By Josh Boyd
There is something awe-inspiring about witnessing a flock of migrating waterfowl as they cup above your meticulously placed decoys. It is a profound thought that ducks and geese migrate hundreds, if not thousands, of miles only to be worked to the blind by awaiting hunters, far south of where they departed from.
The sound of quacks and the beating of wings overhead as you ramble with your hunting companions is all that is needed to send your heart-rate sailing to seldom reached levels. These are the intense moments that bring waterfowl hunters such unparalleled excitement.
As nearly any waterfowl hunter can attest, for every morning sky filled with migrating ducks and geese, and every limit of mallards that is taken, an extensive amount of work has been rendered to yield such results.
Much of this work is done in the months and weeks leading up to duck and goose season openers, as die-hard waterfowlers rush to complete the necessary pre-season efforts that are required to maximize efficiency while in the blind.
A myriad of tasks, both efficiency and safety-related, await those planning for success this waterfowl season. A lack of attention to these details can subsequently be met with less than ideal, and sometimes, catastrophic results.
One such item of business that necessitates a proper level of attention during your pre-waterfowl season endeavors is thorough checks of all wet-weather gear, including waders.
Nothing is worse than being reminded of a leak in your waders during a pre-dawn watery excursion in frigid temperatures to perfect a decoy spread. This becomes much more than an inconvenience when occurring some distance from a truck and a dry change of clothes, especially when temperatures have plummeted well south of the freezing mark.
Care and time should be taken prior to season to submerge your waders in a body of water to aid in the detection and repair of a wader leak. This serves not just as a way to ward off the aggravation caused by wet under-wader wear, but more importantly to protect against potential hypothermia inducing conditions yielded by prolonged exposure to frigid temps while in a vulnerable state.
Likewise, wet weather gear, such as waterproof rain jackets, can be lightly sprayed with the use of a water hose spray nozzle, and then checked internally for wet spots. If such defects are noted, an abundance of silicone-based spray treatments exist for remedying such issues.
Another consideration of much value, for those who intend to hunt from a boat during the upcoming waterfowl season, is the inspection of the vessel in question to ensure against safety or functionality issues.
There are few times as treacherous to discover that your boat has a sizeable leak or an engine that ceases to run adequately, than on a bitterly cold January morning with reduced visibility and sustained 20 MPH winds. At the very least, it is advisable to take a brief pre-season jog across a local waterway to ensure that your vessel is in a safe and adequately functioning state.
Now is also a convenient time to check for the presence of life vests of the correct number, condition, and fit for the hunters who will be occupying your vessel. Not only does Coast Guard law mandate the requirement of a life preserver for all occupants of a boat, but this is also a common-sense safety measure that can, and does, save lives on a yearly basis.
The coming weeks are also high time to check decoy rigging and condition. You will thank yourself in the long run for your investment of time and effort, as you avoid the frustration that stems from the use of improperly prepared decoys. If you have never had the immense pleasure of sorting through a never-ending length of tangled decoy cord in the predawn darkness, consider yourself a part of the fortunate minority.
Now is the time to reline rigging, replace missing weights, and sort decoys as desired. By doing so, you prevent impending headaches stemming from a lack of preparation, as well as optimize efficiency when attempting to quickly and accurately place decoys in your spread.
If all the aforementioned points of preparation have been seen to, you are well on your way to starting your waterfowl season off in fine fashion. However, what is commonly overlooked among many hunters when preparing for season is the condition of all blinds intended for use.
On opening morning, more times than not, it seems that although all gear has been prepared in advance, the status of the blind for the morning has not. This leads to a somewhat comical, yet frustrating scenario that is typically characterized by one hunter putting out decoys, while all other available hands cut brush by any means necessary in an attempt to brush in the blind before daylight’s arrival.
In the weeks preceding waterfowl season, it is highly advisable to visit all blinds that are intended for use, checking both their structural integrity, as well as their concealment. By tending to this matter in advance, you leave yourself adequate time to make any warranted repairs, and cut and place brush as needed to break up the outline of your blind.
In the coming weeks, droves of die-hard waterfowl hunters will descend on every marsh, slough, and lake at their disposal. Those that have adequately prepared, will make the most out of their endeavors. The procrastinators among us will fight an uphill battle, with the weather forecast and migration status being the least of their concerns. Make strides toward success in the coming weeks, in exchange for a winter’s worth of success.