First Time Waterfowl: What are the essentials?

FairWeather

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Sep 30, 2021
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Probably depends on your situation. Up here in the frozen north you will literally build up snow/ice on your waders. For these conditions, I like the warmth of neoprene. In milder climates, they might be too much.

My summer work waders are the nylon style. They are fine if it’s not cold.
It doesn’t get particularly cold here, so maybe I’ll look into the nylon. Should I look more into the booted, or stockingfoot type? I would have thought booted, but looks they there’s both marketed for hunting.
 

WestKyHunt

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Betcha can't guess
I really like my Frogg Togg breathable waders. Insulated liner can be unzipped and removed, wore them this way last weekend for early wood duck season.
Roger's brand breathable waders are made by Frogg Togg but have the Roger's brand on them. Also cheaper
 

Hunting Wife

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It doesn’t get particularly cold here, so maybe I’ll look into the nylon. Should I look more into the booted, or stockingfoot type? I would have thought booted, but looks they there’s both marketed for hunting.
Could go either way. I have tiny feet, so I like stocking foot because the boots are always too big for me. You can better customize your wader/boot fit with separate wading shoes. But the booted ones work for plenty of people. You’ll just have to try them on and see.
 

OntarioHunter

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Three inch magnum twelve gauge is fine. Shells are more affordable and not so punishing for shooter. I have even done well in a pinch shooting geese with 2.75" #1 shot.

I second the motion for finding a mentor. Hang out at Ducks Unlimited banquet and ask for help. Might even find someone with a dog (or three?) who'll let you tag along. Boats are okay for picking up dead birds but they suck for running down cripples. 20220922_160053.jpg
 
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FairWeather

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I have been meeting up with a fellow member of the OHA to bounce questions and ideas off in something of a mentor/mentee capacity, but haven’t crossed that line of going afield together. He hasn’t offered, and I figured it’s something of an unwritten rule that you don’t ask, as either he’d have to bring me to one of his spots, or I’d waste one of his days hunting going to any of the spots that I know of (which are easy access public lands, so likely have high pressure and few birds).

Is there an etiquette for asking someone to hunt together?
 

undercover

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Michigan
I have seen many free decoys on Craigslist, usually with a stipulation they are free to youth or new hunters. Many are still in fair condition, if you find some don’t be afraid to re-paint. Good luck cause it’s an addiction.
 

Mato

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Bozeman, Mt
Fair Weather---take a look see around for some stubble that's privately owned then go and introduce yourself to the farmers and see if they'll let you give it a go in their fields. If they will you're on the way.

You don't need a boat or a dog or a 3 1/2 mag...just a handful of dekes. Ideally get a half a dozen or a dozen of good size goose shells and you can get after it.

This will work best if you can find some fields that then get permission, watch where they land and feed the day before then go set up at the same location. Honestly, I lay right in the dekes, generally in a big burlap bag that I carry the dekes to the field with. (bag I get at the feed store is about 3' wide by 6' long). I take a day pack to carry my things to the field, then I use it as a backrest, pillow while I'm hunting.

I generally put the dekes in a small fish hook pattern.

For me this works well for me with 6-12 good sized honker dekes
 

Northwoods

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FairWeather- I’m learning to duck hunt myself so I don’t have any advice to offer. I only got one duck today (opener for me). There were some ducks flying around but they didn’t pay any attention to my 6 decoys. Enjoy the learning process. Get out there and try to keep learning. Definitely get some waders or put them on your letter to Santa. Waders can be handy for other hunting situations as well such as accessing areas to deer or turkey hunt.
 

OntarioHunter

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For a goose spread in field go with a dozen (I now use two doz shells but doesn't work any better than one) in stretched diamond shape with a pair about ten to fifteen yards ahead of the narrowest point. Don't put them all facing the same direction. Bad mistake that a lot of old timers still cling to. Another myth is to have decoys facing into wind. Dumb because geese will be coming from the other direction. Geese on the ground will be calling to and watching others coming in. Won't have their arses towards them. This is one reason why "motion" stakes do not work. Bigger reason is honkers don't like motion in the decoys. The deeks can be "generally" facing the same direction. The geese will come in against the wind so position yourself accordingly to intercept. Decoys should be three to four feet apart, no further. Some guys think if they spread them apart further it looks like the spread is bigger. Big mistake. Watch live geese in the field. More often than not they are packed together. One of the lone pair should be long neck alert. When the geese come in, they will land on that pair. There, I have given up perhaps my best trade secret. Why not? I'm old and about done with goose hunting. Haven't put out decoys in three years but still get a limit every time I go hunting. Ten or fifteen honkers is about all the jerky I can handle for the year. I used to shoot up to fifty a season.
 

FairWeather

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For a goose spread in field go with a dozen (I now use two doz shells but doesn't work any better than one) in stretched diamond shape with a pair about ten to fifteen yards ahead of the narrowest point. Don't put them all facing the same direction. Bad mistake that a lot of old timers still cling to. Another myth is to have decoys facing into wind. Dumb because geese will be coming from the other direction. Geese on the ground will be calling to and watching others coming in. Won't have their arses towards them. This is one reason why "motion" stakes do not work. Bigger reason is honkers don't like motion in the decoys. The deeks can be "generally" facing the same direction. The geese will come in against the wind so position yourself accordingly to intercept. Decoys should be three to four feet apart, no further. Some guys think if they spread them apart further it looks like the spread is bigger. Big mistake. Watch live geese in the field. More often than not they are packed together. One of the lone pair should be long neck alert. When the geese come in, they will land on that pair. There, I have given up perhaps my best trade secret. Why not? I'm old and about done with goose hunting. Haven't put out decoys in three years but still get a limit every time I go hunting. Ten or fifteen honkers is about all the jerky I can handle for the year. I used to shoot up to fifty a season.
Thank you for the advise. Very helpful information in there.
 

Dawson

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Sep 24, 2022
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Try to get a couple dozen duck decoys total, just depends on the type of hunting you’re doing, here in western Oklahoma I put out everything I have most of the time which is 13 dz duck decoys and for goose I have 50dz, lot of years collecting. Our waterfowl seasons have been crap the last three years though
 

Cornell2012

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Portland, OR
@FairWeather If you are in the Portland area or willing to drive there, I'm happy to take you out a few times this fall. I hunt the vast majority of the time at Sauvie Island, which has a well-regulated blind reservation process. At most spots, ODFW builds the blinds so you just have to touch them up instead of needing to do everything yourself. Most of my advice is based on primarily hunting NW Oregon.

Waders - if you are hiking more than about 1/4 of a mile, go for the breathable waders. Oregon rarely gets cold enough to need neoprene and you will be sweating heavily if you have to pack in for any distance. I have a pair of each. I wanted the neoprene maybe 3 times last year, the other 10+ times it was an easy call for breathable. A decent camo rain coat isn't a strict necessity, but will help keep you dry in the rain. My hands get cold easily so I have a pair of waterproof mittens for handling decoys too.

Decoys - I have 3 dozen that I bought used for a grand total of about $150. Keep an eye out on your local classifieds - good deals will pop up.
Some people use spinner decoys. The electronic ones (like the mojo mallard) are illegal in Oregon so if you get a spinner, get a pull-string version. Jerk rigs to introduce a bit of motion can be good too. Inexpensive ones will be around $20, or you can probably rig up your own with some old fishing equipment and some elastic and cord from a craft store.

Gun and ammo - 3" is plenty. Let the birds get as close as you can. I used #2 and #2/4 stacked last year for duck and was happy. Size up for the big Canada geese but cacklers are basically mallard-sized. Make sure your choke will work - steel can damage your barrel if you are using too tight of a choke. You typically want as tight as you can go without risking damage to your gun. I had a rough time finding 12 gauge 3" #2's last year, but ammo stock seems a bit more reliable now. I had a choice of a few different brands last time I went to Sportsman's. No need for the $80 boxes of bismuth, the $25-30 boxes of steel shot will be fine.

Other strategy - everyone else hit on this already, but the three main keys are to hide well, be in the right spot, and don't do anything to scare them off (I'm very guilty of poor calling, myself). Let the birds get as close as reasonable - I see a lot of guys start blasting from 70 yards away and they'll cripple one bird after 10 shots. You'll cripple fewer birds and use less ammo if you can hold your excitement just a bit.

Side note - Depending on where you are in the state, goose can be a bit of a pain due to the restriction on dusky geese. If you are goose hunting in an area with duskys, I'd strongly suggest going with someone experienced who can help identify the ones you shouldn't shoot. Check the regs to see if you are in a dusky zone and if you need to take the goose test and get the NW goose permit. Shooting light for geese is also different in the NW permit zone (goose light is about half an hour after duck - check the regs for specifics).

Safety - Things happen fast in a duck blind. If there's anyone in another blind close to you, be wary of where they are. When hunting with someone in a blind, take some time to clarify who shoots when, who calls the shots, and if you need to stick to a specific shooting lane. Be extra careful of loaded guns whenever anyone is outside of the blind or there's any movement within the blind. Guns can get knocked over easily and wind up in unsafe positions.
 

manitou1

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Oct 29, 2017
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Wyoming
My gun is only 3”, but I’ll keep it in mind when I go shopping for rounds.
I killed truckloads of ducks with 2 3/4 while growing up. Don't sweat the 3.5".

Also, I don't know your experience level with the kayak but please don't take risks and be careful. People die every year using canoes, kayaks and inflatables... in warm weather. Cold weather kayaking in an inflatable while wearing a ton of warm clothes can spell disaster.
Not to discourage you but just something to keep in the forefront of your mind.

Also, plan for it to be 20 degrees colder than if dry land hunting, lol. Duck hunting in and around water takes COLD to a whole new level!😁

I would get an inexpensive duck call and get on youtube and practice. Half the fun of duck hunting is blowing that call! Call sparingly at first until you gain experience and "learn their language". Note: Goose calling is a cinch... give it a try!
You don't need a $150 call to call ducks. Millions of ducks have been called in with $20 duck calls. Keep in mind that different species (and different sexes for that matter) make different calls.

Although I no longer waterfowl hunt it was my passion back in the day and is a ton of fun.

Best of luck to you.
 
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