Thank goodness the weather is getting colder. There are many reasons for this, but my particular favorite is it signals the beginning of hunting season, especially for ducks. I got the itch to go duck hunting years ago, and through several trips, have become what hunters jokingly call a “quack addict.” There’s nothing wrong with wearing “flight cancelled” shirts, or to wear those Max-4 camo waders in style. It takes a special breed to be a successful duck hunter, and there are a whole bunch of people who naively think “I could do that so easily.” Yet unlike some other forms of hunting, and not to bash anyone, duck hunting is more about surviving the elements. Its about enduring physical and mental challenges, and also about becoming an outdoor lawyer of sorts, due to the numerous regulations. Here are a few items of discussion, that might just help you decide whether to go duck hunting or not.
#1. You gotta have a shotgun. No pistols, rifles, or air pistols. For some reason, a lot of people think an air pistol or rifle could kill a duck, but these strong creatures would just be at the most maimed, which is of course cruel. You want a one shot kill, and that is why I recommend a 12 gauge shotgun with a wide spread shot. That will guarantee you this “ethic of all ethics,” along with a much larger harvest. Youngsters or those who are small of stature, might want to use a 20 gauge, due to its lack of comparitive kick. Just remember, be sure to have either shotgun firmly against your body before firing, or you’ll get a bruise.
#2. The worst weather is usually great for duck hunting. Most of my success has been on the coldest of days, standing up to my chest in the water, after breaking up ice. That’s right, you are giong to walk in the water with waders, bust up ice with metallic tools, and stand still. Windy cold days bring the ducks into shore, and with the right call, you’ll have a generous amount of them by days end. Also, most days start at exactly 0600 hours, so you aren’t going to sleep in. Have you ever fallen into a river during an icy cold day? There are those who have, and those who will. You are going to trip over a branch eventually, and once you feel that cold water on your face, you won’t need coffee to wake you up anymore.
#3. Hunting without a dog is unethical. You have to have a bird dog, such as a English Springer Spaniel or a Labrador Retriever. This can’t be your typical family pet, but rather a dog bred for such activities. Often, these are considered the “sporting version” rather than the “show one,” and training is extensive. While they do have hunting instincts, you will have to spend a lot of time with them, involving recovery, as well as getting over any fears of being “gun shy.” A proper dog, will wait in the blind, and as soon as the shotguns are blasted, go in the water to retrieve its quarry. That dog scores extra biscuits from me.
#4. The cost can be a bit much. There’s loads of equipment, other than the shotgun, the shells, the clothing, and the pooch. A lot of duck calls cost in excess of $100, and you might want some heating equipment, and a boat is most useful. Most states require duck stamps that cost around $10, in addition to the $15 annual federal one. If you need a guide, a four hour trip will probably run $150-$200 per person, plus tips. The decoys depending on how realistic you want them to be, can seriously count as a “second mortgage.”
#5. The patience required is too much to bear for some. A lot of cold days, that would be ideal for duck hunting, I’ve come home with only one or two birds. Sometimes I’ve been completely skunked, and that’s horrible, especially when riding around a boat during those days full of icy rivers. Yet what’s the most frustrating, is when you think the ducks are answering your calls, and then they turn away before being in shotgun range. Also, you are going to miss a lot of the diver types, regardless of how good of a shot you are. Be sure you hit the right type, as some are protected, and can carry a $500 fine, your firearms and equipment being seized by the state, and a whole host of legal headaches.
These are just a few issues involving duck hunting, but this covers the most important aspects. You will have a lot of fun, and I laugh at some of those days that I was miserably freezing my tail off. A campfire, or warm house, is very much appreciated after a day of standing in a icy river. Each trip has been enjoyable for the most part, and a lot of my friends have joined me in my addiction. When the ducks are “commiting”, or getting ready to land by your decoys, the fast paced action makes up for the hours of boredom and suffering. That’s why I recommend it, and am looking forward to this season being another good one.