By Josh Boyd
As the days of winter begin to grow fewer with every passing sunset, and the length of every day once again begins to lengthen ever so slightly, waterfowl hunters nationwide are left to reconcile with the fact that yet another off-season has arrived. Months lay ahead until early fall waterfowl seasons come to pass, and the onset of cool fall mornings in the blind seem as if an eternity away.
This time of the year is typically characterized as a period in which we bask in our successes and ponder in our shortcomings. Above all, we wish for the following year’s winter winds to carry with them tremendous volleys of migrating waterfowl.
However, it is seldom long before the ins and outs of daily life begin to carry away a portion of our exuberance toward our winter fowling endeavors, and we shift our focus to undertakings that are more pertinent to the season.
As these tides begin to shift, much of the clutter left behind after a hard-fought duck or goose season is relegated to inattentiveness, until mere days before the following year’s opener. The resulting pre-season chaos can be maddening and lead us to wonder why such tasks were not performed upon the conclusion of the past season.
The following are items for consideration when determining how best to store your waterfowl gear for the idle time to come.
As waterfowl hunters, our decoys take a beating. From being toted around in the back of a truck or boat, to being repeatedly tangled in cattails and other vegetation, it seems that decoys seldom come out of a season in the same condition they went in.
Every hunter at one time or another has stated their intention to whip their decoys into shape directly following the season’s conclusion.
However, in the bulk of these scenarios, following the sunset of the final day of season, these decoys get stored in a shed or consolidated into a pile in the corner of a garage, receiving not a fleeting glance until the following fall.
By seeing to our decoy woes directly following season’s conclusion, we can save ourselves much struggle and strife in the future.
One key consideration when attempting to ready your decoys before storing them away, is that regarding rigging. Decoys inevitably become tangled in their bags, leading to a mess that no one wants to contend with at 5 A.M. on opening morning.
Additionally, decoy weights seem to have an uncanny knack for going missing throughout the season, leading to decoys that are of little use to the average hunter. By untangling and re-rigging decoys now, you will do your blood pressure a favor when trying to beat the sunrise during the following fall.
Decoy paint also becomes chipped and faded with time. This is yet another concern that can be remedied just as easily upon season’s closure, as it could be as you are counting down to future fowling opportunities.
What About Waders?
If it weren’t for our waders, we would be quite miserable on the majority of our winter waterfowling outings. This is precisely why it makes little sense to neglect an item that can literally make or break a hunt.
Many hunters simply roll up their waders and toss them in a corner to ride out the months ahead, only to be overcome with frustration over wet hind parts upon the next season’s first dunk in the slough.
The post-season makes a wonderful time to seek out and repair the pesky leaks that have become a nuisance in the months prior. By turning a pair of waders partially inside out, and slowly dipping them in a body of water or bathtub, the point of water intrusion commonly becomes evident.
Once the source of a leak is located, most can be patched or coated with one of many commercially available sealants. After a pair of waders have been inspected and any deficiencies remedied, they can be left to dry, and then rolled up or gently folded. Waders can then be stored in a location away from environmental factors and direct sunlight to minimize weathering and UV damage.
Don’t Neglect Your Gun
Let’s face it. There are few activities as inhospitable to a firearm as duck hunting. Our waterfowl guns are typically exposed to downpours, snow showers, and the always unfortunate and unforeseen dunk in the water. All of these less than desirable conditions take a toll on our firearms and do nothing to prolong their functionality and longevity.
If you happen to hunt in a coastal environment where outings in the presence of saltwater are the norm, these negative effects rendered on your firearm are effectively multiplied ten-fold. Corrosion can be the death of even the trustiest of waterfowl shotguns.
So it should go without saying that every shotgun that journeys to a duck blind or boat during the course of a year, no matter how frequently, is deserving of a good strip down and thorough cleaning upon season’s completion.
Skipping out on such a vital consideration for even one year can lead to devastating consequences for your firearm. By spending an hour of your time following the final day of season, you can ensure that your shotgun remains a constant companion in the blind for years to come.
Not-So Blind Luck
Duck blinds, much like any other structure, do not maintain themselves. With time, the elements can weather the once immaculate design of even the most substantial of blinds. Rain, wind, snow, and the sun’s battering rays all play their part in a blind’s eventual undoing.
It is always worth your time to consider duck blind maintenance directly following the close of season. Even if such repairs and upkeep are not completed immediately, at least take stock of problem areas or those items that warrant further attention. Make a list of such concerns, and make a point of completing these tasks one by one as the off-season drags on.
If you wait until mere weeks before the following season’s opener to assess the status of your duck blind, you will often be faced with a sizable dilemma. If a neglected blind is found to be past the point of repair, or repairs prove to be time-consuming, you can easily be displaced if such tasks are not taken into consideration promptly.
Be A Proactive Waterfowler
The saying “do not put off until tomorrow what you could get done today” certainly applies to more than just everyday chores. A proactive approach to gear upkeep and storage is often the cornerstone of a successful waterfowl hunter’s operation. By handling the tasks at hand during the postseason winter and spring months, you can put yourself in excellent contention to experience a banner year the following fall.