10 Make-Ready Waterfowling Tips

Waterfowl seasons can’t come fast enough. Check out our to-do list of activities to make the days and weeks pass until you’re back in the blind watching the daybreak sky for moving birds.

1) Clean It

Last waterfowl season probably ended in a hurry. It left you happily exhausted, with game in the freezer and memories to carry you through winter and spring. Now is the time to return to your mud-splattered gear. Maybe you want to buy a new call or two just to keep you busy during rush-hour traffic? Do it.

2) Claim It

One good move during downtime is to lock in hunting days. You heard me right. All of us have a calendar or two hanging from the walls of our house. But do you have one dedicated solely to hunting? This time of the year you can pick up year-end planners in the bargain bin. Do it. Then, write in those September-December waterfowl days. As a dad, I also add important school dates to my hunting plan, balancing family events as well. As a husband, my wife has plans I might not even know about it. Get on the same page before things get busy.

3) Dog It

How’s your canine buddy doing? If you hunt spring turkeys too, conditioning your duck dog has likely been on the wait-to-do list. While you’ve had seasonal fun, chances are that home-bound retriever has waited, her tail wagging, as you sneak out the door to chase gobblers. With only summer between you and fall duck hunts, it’s time to keep both of you in shape. Rebuild the bond by spending as much time as possible with your dog. This includes the off-season, and definitely when the season is open. Run (or walk) together on a regular basis, harness and lead doing their job. Throw that bumper for your canine hunting buddy. Get in that team mindset now.

4) Check It

If you’re like me, a serious shot shell inventory is in order, as well as a firearms off-season cleaning. Go to your gun safe, and gather all your shells. Chances are you left some there in disarray at the end of last year’s waterfowl season. Now’s the time to sort them out by shot size. After doing so, put them in original boxes if possible. Put random loads in small plastic bags, take a Sharpie and note the contents. And don’t forget to check the pockets of your camouflage apparel as you do this pre-season housekeeping. Next, inspect all your shotguns and clean them accordingly.

5) Float It

While many of you go duck and goose hunting with bigger watercraft, small hunting boats — layout options and even kayaks — offer much in the way of backwater access. They’re fun to use, and you can stash them in tight places too. Consider the range of options out there. These lightweight boats can also be used when fishing this summer as you get accustomed to maneuvering a new one before the early waterfowl arrives come September.

6) Craft It

How about some decoy touch-up work? Do you shadow your significant other at the craft store? Hey, they have supplies there you can use too! Go to the area where they keep felt materials. Pick up some black felt, and use it later to touch up the necks and heads of your goose decoys with a realistic look. Go to the enamel paint section. Grab yellow and green bottles and detail your drake mallard heads and bills, and also by mixing the two pigments. Pick up polyurethane spray and spot-fix your old battered decoys. Grab some white latex paint, and do detail work on your diver and sea-duck decoys.

7) Hatch It

Right now as you read this, ducks and geese are raising broods around the country. A ride to specific nesting locations — with binoculars in hand to keep your distance — might just be the antidote for the summertime blues. Sure, they’ll migrate later, but seeing them now will recharge your batteries.

8) Access It

It’s time to contact landowners who give you permission to hunt their properties. Renew that friendship. Lock down access now in the off-season. Sometimes you can secure hunter access from landowners directly, right on their land. Off-site places and situations such as roadside diners, town meeting places, grocery stores, yard sales, and even Friday night at the local bar, can also provide the landowner connection you need. Explain who you are, and what you’ll be doing. Once access is gained, develop and maintain a relationship. Describe what vehicle you’ll be driving when you hunt. Find where your rig should be parked. Make the person giving you permission, or helping you gain it, as comfortable as possible. At times, you also need to double-check the full ownership picture as possible hunting properties are concerned, no matter what real sources might say. Study courthouse records. What is the history of the place? Who really owns the land? Who calls the shots? Who neighbors the property? Who holds access to it? Gain their trust. Maintain the connection

9) Call It

A summertime calling session is always in order. You can do this yourself, or with a couple hunting buddies in your man cave. Get a recording device, and take turns running your duck and goose calls. Listen to how you sound. Is there room for improvement? Try to add a new vocalization to your repertoire. Share calling tips. Stay busy. The season opener will be here before you know it.

10) Back at It

Yep it’s fishing hole hot, but the sight of early-season honkers moving across the ragged daybreak skyline still lifts your heart the same way it did back in winter. For many of us hardcore waterfowl hunters, it’s what we’ve been waiting for all summer. Sure, the objective game management intention is to reduce local Canada goose populations (not “Canadian,” you knuckleheads) which foul golf courses, city parks, and manicured lawns. Not that we hunt any of these spots. We try to catch them on the way there, or elsewhere, depending. More goose hunting translates into a good thing. As a result, these seasons are staged around the country in late summer; many begin in September. 

Steve Hickoff is the Live for Hunting Waterfowl Field Editor.

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