By Josh Boyd
Every year, thousands of new waterfowl hunters join their friends and family in the blind, for their inaugural hunt. However, many other would-be waterfowlers are deterred from taking up duck or goose hunting, solely because they feel as if they are unable to procure the necessary gear to get started.
Today, more than ever, it seems as if a massive misconception surrounds the purchase of essential gear for waterfowl hunting. While it would certainly be nice to have a garage full of decoys, a fully rigged out duck boat, and a $2,000 12-gauge, this is simply not feasible for most, nor necessary in any way. In fact, most new waterfowl hunters can acquire everything they need at a price far less than most would think possible.
The following are the bare essentials that every new waterfowl hunter needs to get started.
If you plan on shooting at any of the ducks that you work into range, you are obviously going to need a shotgun. Unfortunately, this is where many new waterfowl hunters sink their boats, in regards to finances.
Can you buy a $2,000 12-gauge to duck hunt with? Absolutely. Do you need a $2,000 12-gauge to duck hunt with? Absolutely not! Finding a shotgun that you can shoot, and shoot well, is far more important than the name stamped on its barrel or the price it commands.
In reality, it is not even essential for a 12-gauge to be semi-automatic in nature, in order to be used for duck hunting. You can easily convert a longer-barreled 12-gauge that has been used for turkey hunting, into a duck gun, by simply switching out choke tubes. Alternatively, one can consider the purchase of an economically-priced semi-auto 12-gauge, like those currently offered by Stoeger.
Another “must-have” piece of gear that varies significantly in price is shotgun shells. When waterfowl hunting, steel or other types of non-toxic shot must be used. A hunter can easily spend upwards of $40 for a single box of high-speed, high-density waterfowl loads. However, a box of standard steel shotshells can often be purchased at roughly half that cost.
While it is easy to find oneself pulled down the rabbit hole of technical jargon pertaining to premium waterfowl loads, standard steel shot is often still the way to go. This is especially true when operating on a budget. At the end of the day, a distance of approximately 40 yards is still considered the outer range of effectiveness for non-toxic shot, no matter the name or price found on the box.
Many would-be waterfowlers also carry the misconception that they must spend an exorbitant amount of money on duck calls to fill their lanyard. However, this notion could not be further from the truth. In fact, one can locate a near-endless variety of duck calls, ranging anywhere from $15-$200 in price.
When preparing for your first season of waterfowl hunting, it is only necessary to possess two types of calls, a mallard call and a whistle call. Between these two calls, you can accurately replicate every vocalization that is needed to work most any duck encountered. However, if you also plan on targeting geese, then the purchase of a goose call will also be necessary.
Another item that many new hunters believe they need the absolute best of, is decoys. While one might assume that a larger decoy spread equates to better hunting, this is simply not the case. In most situations, a dozen mallard decoys is all that a beginning hunter needs at his or her disposal. Likewise, the same rings true when purchasing goose decoys.
A number of companies, such as Flambeau, produce perfectly capable decoys at a rather reserved price. These decoys will work perfectly in virtually any scenario and can be purchased at ⅓ of the price associated with many decoys of a similar design.
One item that every waterfowl hunter needs at their disposal is a good set of waders. This will prove to be one of the most valuable purchases that a waterfowl hunter will make, and actually has the potential to make or break one’s hunting experience. Nonetheless, a quality set of waders can still be purchased at a reasonable price.
The key to saving money when purchasing waders, lies in doing your research and shopping around. Instead of purchasing name brand waders that command a premium sales price, look for house brand offerings at your local sporting goods retailer. In many cases, insulated waders of this nature can be sourced from chain retailers, such as Gander Outdoors or Cabela’s, for approximately $150.
The Bare Necessities
When purchasing only the bare necessities, waterfowl hunting is typically no more expensive than taking part in any other form of hunting. With each successive season, one can slowly add additional gear to their arsenal, thereby spreading any necessary expenditure out over a period of time. At any rate, no hunter should feel as if they are excluded from the world of waterfowl hunting, solely on behalf of budgetary constraints.