It’s easy to get lost in all the potential gear you might need before going waterfowl hunting. Unfortunately, many waterfowl hunters head afield without knowing what gear they need to ensure they enjoy a successful hunt. Lucky for you, Hunter’s Wholesale is here to help guide you through your packing and planning endeavors with a detailed checklist. Our comprehensive checklist is broken down into four primary categories including essentials, nice-to-haves, dog gear, and other considerations. Follow along as we help you gather your gear for your next waterfowl hunt!
License and Permits
First and foremost, you need to make sure you have the correct licenses and permits. Keep in mind some localities also require access permits. Access permits can vary depending on land ownership and mode of travel, i.e. on foot vs. using a bicycle vs. motorized equipment. Some states allow a digital copy to suffice while in the field, but we recommend keeping both digital and paper copies on your person while actively hunting. Laminating your license and permits or carrying them in a waterproof container can be a lifesaver when tromping through the marshes.
Guns and Ammo
Are there ammunition restrictions where you intend to hunt such as copper vs. lead pellets? Shot size restrictions? These are important things to know before you get stopped by the local game warden. We encourage you to double check which firearms you have in your gun case before packing it in the truck. It would be a shame to arrive at your hunting grounds only to realize your deer rifle was misplaced in your shotgun case. We also recommend you bring one more box of shells than you expect to use. After all, your buddy talks a good game, but we’ve all seen his shooting skills.
Choke Tubes and Tube Plug
Much like double-checking your gun case, we recommend you double-check your choke tube. Many of us have several chokes that look the same, and you would be sorely disappointed when the first rays of sunlight reveal you came afield with the wrong choke screwed into your trusty scatter gun. If you’re new to waterfowl hunting or simply looking for a better choke tube, we recommend you check out the Rob Roberts Triple Threat choke series. Rob Roberts has you covered with a choke tube for every hunting environment you could encounter when waterfowl hunting. Indian Creek Shooting Systems also offers competition proven choke tubes including their Black Diamond Triumph waterfowl choke. Lastly, don’t forget to pack your tube plug for localities that have magazine restrictions.
This is a tough one. It can be easy to think back and wish you had brought more decoys with you, but it’s also easy to look back and wish you didn’t carry so much gear into the field. Fortunately, there’s a large diversity of foam-filled decoys on the market that are both realistic looking and affordable, so you can bring as many decoys as you like without breaking your bank or your back. Setting up an enticing spread is more of an art than a science, so play around with your deke selections and presentations to find what works in your neck of the woods.
Much of the thrill of waterfowl hunting is communicating with your quarry. It’s also a necessity if you hope to have consistent success. That means you’ll need quality calls to bring flocks in and entice them into shooting range. Hand calls typically come in a single- or double-reed configuration. Whether you favor the classic styling of a wooden call, the vibrant colors of acrylic constructions, or a combination of the two, there’s sure to be a call that trips your trigger. Whatever your preferences, we recommend having a couple options strung around your neck that sound distinctly different from one another to diversify your vocalizations, increase your ability to adapt to new environments, and create more realistic spreads.
You’ll likely be setting up well away from your vehicle, so you’ll need a way to carry your personal items. A backpack would suffice, but a blind bag is the preferred choice for waterfowl hunters who want the most convenient way to carry gear, snacks, water, and other items to their blinds.
Nothing is more frustrating than fumbling through your gear in the dark because you forgot your headlamp. Even worse would be not having one to begin with. Don’t forget to bring a spare set of batteries to ensure you have the lasting lighting capabilities you need outside daylight hours.
Cleaning Kit or Knife and Packaging
You’ll need a way to process your harvest after your photo session. Don’t forget to grab your cleaning kit or favorite hunting knife to help you debone the meat before it starts to spoil. A quick honing session the evening before your hunt will do wonders for making sure your equipment is sharp enough to get the job done. After all, a sharp knife is a safe knife. Ziploc baggies, butcher paper, saran wrap, or some other type of packaging material will be needed to wrap the meat and seal out any potential debris.
Protective Eyewear and Earmuffs
You’re born with one set of eyes and one set of ears. We recommend you take care of them to preserve them for the long haul. You have many more hunts in your future, and we want you to be able to enjoy all of them with great success. Even just a simple set of ear plugs can go a long way to helping protect your ears without inhibiting your ability to converse with your blind buddies. As far as eye protection goes, yellow lenses are great for increasing contrast between your target and your backdrop. If Olympic shooters trust them, then you should, too.
Warm Clothing and Boots
Your clothing should be guided by your hunting environment. Specifically, the presence or absence of water, the topography, the foliage, and the weather will all play a role in which clothing items you choose to bring afield. No matter the brand or materials you prefer, wearing several loose, thin layers is the key to maintaining proper thermoregulations and comfort. Wearing your clothing in layers allows you to add and remove them as necessary to account for changing weather conditions and your activity level. You’ll want just enough insulation to keep you warm without causing you to sweat.
As the iconic wardrobe mainstay of waterfowl hunters, bootfoot waders are sure to be one of your better investments. They offer insulation from the freezing temperatures, protection from the frigid winds, and a waterproof barrier to keep you dry. There are many great options from a variety of manufacturers. We recommend you purchase a pair that has reinforced seams for increased waterproof reliability as well as reinforced knees and seat for durability. Make sure they fit well with your thermal socks and have enough room inside for you to wear several thin layers for proper thermoregulation.
Surely, you don’t plan on standing out in an open field hoping your camouflage is enough. If you plan on filling your bag limit, then your best bet is investing in a quality blind. We recommend you look into MOmarsh if you’re looking for a blind that will last a lifetime. MOmarsh offers several different blinds at various price points. Their Invisi-Man blind is great for those waterfowl hunters who like to set up in the deep water swamps while their AT-X Invisi-Lay model is ideal for shallow water and open crop lands. If you prefer to sit rather than lay down, then you’re sure to love their Invisi-Chair model.
Anybody can rig up a decoy stringer with some scrap cordage laying around the house. It will surely get the job done, but dedicated waterfowl hunters know that would be far from practical. Sure, it’s cheap and effective, but cheap and effective is a far cry from comfortable and easy to use. Ultimately, you’ll want to upgrade to a decoy bag. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and price points to fit your budget and needs.
Be it a stringer or bag, you brought your decoys out to your hunting grounds in some sort of contained system, so we know you don’t intend on carrying your harvests back to your vehicle by hand. A game bag is the obvious solution for ease of transport and simplicity. Depending on how many decoys you bring afield you might be able to double up with the same bag.
Hand and Foot Warmers
Nothing ends a hunt more quickly than cold extremities. Waterfowl hunting waders are typically insulated, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Buy a bulk pack of hand and foot warmers before the season starts and leave it in your truck so you’ll never be without the little life savers when you need them most. Pro tip: get them heated up and inserted into your garments before you think you need them. It’s easier to pull them out than attempt to play catch-up when your digits are already cold.
Not all waterfowl hunters have to wade out into freezing waters to set our decoy spreads. Some of us still have to deal with biting and stinging insects well into the winter months. Be it DEET, permethrin, or an alternative solution, a little bit of insect repellent can go a long way to keeping you comfortable and allowing you to focus on your hunt rather than slapping and scratching your exposed skin.
We could list all the potential ways a multi-tool could be of use in the field, but neither of us have enough time to cover all that. The point is you’ll be thanking yourself for bringing a quality multi-tool as part of your standard field gear. It might just become your go-to savior when more than the flocks start to turn south.
It’s easy to forget to grab the travel kennel before heading out in the morning because your dog is likely clean and dry. However, you’ll be regretting that when you’re leaving the field and realize your wet, muddy dog has to sit inside the cab with you. A quality travel kennel will help you keep your pickup clean while also providing a safe, comfortable place for your dog while traveling.
You don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb, so why should your dog? Nothing tells waterfowl to stay away more than your trusty hound that resembles a typical predator. However, shopping for the best dog blind can be just as daunting as shopping for your blind. Fortunately, Hunter’s Wholesale provides a dog blind comparison chart that’ll have your four-legged waterfowl hunting pal camouflaged and comfortable in no time.
Much like figuring out which clothing you need for hunting, you’ll need to figure out how to dress your dog. And much like shopping around for your hunting duds, shopping for dog vests can be confusing with the plethora of options available. Fortunately, Hunter’s Wholesale has you covered with this handy comparison chart detailing all the most important specifications of options at various price points.
Dog First-Aid Kit
Your dog is susceptible to injury every bit as much as you. After all, you’re not the one swimming out into open water in freezing temps to retrieve your quarry. Hypothermia is the obvious concern, but your four-legged friend could also encounter unexpected and unseen obstacles underneath the water’s surface that might lead to scrapes and minor punctures. Make sure you have an assortment of bandages and adhesives to dress any potential wounds your dog incurs. Dogs are tough, but they deserve medical attention when the need arises. Make sure you know how to use the first aid components before heading out on your hunt. Just as importantly, it would be wise to familiarize your dog with basic medical procedures. This means teaching them to stay still in various body positions while you manipulate their paws and limbs before a real scenario occurs. Finally, keep plenty of hydration and nourishment available to keep their energy up.
A simple whistle can be a life-saver when needing to communicate. From giving directions, to giving your dog guidance if you find yourself struggling to stay above the water’s surface, to waking up your hunting partner from his late morning slumber, a whistle that works reliably when cold and wet is a cheap insurance policy.
Wind direction? Wind speed? Temperature? Chance of precipitation? You won’t know any of it unless you remember to check the forecast for your hunting grounds. The weather will dictate a lot about your setup, clothing selections, and gear list for the day. Learn to work with Mother Nature rather than against her. Let the forecast guide your decisions toward comfort and success as much as possible.
You harvested your limit – great! Now what? Hopefully you’ve remembered to bring your ice chest with fresh ice. Nothing would be worse than processing all that fresh meat only to watch it spoil before you can get back to town soon enough to get it on ice. Pro tip: freezing water in empty milk jugs and two-liter bottles can keep your ice chest contents cold for several days when camping in remote areas for extended periods.
Amount of Time Hunting
How long do you plan or hope to hunt each day? You need to take into consideration your travel time from your residence/hotel/camp to your blind. That includes your boating and hiking time as well as the time required to set up your decoy spread. Keep in mind you’ll be doing many, if not all, of these tasks in the dark. One tip is to work backward from your desired time of completion and estimate the amount of time needed to complete each task to get an accurate plan for when you need to wake up in the morning. As always, build in a little extra time for those unexpected setbacks to ensure you’re settled into your blind before that first flock starts circling overhead.
Now that you know what you need for a safe and successful hunt, it’s time to start digging through your hunting gear to make sure everything is in safe and working condition. Missing items should be purchased or substituted to round out your list. From there, we recommend kicking back to consider your knowledge of waterfowl hunting. Do you really know as much as you think you do? Take this quiz to learn what waterfowl hunting knowledge you need to brush up on before heading afield. It might be the difference between limiting out and going home empty handed.
Good luck, straight shooting, and happy hunting!