Waterfowl Hunting Checklist
Waterfowl hunting requires significant preparation. Read our checklist of what you'll need before, during and after your hunt.
Prepping for a duck or goose hunt is unlike any other outdoor excursion. And one thing is essential—waterproofing. You should make sure your equipment, apparel and outerwear are designed for waterproof protection. Gloves, waders, boots and jackets should be designed to fully seal out moisture. Remember, cotton is the enemy.
Preparing for the Hunt:
There is a fair amount of preparation required for waterfowl hunting. Above is a checklist of items you’ll need to think about before you even get out to your hunting spot. Below, you’ll find some of the main areas you should think about prior to waterfowl hunting.
- Dog Training – You’ll need some way to retrieve your kill and most hunters use a dog. Before each hunt, make sure your dog is complying with your instructions and doing its job the right way on the hunt.
- Licenses & Inspections –Refer to county and state laws to make sure you have the proper hunting license and that you’re hunting in-season. That’s the easy part, though. If you’re hunting from a boat, make sure your license on the boat and on your boat trailer are up to date. Ensure that the boat is running properly, too, so you don’t run into any surprises mid-hunt. Check your boat battery, gas supply, oil and body before hitting the pond. Lastly, inspect your gun. Make sure it is sighted in, well-oiled and in perfect condition.
- Inspect Your Hunting Area – Watch your game camera footage, and make sure you are allowed to hunt the area (or have landowner permission). Ideally you’ll have 360-degree views, close proximity and easy access to open water.
- Practicing Identification & Calling – Always know what you’re firing at before you pull the trigger. You’ll need to know what you’re allowed to hunt in the area you are in. A bird & wing identification book can help you prepare for the hunt, and we advise taking this with you on the hunt. You’ll have little decision time when the birds are in the air so know what you’re looking for to identify it quickly. Lastly, practice your calls. Work with an experienced hunter to make sure your duck and goose calls are good enough to use when it counts.
For the Hunt
There are a number of items you’ll need for the hunt, and while we mentioned we’ve left out the obvious ones that can relate to any hunt, below you’ll find some insight into what waterfowl hunters never leave home without.
- Waterproof Apparel – If hunting waterfowl is anything, it’s wet. It’s important to have waterproof apparel ready to go, which means checking the seams and patching any holes. Waders, a waterproof jacket and waterproof gloves will help make your hunt more comfortable. Assuming you’re wearing waders, the pants don’t matter. Choose something warm and dress in layers if you’re hunting in cold weather. Many hunters take extra clothes with them to guarantee a dry drive home after a successful hunt.
- Guns & Ammo – Most 12-gauge shotguns are perfect for bird hunting. Choose a camouflage, pump action shotgun that matches your surroundings. A heavier gun will assist with recoil; in duck hunting you won’t have your gun on your shoulder until the birds come in to land, so a heavier gun is sometimes preferred. For ammo, remember that you can’t use lead shot, so look for ammo that has non-toxic pellets such as Bismuth, Tungsten or Steel. Have plenty of ammo ready as you’ll hopefully be taking a lot of shots. Leave some extra boxes in the car, truck or boat, just in case. If you’re a woman or youth hunter, you may prefer a lighter gun but remember to balance that with ammo that is a lighter load.
- Calls & Decoys – Having a well-practiced and accurate call, as well as a thought-out decoy spread, are two very important parts of waterfowl hunting. Starting with calls, you’ll want to select the waterfowl call that matches your hunt, but take extra (like a goose call on a duck hunt) just in case the opportunity presents itself. Electronic calls are easy, but sometimes prohibited in areas. Some basic calls you have to know and get right are the quack, feed call, mating call and comeback call. These range in tone and length, so get them right before going out.
The decoy spread you choose is likewise crucial to getting the birds out of the air. Select a decoy spread that is native to the area. Don’t get excited while shopping and seeing all the colors and variations, as some decoys won’t work in your area. Vary the size, too. Larger sizes will be visible to birds flying in from further away. If you’re obsessed with waterfowl hunting, go for the more expensive hollow plastic or molded plastic decoys. They’re more expensive but will last longer. Selecting the right duck decoy takes more instruction, so stay tuned for our full post about decoy selection and placement.
- Blinds – Whatever type of blind you choose, whether it is a layout blind, boat blind or chair blind, try to incorporate the local foliage into it so that you’re well camouflaged. Your waterfowl blind can be the most noticeable piece of your equipment to incoming birds so you’ll want it to match the native terrain as much as possible.
Having a blind doesn’t give you the freedom to move around as much as you want, that isn’t the point. You’ll still need to remain motionless. For this reason, some hunters prefer a layout blind because it forces you to do this. A chair blind provides more room and doesn’t sacrifice 360 degree views of your surroundings. They’re typically lightweight and also have room for your hunting dog so it can stay comfortable on those cold and rainy days, too.
After the Hunt
Most of the fun is over by now, but there are still important supplies a waterfowl hunter should carry for after the hunt. Consider these items as a take-along for your car, truck, or to keep on the boat.
- Cleaning the Birds –Carry some duck shears and gutting gloves with you for when you shoot your targets. Keep your hands clean while you field dress the birds with gutting gloves. We suggest full-length gloves, but any gloves, even rubber gloves, will do the trick. Some hunters prefer not to use any gloves at all. We recommend using field dressing gloves to reduce the chances of coming in contact with bacteria and catching a virus. The shears will help to defeather the bird that you hunt, an important first step in the field dressing process.
- Plastic Bags & Freezer Paper/Tape – Once you’ve field dressed the birds, get them into a plastic bag and wrap them with freezer paper and tape, then get them into a cooler that is pre-filled with ice. Keep the birds cold and sealed well until you can get them to a freezer where they’ll rest comfortably until they make it to a dinner table.
- A Very Sharp Knife or Set of Knives – For starters, you’ll want a very sharp, stainless steel knife to field dress the birds. A set of field dressing knives can speed along your process. A larger knife with a hook can help with the gutting process, while a smaller or knife or filet knife can help with caping or skinning.