For many across the United States, the waterfowl season has started. Many have traveled north to Canada to catch the earliest staging points before the migration occurs. However, for most of us, the season is still weeks away. I thought I would provide a few ideas to make sure you are ready.
Prep I – Decoys
It all seems to start here. I made it to a couple waterfowl shows back in August and the blood starting warming up for the season still three months out. I immediately came home and started getting decoys organized. We hang all of ours for the summer months to make sure the decoy lines do not kink. The newer lifetime steel-coated lines could care less if hung, but nylon/mono lines seem to do better. Get those decoys out of their bags and hang them up for a while to straighten the lines. This is a good time the check the lines for breaks and frays.
Make sure weights are attached correctly and you have the right amount of weight. There’s really no need for a 6-ounce weight if using the decoy in the marsh. Those 6-ounce weights make for 4.5 pounds of weight add that to your decoy, bag and very quickly, you have a load. Try 2-ounce weights and save your back.
Cut those lines back too. Thirty inches may be plenty in the marsh, while river and lakes take more line.
You goose hunters get yours out too and clean them. Make sure the flocking is still there and your shells and full bodies have all the parts. Count your stands, feet, and heads. If you have to, touch them up with some new paint. Get your layout blind out too. Fix the rips, camouflage and clean it out. Do not ever wash it! Dirty is good.
Motion decoys need some attention too. Make sure the batteries will hold a charge, wings are intact and poles are all in place to be usable. Remotes typically need new batteries. so get those changed and re-sync all your motion decoys with your remotes before ever heading out to hunt.
Prep II – Slot Bag Those Decoys
I can tell you when it is cold and those lines tangle while ducks are circling to get into your spot—you will be in a hurry. Get slotted bags and put a dozen in a bag. They’re easy to carry and easy to use. I have also used new packable Deception Series decoys from Lucky Duck that allow me to collapse the air out of the decoy and actually get two dozen decoys in each bag. Finally, at the end of the day, those slotted bags make pick-up easy and quick.
Prep III – Decoy Innovations
Some cool decoy innovations got my attention at the shows. The new Lucky Duck HDi waterproof spinning decoy with Lithium-Ion battery technology is something else. These foam filled decoys provide day upon day of spinning and do so with included remote control, seven-foot stake, and durable bag. I like the new Higdon XS Pulsator with Lithium Polymer power that runs all day. Flambeau has just come out with their new Gunning Series decoys that improve the action on the water in just about any wind. Try these items out.
Prep IV – Boat and Motor
Now here is something you have probably totally neglected until now. Time to get your fuel motor out and make sure it runs. Old fuel might have been left in the carburetor or tank, and there no better time to make sure it runs than now. Change the oil in your four-stroke motors. The electric trolling motors have a tendency to leak water, especially when used in a cold environment. Make sure that have not ceased up and your matching battery will hold a charge.
Boats do one of two things; they take you into the marsh and either do so as an equipment transport vehicle or remain as your blind too. Camouflage is needed no matter the use. Get it all out and make sure that is workable. Build that boat blind, or make sure your layout boat is concealable. How about the trailer? Tires still good, wheel bearings and most important those tail lights. Nothing worse than getting a ticket on the way to duck hunting.
Prep V – Waders
I am not a fan of leaky waders. Not sure if anyone is, but I have hunted with some folks that seemed to like that form of pain and suffering. I suggest even if they did not leak last year to put them on and step into a pool somewhere to make sure. If they leak, fix them. Otherwise, consider some of the new breathable Drake waders—great stuff and guaranteed to keep you dry. Might as well check out some new camouflage and waterproof gear while you are shopping. So much warmth technology out there you should never be cold.
Prep VI – Your Gun
I am a fan of knowing how my gun is shooting. Take it to the range and shoot a few rounds to warm up. Go ahead and pattern your gun so you know how it shoots and where it shoots. Try a new choke or a few chokes and see what works best. Most people never do this and the waterfowl are many times the ultimate loser here with crippled birds. I highly recommend while at the range you take the time to see just how far you can shoot. Forty yards can be a long shot so also try your pattern at 16 yards and at 40 yards. Use different shells, loads and shot sizes to tune into the best performance you can. Another idea is to make sure your gun is not too obvious. Consider re-dipping or covering to enhance the look and concealment.
Prep VII – Calls
Never too late to get them out. I recommend you put them in the car or truck and get to practicing. This is your space; no one can hear you and make all the noise you want. Use your phone to record your calls to see what they sound like. I also recommend that you get with someone that can call. The last day of the season I got the chance to hunt with someone I had never hunted with and all I can say is the other three of us put our calls away. He was that good and I will sit with him soon to learn a few things. You can always get better.
Prep VIII – Shell bag
If this is not in your equipment inventory, you need to make it so. There’s too much to forget as you head into the field or marsh. I keep shells, calls, headlamp, facemask, gloves, binoculars, flashlight, extra batteries, gun parts, a multi-tool, wader patch material, some para-cord, shear pin for my motor, and snacks. Get it all together in one place and ready to hunt.
Prep IX – Your Dog
Oh boy, no one is more excited, so get that canine out and get some exercise. Adjust their diet and make sure they are healthy. I do not have a dog, but I hunt with folks that do and they spend an incredible amount of time getting ready. For many, the hunt is for the dog, not the hunter.
Prep X – Just Be Prepared
Everyone appreciates readiness. I think back to one morning launching my boat at the boat ramp and hearing the discussion of another group of hunters that had forgotten the key to their boat. Such a simple item, but it ruined their entire hunt. Everyone appreciates the hunter that comes ready to hunt. A good way to think of this is to compartmentalize the process. Break it all down into the day before, that evening and the morning of the hunt. I like to make sure everything I need is starting to move in the direction of the hunt. Not just thinking about it, but also, actually moving the items. If you drive a truck start loading the day before, continue the process into the evening, and to finalize the trip put yourself in the truck and go. Do not be the person that leaves their keys at home simply because you thought about loading the items, but never did it. Think and do, do not think and forget to do.
I hope these preparation tips help you have a successful hunt. I know everyone forgets something, but make sure this season it is nothing more than your coffee cup.
Visit Lucky Duck to learn more about their decoys HERE.