So, you’re getting into duck hunting. Welcome to the most challenge hunt out there! If you thought hunting deer and elk was tough, try waiting around for waterfowl during the cold seasons. It’s not a hunt for the faint of heart. However, once you’ve gotten a handle on things and shot a duck or two, you’ll be in it for the rest of time.
As duck hunting season closes, there are a few ways to get prepared for the next one. If you are a beginner looking for a way to jump-start your new hobby, check out these five tips to get started.
1. Safety is your top priority
Keeping yourself and those around you safe is the first rule you should keep in mind. That being said, make sure that you have the proper training needed before you go on the hunt. Take the appropriate courses and go to the shooting range plenty of times. Make sure that you know how to handle all of the firearms you might use during the season. You should also know the guidelines for proper hunting gear. Doing all of these things will assure that you are ready to step out into the field.
2. Find the right gear
Once you have handled a few firearms during your safety training sessions, it’s time you found the one you prefer. Most first-time duck hunters opt for a shotgun. Probably a 12ga rifle. Other fowl hunters go for an automatic with a few hanging on to over/under rifles or pump guns. If you want faster firing rates and easy aiming, try an automatic. You can also work with a gunsmith to get the perfect fit.
Once you found the right gun, it’s time you pick the load. You will need a shot size that fits the fowl you are going after. These include:
Duck = #4 or #2 shot
Geese = #2 shot
After finding the right load, it’s time you dressed the part. Match your camo to your surroundings. You can also put on face paint and use a gun wrap (especially for the guns that stand out).
3. Get familiar
Now that you have all the right gear, it’s time you practiced. If you go into the field unprepared, you will be met with disappointment or, even, legal trouble. Make sure that you hone your skills by getting to know the gear you will use. Take your chosen gun and load and test it. Play with different chokes and ranges. Try clay and trap practices. See how you perform and perfect it. All of these little tweaks will pay off dividends when the season comes around.
4. Do your research
Developing a timeline and map of where you will hunt is the next step. Most beginners stick to public lands before going off on their own. However, these spots are often crowded and a waste of your time. When you want to try your hand at off-hand places, make sure you know where you are headed. Also it's important to research, understand, and follow the duck hunting laws and regulations applicable.
Scout a few of your top choices multiple times. You can also check out online forums to figure out some of the best spots, and what types of fowl fill the area. Knowing a few spots is a great way to get started.
You should also know when to hunt. Depending on the area and fowl you are hunting, you can determine the best time of year and time of day. Many like hunting before sunrise but if you stick around for a few hours, you could get some of your best hits.
5. Take the shot
Hunting birds is all about patience. Taking a poor shot can scare the birds from your hunting area. That’s why it’s important that you take your time and stay on target. Rushing your shot is no way to duck hunt. Take time to get your aim right and when it feels right-- go for it.
Pro tip for beginners: Aim for the last duck. Most hunters opt for the lead duck but going for the last will give you ample chance to aim correctly and hit the target.
Getting into duck hunting is a lot of work up-front. However, taking the time to prepare adequately is the best way to start off a lifetime of duck hunts. It might be hard at first but stick with it, and soon you will realize why duck hunters love what they do.