Duck hunting, like most hobbies, requires a lot of equipment. My goal with this set of instructions is to point you in the right direction for purchasing these items, as well as what to look for with each item and what will work best for you. It is possible to spend a very large amount of money equipping yourself with the latest and greatest, so I have made sure to include the essentials while also giving options for later purchases.
Step 1: Shotgun
*Caution* -Always treat firearms as if they are loaded and never point them at anything you do not wish to destroy. I advise taking a hunter's safety course offered in your area to learn how to handle firearms safely.
The first, and probably most expensive, purchase needed to hunt almost any animal is a gun. A shotgun is the only gun that is legal to shoot waterfowl with. The most popular size is a 12 gauge which shoots 3 inch shotgun shells (I will talk more about shells in a little bit). Prices for shotguns can range from a few hundred dollars to over $1500. It is up to you how much you want to spend, so I will give my recommendations on an entry-level shotgun and a more expensive model.
• Remington 870 Express Pump-Action (Entry-level)
o The most popular shotgun of all-time
o Very rugged and dependable
o Shoots 2 ¾” and 3” shells
o Can be found used or new all over the country for less than $400
• Beretta A391 Xtrema 2 Semi-Auto (For enthusiasts, pictured above)
o Shoots 2 ¾”, 3”, or 3 ½” shells
o More recoil reduction
o Also very reliable
o Priced around $1400
Step 2: Shotgun Shells
Obviously you will need something for your newly acquired shotgun to heave at the ducks. My best advice here is to keep it simple and cheap. A box of Winchester Xpert High Velocity Steel or Kent Fasteel can be found for less than $15 at most outdoors stores. You will most likely want to have two boxes of shells with you when you hunt. As far as size, as I said before the most common is a 3 inch shotgun shell. But there is another aspect, shot size, which needs consideration. Shot size represents the size of the steel pellets in the shotshell and the larger the number, the smaller the pellet.
3” 4 shot will serve you well in September and October for shooting mostly teal, wood ducks, and decoying mallards. Later in the season, and especially if you are having trouble fooling birds to within 30 yards of you, 3” 2 shot will help knock down tough mallards.
Common shot sizes, in order of decreasing pellet size:
T > BBB > BB > B > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4 > 6 > 7 > 8 > 9
Step 3: Decoys
You are going to need some decoys if you want to lure ducks in close enough to have a reasonable shot at them. This is another area where you can spend a huge amount of money if you so desire. Around two dozen is adequate if you are starting out; you may only need about 6 if you are hunting, say, a flooded timber hole. If you are hunting open water, you may want upwards of 200-300. Cabela’s® and Bass Pro Shops® have great websites for purchasing decoys and pretty much any other item you might need for hunting. Read through the reviews and decide on the best decoys for the money you are willing to spend; you will want to be sure that they are durable and somewhat realistic. Again, check the reviews.
Note: Especially if you are starting out, only buy mallard decoys. Mallards are the kings of the waterfowl world and all other species will generally decoy just fine into a spread of mallard decoys.
Small spreads of decoys can especially benefit from a spinning wing decoy, shown above. The extra movement simulates more ducks in your spot and the movement entices flocks into your spread.
Step 4: Waders
Hunting waterfowl, surprisingly enough, involves some water. To be able to set out and pick up your decoys as well as downed birds, you will want a pair of chest waders. Again, Cabela’s®, Bass Pro Shops®, or another outdoors store will be the best place to purchase from. When choosing a boot size, make sure to pick one that is a size or two bigger than your shoe size to account for the extra bulk of the thicker socks you will be wearing in colder weather. If you go to a store to try some on, make sure to bring a thick sock so you can choose the right size. DO NOT BUY CHEAP WADERS. Nothing ruins a hunt quicker than leaky boots so you will want to spend a little more money to ensure your hunting enjoyment.
In my opinion, the best pair of waders on the market is the Cabela’s SuperMag™ 1600 Chest Waders (pictured above www.cabelas.com). From the website they will run you about $230 plus shipping, but will last you many seasons and are probably the warmest waders on the market. I am very rough on my waders and I had my first pair last 4 seasons and now a second pair has lasted 3 seasons and is doing fine.
Step 5: Clothing
Having adequate clothing for duck hunting is very important as the weather changes throughout the season. Later in the season tends to be very cold in most parts of the country so you must wear the right clothing to ensure your safety and enjoyment of the hunt. Here are a few things to keep in mind when dressing for a hunt:
o Under Armour® and other other companies make great base layers for wearing close to the skin.
o Warm fleece and windproof sweatshirts or light jackets are great outer layers in warmer weather or mid-layers in colder weather.
o A waterproof, windproof outer jacket is absolutely essential in foul weather. DO NOT SKIMP HERE. Drake Waterfowl® is my personal favorite as they offer great protection, warmth, and durability while not being too bulky. As always, check website reviews.
• Stocking Hat and Gloves
o For when it’s really cold.
o Waterproof gloves are very handy, especially for handling decoys.
o CAN BE VERY USEFUL, I always keep a few in my bag.
Step 6: Duck Calls
Learning how to call ducks using a duck call is another article entirely. If you want to learn how to call, check on the internet for instructional videos and, if you can, find someone who can teach you in person or over the phone.
The most important thing to keep in mind when purchasing a duck call is to TEST THEM OUT. You can pick up 5 calls that look exactly the same and they will usually all sound a little different. Go to a sporting goods store with a good selection of duck calls and test as many as you can. If you are learning, generally stay in the $30 range. If your calling skills are advancing, definitely look into the $100 range duck calls as they will tend to sound much better.