By Josh Boyd
Duck hunting usually comes down to one stark reality. Either you are in the flyway or you are not. If you are part of the fortunate who fall into the first category, weather and a timely migration permitting, you probably experience rather noteworthy seasons from one year to the next. If you fall into the latter category, then you know all too well what it means to stare at predominantly empty skies on the bulk of your yearly outings.
Although duck hunting is as much about camaraderie with good friends and close family as it is rounding out limits, it is also nice to take some ducks from time to time. This brings to mind the question of what to do should your waterfowl hunting excursions begin drawing similarities to fishing in a pond with no fish.
The answer to this quandary typically involves fueling up the truck, loading up your gear, and heading toward more hospitable duck hunting territory. After all, if the ducks won’t come to you, why not go to the ducks?
But packing for such a waterfowl-hunting trip can often be like packing for a family vacation. You will inevitably make it ¾ of the way to your destination before realizing that you have left a much-needed item at home. This is where a heavy dose of foresight comes in handy.
The following is a list of items that should not be overlooked when packing for your next out-of-state waterfowl hunting excursion.
Permits, License, and Duck Stamp
Although you are probably thinking that this is fairly self-explanatory, it is important enough to warrant discussion. Unless you enjoy learning firsthand what the various fines attached to non-licensed hunting are in the state that you are traveling to, make this the first item you check for before pulling out of your driveway.
Conservation officers undoubtedly get tired of hearing stories regarding how an individual’s duck stamp is sitting on their kitchen counter 300 miles away. Don’t expect this to get you out of a hefty ticket. Instead, make sure that your duck stamp and appropriate licenses are protected in a waterproof manner and are located on your person at all times.
Additionally, every state has different requirements for waterfowl licenses and permits. Do some research before your trip and arrive prepared. There is no guarantee that you will be able to locate a 24-hour store to purchase these items once arriving at your destination at three in the morning.
More Shells Than You Think You Will Need
It is common for those that hunt in areas that are some distance from a flyway to begin questioning if shells have an expiration date. For waterfowl hunters that might not go through an entire box of shells in a season, it can quickly come as a surprise that hunting in the flyway can have you budgeting your funds carefully to purchase a season’s worth of shells.
It is always wise to bring one more box of shells than the number that you think you might use while on your hunt. Remember, it is always better to be overprepared than underprepared. This is especially true when going on a multi-day hunt.
Although the consensus would be that this is pointless because you can only kill as many ducks as the daily bag limit allows, never underestimate hard hunted ducks of the flyway’s ability to make you question your shooting prowess. A few misses along the way can quickly put a dent in your woefully inadequate supply of shells.
Nothing spells a quick retreat back to your native duck holes and a failed hunt quite as fast as a pair of waders that have been unexpectedly punctured while wading unfamiliar waters. There is only so long that even the toughest among us can stand having 35-degree water pour into their waders, before their duck hunting ambitions grow dim.
To say that locating a suitable and properly fitting pair of waders for purchase while on the road is difficult comes as a vast understatement. Therefore, having a back-up pair present while on a trip can be of great importance. This just serves as an easy to obtain source of insurance if given proper attention before ever hitting the road.
First Aid Kit
For anyone that has waterfowl hunted for any extended period of time knows, injuries can and do happen while in pursuit of our feathered quarry. Injuries always seem to happen when least expected. Out-of-state waterfowl hunting trips are no exception. This is why being adequately prepared when faced with such a situation can be of vast importance.
Cuts that cannot be adequately cleaned and bandaged can lead to nasty infections when wading through wetlands. Deep cuts can quickly become problematic in the absence of Liquid Bandage or other similar products, which could have been used to temporarily close some of these wounds until further medical attention could be received. These are just a few of the many scenarios that exist where the presence of a first aid kit could potentially save the day and your trip.
Additionally, if you have brought your canine companion along to handle retrieving duties, do not leave home without giving proper thought to their first aid needs as well. For more on this, be sure to check out Kristy Fike’s article, First Aid Kits For Our Hunting Companions.
Basic Survival Supplies
Very few hunters think about, nor want to think about, the fact that at any given time on any given day, a waterfowl hunt could turn into a personal emergency. However, keeping this mindset, and adequately preparing for this possibility could very possibly save your life. Blinding snowstorms, brutal lake conditions, or truck/boat mechanical failures can quickly turn the tides on a hunter during the dead of winter.
For this reason, before traveling to your destination, ensure that you pack at least basic survival items. Flashlights with extra batteries, matches or lighters, bottled water, and high-energy food for sustenance are just a few baseline items that every waterfowl hunter should consider carrying.
Pack For Success
This season, if you decide to make your own duck-hunting destiny by traveling to more prosperous ground, pack adequately to ensure that your trip goes off without a hitch. Being prepared not only makes your trip a comfortable and enjoyable one, but could also save your life if the unexpected takes place.