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There's a huge list of things to start duck hunting. Dogs, decoys, blinds, etc, and it's a chicken/egg problem. How could I possibly know how to buy and train a dog, which decoys to buy, etc., without already knowing how and where to duck hunt?

What's a good way for a complete rookie to start duck hunting?

  • 16
    First, you have to find an old NES... – Kevin Feb 21 '12 at 15:36
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I started with a buddy of mine. So he had most of the gear that was needed. I just needed to buy a gun, do hunter safety, waders and some camo.

Now if you're not in a situation where you have someone who already hunts you might need to do a fair amount of local research. The basics you will need are what I had to buy a gun, waders, and some camo. With the waders you will not need a dog right out of the gate. My buddy and I still don't even use a dog.

The next big problem is where to hunt. This you will have to figure out locally. Where I live we go to public land that requires that you have a boat to get to a good spot. If you have private land you can scout it out for where you see ducks and then you could setup there. You also might be able to find public land that you could park your car and walk to.

With decoys we started with buying a 12 pack of whatever ducks you have locally. Early season we tend to use less decoys because the duck travel in smaller groups and then increase as the season goes on. So later we bought another 12 pack of mallards which are the late season bird here.

The best resource I found while starting is the Ducks Unlimited website. They have a good amount of resources on decoys, calls, guns, and just about anything you will need.

8

There are many paths to duck hunting, but here are a few tips:

  1. Get a shotgun and just go somewhere. Look on forums or on maps for public hunting areas in your neck of the woods and just get out there with a legal setup. All you need is some open water that ducks like and a shotgun and you can probably eek out some shots. Camo is much less important than not moving at all while ducks are in the air. Bring a fishing pole with a treble hook for retrieves if the water is too deep (buy a Pocket Fisherman if you can). If you see another newbie walking around, invite them to join you. Two is always better, safer, and more fun than one. But don't tolerate unethical or unsafe behavior.

  2. Go trap/skeet shooting during the off season. This will make you a better shot, but also guess where all us experienced duck hunters go during the off season? To the trap range! While you are doing this, make friends, don't be a jerk, and don't ask to go hunting. Just demonstrate safe behavior and a pleasant manner, plus your interest in starting to hunt this fall, and you might get an invite. I have invited many people to my place for their first duck hunt this way.

  3. Join Ducks Unlimited or other conservation organization. You will meet people there too. Don't go looking for an invite or you won't get one, but be available and grateful if people invite you. Bring coffee/snacks/other tokens of appreciation.

  4. Watch duck hunting videos on Youtube. It can get you a little more dialed in on what to expect when the ducks come in. But know that you are watching the 3 minutes paired down from days of freezing and being bored. Don't get discouraged when you don't have the epic hunts that end up on youtube.

  5. Go with a guide. This can be expensive, but usually you don't need any gear and you can decide how much you like it. It can also teach you a lot about what gear works.

  6. Buy good ammo when you are starting out. If you aren't seeing huge flocks coming in all day, you want to make those few shots you get count. So assuming you have been to the trap range to make sure you can hit what comes in, buy top-shelf ammo. It will be insanely expensive per round ($3/shot), but if you aren't shooting a lot, it won't change the overall cost of your trip that much. When I can't take my dog, I shoot Kent Tungsten Matrix because I get many fewer wounded birds that I have to chase down or lose. It also makes me really sure I am not shooting birds that are too high or too far, because if every time you pull the trigger, you are sending a Happy Meal's worth of dollars after the duck, you get judicious.

  7. Buy an experienced duck hunter coffee, offer to help paint dekes or set up blinds, or do other off-season maintenance, and ask for a bit of mentoring. I did this when I was starting out and got a few choice hints about public land to hunt. If you get these tips, don't share them with others. They are a gift for you and you don't want to repay the kindness by overrunning the location with other hunters.

  8. Get out there. You don't need a lot of gear, and you will see your needs more clearly in the field than when you are sitting around pontificating about it. I have seen guys absolutely rule the ducks with a mutt of a dog missing a few limbs, one gnarly duck decoy that the dog already chewed up, and one RichNTone call from the 1950s. Mindset and tactics always overrule gear. Work on your mindset and tactics first, and then get the gear that supports how you want to hunt.

4

Being from Arkansas and about 80% of us Arkansan's duck hunt I can throw out a few pointers.

  1. Location. Are you in the flyway? Start scouting your local game and fish website about duck hunting. Join internet forums. Your going to get a lot of trash talking being new to the game and asking for help. DO NOT EVER come out and ask, where is everyone killing ducks out. Ask questions like, how is the water on so and so spot. Arkansas puts out a weekly waterfowl report, see if your local game and fish does too.
  2. Stamps and license. You have to have a hunting license from your local game and fish, and then state and federal stamps.
  3. DO NOT join Ducks Unlimited. Its a money hungry trash organization that has went down hill over the last decade. Instead join Delta Waterfowl.
  4. Buy a shotgun. If you can borrow one from a buddy to see if you even like hunting ducks, even better. I use a Remington 870 because it stays in my boat from November till January. Its used as a boat paddle, a push stick, a decoy grabber, and lastly, a tool to shoot ducks. Steel shot only for federal migratory birds. Our go to shell is a 3" #3 in Kent Fasteel.
  5. Decoys. Buy used if you can, check craigslist. Down here in Arkansas we hunt mallards so thats what decoys we use. Buy decoys that will match the species of ducks you will be hunting.
  6. Fields or timber? We hunt timber 100% of the time unless the woods freeze up and then we switch to the river. River hunting can be EXCELLENT at times.
  7. Don't even mess with a dog right now. See if you like it, and need a dog to retrieve.
  8. Calls. Like a lot of these points, regardless of the type of ducks your hunting, practice your calling.
  9. If you have to hunt public land, be nice, be respectful. Don't roll in to your hunting spot at 6:15. Don't crowd other hunters, if a place is loaded up with hunters, most likely there are some ducks there. Ask politely, "hey you mind if I hunt with y'all this morning?" Be prepared for some no's, but a lot of folks will say yes. Bring some extra little debbie snacks in so you can share with the group. Contribute something! Help with picking the decoys up, and you may make some new friends to hunt with.
  10. Be prepared to spend money. Guns, waders, shells, gear, clothing, gas money, decoys...duck hunting is expensive.
  11. Be prepared to scout locations for ducks. Most of our time during duck season is scouting where the ducks are.

Good luck!

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