Are you always watching the Instagram and Facebook stories, posts, and videos of other hunters going out and hammering mallards, geese, and other waterfowl? Wondering if it’s something you’d like to do and don’t know what you have to do to get started and go on your first waterfowl hunt? I’m here to tell you that it is very possible to be successful if you are just beginning to waterfowl hunt with a few pieces of reliable gear and lots of scouting.
Growing up in a state that predominantly revolves around whitetail deer hunting, waterfowl was always an afterthought to my buddies and me. Working summer jobs and preparing for the fall always involved setting up trail cameras and tree stands, not scouting out areas where birds will be once the migration starts. That all changed after I went on my first hunt for some Canada geese. After seeing the first group of geese work the decoys and lock up their wings, I was hooked. Fast forward to a few years later and I find myself in a prime location in the Southern part of the Central Flyway.
Habitat Areas to Target for Waterfowl
Ask any experienced waterfowler the first thing you need to do before going on a hunt and they will all tell you that you need to scout. Figuring out the bird patterns will drastically improve your chances while hunting. The following habitat areas harbor all kinds of birds at different points in the migration, and they can all be hunted with the right amount of scouting beforehand.
These are low lying areas typically found next to a larger body of water like a lake or a river that hold large amounts of waterfowl. Cattails and thick brush provide cover that waterfowl look for as well as an area to loaf and feed.
River or Stream
Lots of waterfowl use rivers, streams, and other smaller bodies of water to roost, or stage during the night. Birds typically fly from these areas to feeding spots. It’s best to scout these areas during the morning/evening to see where the waterfowl are going to feed. Not all rivers, streams, creeks, etc. are roost sites, as it depends on what part of the country you are in. They can most definitely be hunted and with great success.
Fields and Food Sources
If you live in an area with lots of agriculture and can get permission to hunt crop fields, they can provide some of the shooting for ducks, geese, cranes, basically whatever birds are using the feeding area. If you pattern the birds you are targeting, crop fields can be dynamite.
All it takes is reading the rules and regulations for the zone you are located in and going to purchase your license and stamp and you are well on your way to go hunting. In most states, it doesn’t take 20 dozen fully flocked decoys to draw birds into your spread, which is also a plus for someone who is just getting into waterfowling.
Set-up on the Cheap Cheap: under $100
If you already have a 12 gauge shotgun for small game hunting, slug hunting, etc., you are well on your way to duck/goose hunting. You can go to your local sporting goods store, or order online, these items to get you in the marsh.
- Neoprene waders, chest or hip length depending on the water levels.
- Half a dozen of duck/goose decoys with a jerk string, if you’re hunting water. (Tanglefree EZ Rig Jerk String)
- Shotgun shell holder (Drake Waterfowl Neoprene Shell Clip)
Set-up for Under $300
- A dozen decoys (mallards are plentiful throughout the U.S., but you can mix it up with species that are abundant in your area) (Pro Series Refuge Mallards)
- Magellan Outdoors Men’s Neoprene Bootfoot Wader)
- (Mossberg Maverick 88)
Set-up for Under $500
That isn’t guaranteeing that after shooting some birds and realizing that you’ve got the “itch”, that you won’t upgrade your gear each season. But going off these lists, it’s very possible for any on the fence hunter to get started in the world of waterfowl on a reasonable and affordable budget.
Cervicide Partners that will immensely contribute to your waterfowl hunts, not only because of the products that they sell, but because of the knowledge of those who use them and believe in the products:
OnX Hunt- hunting public land can be a challenge, but with OnX you can see what ground is public and who owns the private land, so that you can get on the “X”.
Tanglefree- Great quality waterfowl apparel, life-like decoys, and many helpful accessories. Along with helpful product videos on their website that show you how to get the most out of your gear.
Badlands Gear- A company where “unconditional” isn’t just a word, it’s the cornerstone of their business model. This is a brand that puts the customer at the center of everything they do.