Early Season Waterfowl Tactics
No matter what you're doing it's always a good idea to get started on the right foot, waterfowl hunting is no different. The way you approach waterfowl hunting in these early stages of the season will influence your hunting habits the rest of the season. If you start out the season making mistakes then you'll end up carrying those bad habits with you throughout the season. If you want to get out there and take advantage of hunting waterfowl that haven't experienced a lot of hunting pressure then here are some tips to get the most out of your early season waterfowl hunt. Read More ...
Less is More
In the early season you won't need to set up a huge spread of decoys, these early season ducks and geese aren't too hard to fool. Try to keep your spread around one to two dozen, depending on what bird you're after. Be sure to place your decoys in an area where the ducks will have to pass by your blind, this will ensure that you'll have a better shot. When you're placing your decoys, be sure to leave some small gaps in the decoy pattern so that ducks see there is a place to land. If you're worried about your shot's range then just place the furthest decoy at the edge of your shot range, that way you have a visual marker that will tell you if a duck is too far out of reach. Motion decoys are also a great idea this time of year as many potential targets haven't grown accustomed to the movement an electronic decoy makes.
If you're new to waterfowl hunting, or you just don't feel that your call is quite up to snuff, then this is the time of year to work on it in the field. These early ducks and geese haven't heard too many calls so even if your call isn't quite where you'd like it to be, you should be able to draw in some targets. You don't need to call a ton this time of year either, if you've done a good job at scouting then using a few decoys as well as some limited calling should draw in any goose or duck you're after.
Is Your Retriever Ready?
If you've been working with your retriever all summer to get them ready then you shouldn't have to sweat it too much when the season comes along, however many dogs lose their edge during the summer months. If you've gotten lax in your training regimen then chances are they won't be properly conditioned when the time comes. A good way to get your dog back into shape is by exercising them daily during the preseason. A good way to start is by taking them on a good walk every day. Get them out and moving around so they can get fit again. Next, incorporate some training into your exercising routines, run a few drills and have them make some retrieves. Even if your dog has been well trained, now is a good time to get them ready for the real deal.
Understand How Early Season Weather Will Impact the Hunt
The early season is often a great time to go hunting because of the mild weather; however this can also bring its own challenges. When you head out make sure that you have enough food and especially enough water to keep yourself full and hydrated. When you're out in the early season and the sun starts beating down on you, you'll be thankful that you have a good supply of water on hand to keep you cool. Watching the weather can also help you estimate when waterfowl will be migrating. Many birds react to fall weather fronts, so if some cooler fall weather is headed your way then that's a good time to get out and see if you can spot some migrating birds. You should be able to spot quite a few geese as well as early migrating teal and wood ducks; if you keep an eye on the weather then you should be able to predict when the best opportunities are at hand.
If you get yourself prepared in the early season then you'll set yourself up for success not only now, but also down the road. As with many things, preparation is key to an enjoyable and rewarding early season waterfowl hunt. If you put in the time and effort then you're sure to reap the benefits of getting out early and bagging some ducks and geese.
Waterfowl Gear Buyer's Guide
Hunting waterfowl with shotguns has been a popular pursuit since the 17th century when the matchlock shotgun was first introduced. Through the many years of hunting technique refinements and shotgun design improvements, the basic concept of the hunt has remained the same. In this buyer's guide we offer some tips and suggestions for assembling the best waterfowl hunting gear for your needs. All of the gear detailed here can be found at your local Sportsman's Warehouse store or online at www.SportsmansWarehouse.com.
Generally, when we talk about waterfowl we are talking about ducks and geese. There are several styles of decoys available for both of these birds to lure them within range of your shot. Floating decoys, also known as Floaters, float in the water and are used in lakes, ponds and rivers. These decoys are equipped with lead anchors to secure them in place and mimic the appearance of the real bird on the water. For use on dry land there are field/full-body decoys and also motion decoys, which possess spinning or flapping wings to add lifelike motion. Sportsman's Warehouse carries all of these decoy styles from premium manufacturers including Final Approach, Avery Greenhead Gear, Mojo, Avian X, Dakota Decoys and Tanglefree.
Both duck calls and goose calls depend heavily on their materials and construction to produce successful calls. Materials most often used to build calls are polycarbonate, wood and acrylic. Polycarbonate calls are the least expensive and are a good choice for learning how to call. They produce sound good enough for beginners to develop their skills before moving on to more advanced calls. Wood waterfowl calls have a classic, classy look and feel. They tend to have a softer sound that is best for hunting in timber or smaller ponds where ducks will be closer. One drawback with wood calls is that they can swell a little in wet conditions, giving them a less consistent sound. Acrylic calls are considerably louder and are well suited for large, open water. That being said, newer acrylic waterfowl calls can also produce softer sounds very well. Acrylic is much harder than wood or polycarbonate, which translates to more consistent results. These calls are the most expensive but offer superior, reliable performance.
Since ducks and geese hang out in and near the water, having a nice pair of hunting waders is a really good idea. Waterfowl waders come in three flavors: neoprene, breathable and hip boots. Neoprene waders come in varying thicknesses with the thicker versions being best suited for colder weather. These waders are all "bootfoot," meaning that rubber boots are attached to the wader. The boots range from un-insulated to having up to 1,600 grams of Thinsulate insulation for really cold conditions. Breathable waders are constructed from a waterproof material with a breathable membrane, allowing for airflow. These waders are best suited for warmer weather and come in either a bootfoot or stockingfoot configuration. Stockingfoot waders come with an attached neoprene sock, and you will then add a wading boot of your choice. Hip boots are flexible rubber boots that go up to the hips. These wader boots are perfect for shallow water (knee deep or less), but aren't recommended for deeper water. They also do not provide protection for your seat, so if you plan on sitting, you will want to select a different option. They are, however, the most comfortable wader available, so if the conditions you will be hunting in are compatible with hip boots, they will provide maximum comfort. You'll have your choice of high-quality hunting waders at Sportsman's Warehouse, including brands such as LaCrosse, Waterfowl Wading Systems and Banded.
Since waterfowl hunters predominantly wear some form of waders while hunting, the most often purchased piece of clothing is a wader jacket. Choosing the jacket with the most appropriate camo pattern is vital because both ducks and geese have exceptional vision. In addition to the proper camo pattern, selecting a wader jacket that is the right weight (warmth), size (movement) and material (water resistant/breathable) is also critical. In addition to a jacket, you will also need a corresponding hat and pair of gloves. While the hat will simply provide warmth and cover, you will need decoy gloves to stay dry while deploying and retrieving your decoys. These gloves are usually made of neoprene and extend up your arm to near your elbow. Sportsman's Warehouse carries waterfowl hunting clothing from manufacturers including Sitka, Banded, Under Armour, Drake and Browning.
Shotgun shells that are used for waterfowl hunting, whether duck loads or goose loads, must be non-toxic, meaning no lead shot. Most of the time steel shot is used for waterfowl loads, although tungsten shot and some other blends are also available. At Sportsman's Warehouse you'll find all gauges from 28 to 10, shell lengths from 2-3/4" 3" and 3.5" as well as shot sized from #6 to BBB. We carry quality brands such as Federal, Blind Side, Kent, Rio, Hevi Shot, and Winchester.
When it comes to waterfowl hunting, you not only have to be a good hunter, you also have to be able to hide well. Fortunately, Sportsman's Warehouse carries blinds and blind related gear to help you stay out of site. A layout blind is used for field hunting and allows the hunter to lay flat on the ground while staying concealed. There are also dog blinds to conceal your canine friends while waiting for the right shot. Of course, you will also need to conceal your waterfowl hunting gear and accessories, so we offer blind bags, which are camouflaged bags that carry everything you may need on your hunt. These bags come in a wide assortment of sizes and camo patterns and will blend well with your waterfowl blind. In addition to hiding yourself, your dog and your gear, depending on your style of hunting, you may also need to hide your boat or other extra equipment. For that, we offer blind materials, which are imitation grasses and leaves that can conceal just about anything. Sportsman's Warehouse carries a wide array of blinds and blind accessories by top-name manufacturers including Banded, Avery, Final Approach, RigEm Right, Beretta, Hunter's Specialties, Drake, Primos and Mojo.
In addition to the waterfowl gear listed above, Sportsman's Warehouse carries a large selection of additional accessories that will make your hunt more efficient and enjoyable. Shot gun cases, shell holders, slings, waterfowl seats and camo can and bottle holders are just some of the items available to help make your experience complete.