Are you interested in duck hunting but don’t know where to start?
It’s a common challenge for many. This duck hunting guide will help start you off on your new adventure.
Duck hunting is a fine pursuit that takes you back to your roots, ending in a sense of accomplishment. Although not a necessary activity, it remains an itch that you always want to scratch.
Getting into duck hunting isn’t straightforward. However, there are many details you must know before you pursue your interest.
This guide contains just about everything you should know about duck hunting 101. So whether you are worried about licensing and permits, places to hunt, or weapons to use, we’ve covered it for you.
Why is duck hunting popular?
Duck hunting is a rewarding activity. You get to have fun when aiming at the sky and taking that kill shot. It is a fantastic experience, especially when loading your hunt into your trophy bag.
The popularity of duck hunting dates back centuries as a popular pursuit for both kings and peasants. Almost every family would engage in duck hunting to keep food on the table and the noble tradition of duck hunting alive.
Apart from being an established part of history, here are some more of the reasons why it is popular:
- Duck hunting helps with wildlife management.
- Habitat conservation. As the duck population continues to grow, overpopulation occurs. Duck hunting reduces pressure on the limited natural resources.
- Duck hunters generate revenue for the state. In addition, federal conservation programs use funds obtained from license purchases and duck stamps as contributions towards ongoing conservation efforts.
- Duck hunting is a source of nutritious food. Duck meat is an excellent source of healthy protein.
- It is a shooting sport. Aiming at the sky while your target is on the move improves your shooting skills. Many people put their shooting skills to the test through duck hunting.
Legality and permits
You don’t just wake up and go duck hunting. There are legalities to observe and permits to obtain before you can plan your hunt.
Duck hunting is an activity that the state controls. The purpose of state control is to manage overpopulation and habitat conservation. All U.S. states have different licensing and permit requirements. Skim through these various licensing requirements and costs for the other states.
Generally, duck hunting falls under the waterfowl category. Some states will charge a small fee for permits. You must ensure that you have the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp for duck hunting before legally hunting these birds. Acquiring a permit also helps in maintaining migratory bird conservation.
Each state provides different legislation for duck hunting, such as specifications for locations, retrieval methods, periods, differentiation of species, and safety adherence requirements.
Acquiring a duck hunting license is a privilege, so don’t be tempted to trespass on private land unless you have the landowner’s permission.
Another consideration is the restrictions established by wildlife management units. For example, permits have tags, and if the wildlife management unit has placed restrictions on hunting in specific areas, you are legally obliged to avoid those areas.
Federal regulations by the Fish and Wildlife Service also often place limits on the species you can hunt. For example, federal law prohibits hunting endangered duck species. Therefore, make sure you know which bird you are aiming at before pulling that trigger!
- Any active member of the military service gets free licenses.
- Blind people are not given licensing.
- Eagle feather laws. This law allows only American Indians to retrieve eagle feathers for religious use.
When is duck season?
Every regular duck hunter always anticipates the duck hunting season with excitement.
Duckers must wait patiently for the official opening of the waterfowl season, which the federal government manages. Only once the federal government officially declares the waterfowl hunting season open are you allowed to get out into the wild to bag your trophies.
There are no fixed hunting seasons. Many variables, such as the migration of ducks and flyways, are considered. Due to variations in migration dates, each region has different duck hunting seasons.
Set regulations consider duck behavior and hunters’ preferences, but there is always a temptation to go hunting regardless of the season.
Exercise patience by waiting for the official opening of the waterfowl hunting season; otherwise, there will be less stock when the season opens. The chances are always there that you might receive a heavy fine if caught hunting out of season.
Make sure you go through detailed seasons of duck hunting in your state.
The government also provides hunters with a list of endangered species that you may not hunt. Learn about the various duck species and when you can hunt specific ducks.
Hunters must also consider the bag limits set for every season, so you know how many ducks you may shoot for that period. You can check the bag limits at this link to ensure you comply with regional regulations.
Best places to hunt duck
Planning is integral for successful duck hunting. Topping the list of your duck hunting trip is the desired location where you want to hunt.
Although there are hundreds of viable places to go duck hunting, specific locations are a hub for many duck species. You can choose the best location for duck hunting based on the number and variety of ducks available.
Every hunter has that one place they constantly dream about during the off-season.
Plan your duck hunting trips based on your passion to ensure that you can fulfill your dream. But not everyone can access these premium duck hunting spots. Choose a place suitable for you based on the access.
Five best places to consider
- The Atlantic Flyway has a wide variety of species to hunt. You also get access to other public spots for duck hunting.
- Mississippi Dela Ducks: If you are looking for somewhere private, this is the place. It’s getting tougher for many hunters to hunt on prime land, but the incredible scenery and availability of various species make this the best place for duck hunting. However, you must pay around $340 a day to hunt here.
- Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) Complex: This is the best public place to consider if you are on a budget. It has over 20 blinds in small ponds with a variety of duck species.
- Colorado’s South Platte River is another best public duck hunting location. There are around 32,000 acres of land with public access. In addition, migrating ducks come to their regular breeding grounds near water bodies, giving you an excellent opportunity to hunt.
- North Dakota Ducks and Geese: This best duck hunting place is considered to be the duck motherland. If you prefer a private duck hunting location, consider this one for around $350 a day. You are permitted to take down 15 ducks for the August season.
Best weapons for duck hunting
A good weapon is a hunter’s everyday companion. Your success during hunting is only as good as the weapon you carry.
Some guns are suitable for hunting, but not all are ideal for duck hunting. You will rarely see anyone arriving with a bow and arrows for a duck hunt, as shotguns are the weapon of choice for this sport.
Choosing the best duck hunting weapon can be tricky unless you take the time to do your homework or speak to the experts. But our list of some of the best weapons for duck hunting should be helpful.
Reliability, accuracy, and durability are the most critical elements when choosing a weapon.
These are the best weapons for duck hunting. Make sure you purchase your gun early and get comfortable with it before the hunting season starts.
- Remington Model 870: This is the best weapon overall for duck hunting. It is reliable, accurate, and robust. The Remington is your best companion for duck hunting during any season.
- Beretta A350 Xtrema: Try this weapon for any weather condition as it never disappoints. This Beretta model has unique features such as anti-corrosion properties, rubber outer layers, and the right chamber size, making it one of the best duck hunting weapons.
- Remington Versa Max Waterfowl: This weapon is for the duck hunter who loves shooting large shells up to 3.5 inches. It has a standard grip and shock-absorbing features, which are definitely appealing.
- Benelli Vinci: This is the ultimate best duck hunting weapon for a distance traveler. If your hunting location is far from your home, or you have to walk miles to reach a good duck hunting spot, go for this shotgun. This gun easily breaks down into three parts for portability. This best duck hunting weapon focuses on speed and reliability, which is every hunter’s dream.
- Mossberg 835: This is the best duck hunting gun for hunters on a budget if you want the performance of the Remington 870 without the price tag. It shoots up to 3.5” shells and is sure to make for an exciting duck-hunting excursion.
Make sure you check out these best shotgun case reviews when purchasing a case for your shotgun.
Essential duck hunting gear
Duck hunting requires an essential list of hunting gear. What you pack determines your safety and success out in the field.
From accessories to the weapon of choice, there are a few fundamental items that you should take with you to ensure a comfortable, successful hunt.
Must-have duck hunting gear includes:
- Your shotgun
- Shotgun case and strap
- Duck straps
- Call whistles or duck calls
You don’t want them to see you, so go, camo! Layer up! Duck hunting gets cold. Here are the clothing essentials:
- Camo clothes (hut, jacket, pants, and shirt).
- Rain suit
- Hunting boots
- Ear protection: Gunshots are loud. Protect your eardrums!
- Insulated overalls
Consider carrying these items for extended hunting trips.
- Zip ties
- Spare batteries
- First-aid kit
- Emergency flares
- Water – keep hydrated during long, patient waiting to bag your prey!
Duck hunting is a complex activity. Make sure you prepare yourself well according to your hunting location and the duration of the trip. Prepare appropriately, so you don’t get caught in the field, missing essential items that you forgot to pack.
If you have your dog with you, consider carrying duck hunting dog gear. You may need dog food, bowls, a whistle, and a travel kennel. Ensure that you carefully go through your hunting plan and list correctly before setting out.
How to spread decoys
Spreading decoys is fun and tactical. Always ensure that you spread them appropriately so that ducks find them irresistible.
A good hunter understands that to remain competitive during hunting, they must use all available tools to their advantage. Setting a good decoy spread differentiates good hunters from the rest.
It would be beneficial to use a surefire strategy when spreading decoys (if this is even possible). Ducks are clever – they get a glimpse of something that doesn’t look right, and off they go!
Also, ducks that have survived previous seasons are often more cautious. Decoys no longer fool them that easily, so be tactical about your decoy spread if you want to outwit them.
Public areas are under heavy hunting pressure during the duck hunting season, so you’ll need a few guidelines to stand out from the crowd.
Use these tips to spread your decoys to improve your chances of success:
- But, first, make your decoy spread visible. You want ducks to see your decoys even from a far distance.
- Spread good quality decoys when hunting for ducks.
- Use flooded timber to spread out decoys.
- Ensure that there is open water around the decoys.
- Ensure that your decoys look realistic.
- Always go for a quality decoy spread, not quantity.
- Maximize the use of frozen coot decoys.
Duck hunting vs. other waterfowl bird hunting
Duck hunting is not much different from waterfowl bird hunting. However, there are noticeable differences that make duck hunting preferable to waterfowl bird hunting.
Here are several differences that make duck hunting unique:
- First, duck food sources are often available above the water surface, making ducks easy targets as they are vulnerable when searching for a meal. Second, other waterfowl birds are deep divers; you must be extra careful to get an accurate shot when shooting these birds.
- Many waterfowl species are cautious about decoys, so spreading decoys for them may be a bit challenging. On the other hand, ducks are more attracted to decoys as it is natural for them to assemble in groups.
- Ducks quickly respond to calls compared to other types of waterfowl.
- Many waterfowl species are migratory. Therefore, it can be challenging to find your target species in two consecutive seasons.
This ultimate guide to duck hunting will help prepare you for the season. Who knows?
Maybe you’ll even end up becoming a pro hunter because you’re so passionate about this sport.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with the nitty-gritty of duck hunting. Proper planning is the starting point of every aspect of this sport. Careful planning includes deciding on a duck hunting location and relies on thorough preparation concerning other equipment if you want a successful hunt.
Always make sure you prioritize safety when hunting. Ensure that you are aware of your surroundings. Always know the locations of other hunters in the vicinity because your safety depends on a heightened level of awareness when out in the field.