Duck Hunting: Lessons Learned

I was lucky enough to be invited on an excellent duck hunt in Advance, Missouri earlier this month.  I have never been duck hunting, and didn’t have any equipment other than some odds and ends an a Beretta 12 gauge.  I was able to borrow my buddy’s waders (the boots were two sizes too big…fun (and free)), and he helped me get organized for the trip.  I pulled the trigger on quite a bit:

Neoprene gloves
Sweatpants for under the waders
Wool toboggan
…and some other odds and ends.

I was able to put everything together and have a successful, and comfortable trip.  Throughout the three hunts, I did pick up on a few things that will make the next trip even better.

From top left:

1. Head Lamp:  Luckily I grabbed on right before I left, and I’m glad I did.  Considering we were out and setting up decoys and coordinating in the blind/pit well before the sunrise, it was important to have light.  The secondary red bulb was nice for when the high-powered lumens weren’t needed.
2. A Coffee Thermos:  I brought my 22 oz. Hydro Flask pictured here, and I think it was just right.  The lid is perfect so I can throw it in my blind bag without worrying about any leakage.  The size was just right: just enough coffee but enough to get me through the first hour.  The reality is that drinking too much in the blind causes the need for a lot of bathroom breaks.  Duck waders make that somewhat prohibitive.
3. A Serious Neck/Face Gaiter:  I brought out a gaiter that was a single fleece layer, which didn’t provide enough warmth.  Next time I’ll have something more serious.  I don’t want one that covers my entire face, but enough so that my cheeks and nose are covered, and a toboggan can cover my ears and forehead.
4. A Waxed Cotton Cap:  The last day we hunted it was rainy and a little warmer.  No need for a heavy toboggan, so I wore a waxed cotton hat.  It was perfect.  Just enough to keep my head dry, and it wasn’t as big and bulky.  I am completely sold on waxed cotton.  The utility is unmatched.
5. Heavy Wool Socks:  The waders had lined boots, but in my opinion, they weren’t lined enough.  I brought some good socks, but needed great socks.  The outdoor gear technology is too good to be cold (or wet).  I’m happy to spend the extra money for that comfort.
6. Slip on Bean Boots:  Bean boots are a no brainer when duck hunting, but I included these because they are the slip on, Lounger model.  I brought my Loungers, and I’m really glad I did.  Thinking about having to lace up/tie boots after a hunt is a hassle.
7. Really Good Gloves:  I made the mistake of bringing a cheap pair of neoprene gloves.  They worked, but they didn’t provide much warmth.  After talking with a guide, he recommended that some of the best money you can spend is on hand and head protection.  A lot of the guys swore by Sitkas, and while they are an up front investment, it would pay off on a cold morning in a duck blind.
8. Waterproof Blind Bag:  I brought this Yeti Panga 50 as my blind bag.  The bag is very tough, and completely waterproof.  I got some looks from guys who were completely camo’ed out, but after a day and some inclement weather, they were asking for real estate in this bag.  It kept everything completely dry, was a nice shape, plenty of room, and the backpack made it a cinch to carry.  I can’t wait to take this fishing…

Hey Waterfowlers: any other tips to share?




  1. Fritz
    01/02/2018 / 9:46 AM

    Spend money on a good set of waders, the margin between the economy and quality brands is pretty large.  I also prefer to use a shotgun that is cerakoted/parkerized/etc. as waterfowl conditions can beat up guns pretty quickly.

  2. PS
    01/02/2018 / 4:12 PM

    A lot of the gear you need depends on where you’re hunting, ie a walk in blind in a rice field, flooded timber, or in the marsh with a long boat ride, but you covered most of it. I like a small Maglight on a lanyard in addition to a head lamp. Good waders that fit and that you’ve checked for leaks are key. Base layers make all the difference. Guys I hunt with swear by the Velcro straps you put around your ankles to keep your jeans/base layer from riding up in your waders. I keep a spare pair of gloves, waterproof matches/lighter, and a roll of toilet paper in a ziplock in my blind bag just in case. And if you hunt in the marsh where it can go from 30 degrees to 68 degrees in one morning bring a Thermacell to keep the mosquitoes off.

    01/03/2018 / 11:53 AM

    I hunt flooded timber in Arkansas and wear waxed cotton hat, jacket, and bullet vest. My other gear consists of duck calls, waders, head lamp, antique leather duck lanyard of my great grand father’s, heavy duty rubber decoy gloves, a pair of leather shooting gloves, a face mask/camo buff, electronic headphones for ear protection, a sack of mixed decoys, motion decoy, spinning wing decoy, coffee thermos, camo 12g Browning Citori O/U, heavy metal 3in #3, license with stamps, duck boat with mud motor, and a good friend. 

    Happy hunting and glad your are joining the waterfowl hunting tradition!

  4. JOH
    01/06/2018 / 4:37 PM

    I’ve found that heavy fleece neck gaiters can get too hot with some activity and can be lacking when sitting in the cold, with too much air escaping because of a loose fit. You might consider something in wool, like this from First Lite:

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