The memories of a hunter’s first duck hunting trip are truly special. Regardless of the number of birds bagged, the experience of that first hunt will forever remain among the top. The sights, sounds, and smells of a day in the duck blind are unforgettable. But there are some things that can help make your first hunt even better. Below is a list of the duck hunting essentials you should know about before your first hunt.
Keeping your ears protected from the continuous boom that’ll hopefully come from your blind is of the utmost importance on every duck hunt. Few hunts are as brutal on your ears as a duck hunt, particularly when you’re standing shoulder to shoulder with fellow hunters. You can go with old-school foam earplugs or the newer noise-canceling hearing protection that also amplifies the softer sounds and conversations that you do want to hear. Better units even provide Bluetooth options to pair with your phone or gadget.
Don’t forget the warm beverage for sipping throughout the morning as things slow down. Coffee, hot chocolate, or other warm drinks can be just enough to knock off the chill and keep you sharp while you wait on the birds. A quality thermos will keep your coffee piping hot throughout the day. Whether it’s before, during, or after the hunt, hot coffee is a great addition to any hunting trip.
Depending on where you hunt, waders may, or may not, be necessary. However, even when you don’t need them for wading through the shallows, they can still be a lifesaver when it comes to keeping you warm and dry, particularly on long boat rides, or rainy days.
Your hands will take a beating when it comes to waterfowl hunting. The combination of wet conditions, wind, and cold temperatures will leave your fingers cracking and miserable. Make sure to keep your hands protected with the use of a quality pair of gloves. Don’t skimp here! Buy the best gloves you can afford. And be sure they can handle the water. Gloves that work like a sponge are of no use to the waterfowl hunter.
One key piece of gear that is a standard among duck and goose hunters is the waterfowl jacket. This jacket can come in all shapes, sizes, and camo options, but it’s built specifically for the waterfowl hunter. It’s waterproof and windproof, and if it’s going to stand up to the rigors of a 60-day hunting season, it better be nearly bulletproof.
Some duck blinds go big when it comes to eating breakfast and lunch throughout the hunt. Others do not. You better be prepared when it comes to having the snacks to help get you through the day, regardless of what scenario you find yourself in. The hunger that’ll attack you while you’re waiting on ducks in the blind is like nothing else you’ve ever known. Don’t forget the snacks!
Even when you’ve got your gloves close by, Hot Hands are still a great option to keep in your gear bag. These come in handy in a pinch, and work equally well when you drop them down in your boots, britches, or jacket. They’ll help keep you warm on those extra cold days when gloves alone won’t seem to cut it.
One of the most overlooked items for the waterfowl hunter is eyewear. You might not think sunglasses would be necessary for duck hunting, however, when the sun pops out on those blue-sky days, you’ll find yourself wishing you had a pair of sunglasses. The sun can be harsh on your eyes. Forcing yourself to look into its glare is not only uncomfortable but also damaging to your vision. Make sure to be prepared with sunglasses stored in your gear bag.
Unless you’re hunting with a seasoned duck hunter, you’ll need to make sure you have a few decoys to get you started. And despite what you might see on outdoor TV, you don’t have to have an enormous amount of decoys to fool ducks into gunning range. Your decoy spread will obviously vary by location, but there are ample opportunities to find success with 1 or 2 dozen decoys on small-water holes.
A Gun That Fits
Rounding out the list is a gun that properly fits and cycles smoothly for the shooter. Hand-me-down guns are great, but not when they result in a beating that could be avoided. Younger shooters, small ladies, or smaller framed men, will want to make sure they have a gun that they can properly shoulder, reach the trigger, and handle the recoil at the shot. The most popular waterfowl guns are the .12 and .20 gauge shotguns, but they come in all shapes and sizes. And there are plenty of youth model shotguns out there to help smaller shooters achieve the perfect fit.
Make the most of your first duck hunt by having the essentials to make your time in the blind a good memory and not one you’d rather forget. The items mentioned above are the basic tools that every duck hunter will want to have in their gear bag or truck.