattern that closely matches the cover in your hunting location.
The current options for shotguns and shot shells seem endless. You do not need a top of the line shotgun. A twelve gauge pump and three-inch shot shells will serve you well. It is imperative that you pattern your shotgun to determine the best shot and choke combination. If you cannot opt for an aftermarket choke tube, the recommended beginner choke is a modified. By all means do not sky bust. Wait for the ducks to fly into range to minimize cripples.
You will not get very far without a good pair of waders. A pair of waders are a crucial piece of duck hunting gear. Hip waders are good from some locations, but chest waders will open many more opportunities. Do not skimp on your waders. Buy the best you can afford with at least 800 grams of insulation. Without enough insulation, you will be cold before the action begins.
Last but not least, you need some way to communicate with the ducks. It is highly recommended for a beginner to start out with a double reed duck call. A double reed offers a shallower learning curve. Work on mastering the basic quack. Many times a simple quack is all that is needed to convince the ducks to commit. The worst thing you can do as a beginner is to call too much.
Be forewarned. Duck hunting is one of the most addictive types of hunting you can experience. It can alter your lifestyle and your budget. It is often said if you give a person a duck, you can feed them for a day. If you teach a person to duck hunt, they will go broke buying the hottest new decoys, duck calls, and waders.