Waterfowl doesn't garner the same popularity from the masses as whitetail hunting, but it should.
Waterfowl hunting is sensational, and if you've been on a good duck or goose hunt, you know what I'm talking about. But for some reason, it's seemingly an underrated pastime. The only reason I can think of as to why an outdoorsman wouldn't love it is that they've never been.
In a lot of places, hunting is a part of life everyone takes part in. At least that's the way I always felt growing up in the boondocks of the Midwest. Then I saw the statistics of how little of the U.S. population actually hunts. The most sought-after game animal is unsurprisingly the whitetail deer, but don't slouch on waterfowl hunting!
My father and family never duck or goose hunted while I was growing up. I can specifically recall one night when I was watching the hunting channel as a child and a duck hunting show came on. The hunters were ecstatic and fist pumping after they'd all shot and dropped mallards from the sky.
I remember thinking, really? Could hunting a small bird be that much fun? I'll stick to the big racks and excitement of bucks. Fast-forward almost 10 years later, and a best friend of mine began to drag me along on some waterfowl hunts.
Now I get it! Waterfowl hunting is a special craft of its own. Here are 10 reasons why it's something every outdoorsman should try.
Sights and Sounds
Spend a full season of waterfowl hunting and the title above will make sense in a hurry. Stunning sunrises from morning hunts and sunsets over the water on every evening hunt is enough to bring you back every time, even if you don't bag any birds. Sometimes the sun rays are beaming through the rain, and other times the fog swallows it up. And in many instances, it's just reflecting off the crisp frost of your decoys like a spotlight. The sights you'll see over the course of a full season will blow your mind from the green of early season to the dullness of winter.
Not to mention the waterfowl themselves. Each species of duck is distinct in their feathers, and the colors are amazing. You won't realize how stunning these birds look until they're in your hands and you see how the sunlight bounces off their colored heads and wings. Water beaded up on the green of a drake mallard with the vibrant yellow black protruding from its head is a sight to see. Two of my favorite taxidermy pieces in my man cave are mallard drake and pintail drake. You simply can't beat the visuals of any male duck.
The glistening of wings as birds circle your decoy spread compliment the pitches and moves they make as they drop in. The boomings of shotgun blasts as your group takes the shots are followed up by high fives and laughter as the aroma of gunpowder fills the air.
The sights and sounds of waterfowl hunting have no comparison! Whether you're on private land in the Dakotas, a river bank in the central flyway or flooded waters of Mississippi and Arkansas, your eyes and ears will thank you.
Most hunts call for silence. That isn't the case with duck hunting, though, which is one of my favorite parts. I hunt just about everything that has a season, and it's a nice change of pace to not have to sit there and be silent for hours on end.
You can have conversations, joke, laugh and get to enjoy the people you're hunting with. Once birds begin to move within your area, it's time to get quiet and focus, but until then, chat as much as you want, as loudly as you want.
Very few situations in hunting allow you to do this. I've made a ton of friends over a goose field or in a duck marsh.
No Scent Control
This may seem like an odd reason, but not having to worry about scent control is definitely a plus.
If you're hunting the more popular game animals like deer, hogs, elk and coyotes, it's vital that you hide your scent and protect your hunting gear from odors. Well, that's not the case with waterfowl hunting and it's awesome! You can wear the same jacket and hat for three months straight and never have to worry about washing it. Not having to shower is music to a man's ears, right?
Trying to be scent-free can be stressful, as not doing it effectively can ruin your hunt. Not with waterfowl hunting, though. Just relax and take the hunt in for what it's worth. Burp, fart, spit or pee outside the blind.
This may be my absolute favorite part of waterfowl hunting. Seeing a good duck dog go to work is like something you've never witnessed. The drive, power and focus to perform for their owner is something special. Barreling off into frigid open waters and bringing a bird right back to your feet, they show sheer determination. Then, watching them set up again on high alert just eagerly waiting for the moment to do it again is priceless.
I personally love dogs, and have always enjoyed the energy a lab has. Once I started waterfowl hunting and seeing how they work and obey on a hunt, I fell in love with them all over again.
If there's a good dog on a hunt, I don't even have to shoot anymore, I could sit there and watch them do their thing and walk away completely satisfied.
They're a man's best friend for a reason, and watching one perform on a duck hunt is one of the finer experiences in life.
Lots of Action
Some hunts can be duds, but with a plan and good scouting, waterfowl hunting can be loaded with action. On a good day, the birds and shot opportunities can be constant, and when you're calling at birds and constantly searching for the next group, time can fly by.
On a deer hunt, you may get one opportunity for that big buck. If you miss it, typically you've blown your chance and you're devastated. With waterfowl hunting, if you miss a bird, you're just crushed for a second, but you could redeem yourself in matter of seconds.
Lots of action will keep you intrigued and interested all hunt long. I think that's one of the reasons I've come to like waterfowl hunting so much over the last few years. My first and biggest passion is whitetail hunting. I'll spend every possible moment in a treestand. But, when you're trying to kill mature bucks, the opportunities are few and far between.
You can become mentally exhausted and burn yourself out in a hurry. Duck and goose season always bring a great change of pace and some guaranteed action. I think that's a very underrated component of waterfowl hunting that people don't think about. Be ready to bring plenty of ammo when you hunt ducks or Canada geese.
Easy for the Kids
Kids are often dying to get out and hunt with their fathers and mothers. But unfortunately, sometimes it can be difficult at younger ages. Waterfowl hunting is a perfect opportunity to introduce kids to the outdoors. You can bring lots of snacks and they don't have to be quiet the whole time.
There's plenty to do to keep them intrigued the whole time you're hunting as well. They have the dog to watch and play with between shots and there's always water and mud to mess around in. Additionally, there are plenty of chances for you to instill good gun safety habits along with showing them what being a good sportsman is about. Just make sure you find a mild-weathered day and dress them accordingly.
A good duck hunt will do wonders for a child interested in getting into the outdoors. Do your good deed this year, and take a kid waterfowl hunting. You might just find a new hunting partner for life.
Most of the time when you're hunting, you're doing it as a solo act and then you enjoy the time with friends and family back at deer camp. Waterfowl hunting is like a full-time deer camp so to speak. You're out there with your best friends and family soaking up the great outdoors.
Without working as a team, you won't be as successful on a waterfowl hunt. And, it forms a sense of camaraderie and a bond you can't really find on other hunts. The duck blind can be a special place.
Waterfowl hunting can be similar to life in the aspect of hard work, patience, adjustments and lots of ups and downs.
Picture this, there's six inches of snow on the ground, it's currently 13 degrees outside, the wind is howling and it just started sleeting. Now you have to drag six dozen decoys 600 yards across the field through the snow to get to where the birds will be landing. Talk about needing some mental toughness and having to dig deep. It may sound like torture to most, but it gets better!
Then you sit and wait for three hours for the birds to finally get there as you feel like you may freeze to death. They finally crest the horizon and your heart begins to beat rapidly as adrenaline takes over. But all of the sudden, they don't like something with the decoy spread and they leave. Now, not only are you feeling devastated, but you still can't feel your fingers and toes.
So you go to the drawing board and begin to adjust your spread in hopes that the next group of birds likes it better. A new group of ducks make their way in and everything works perfectly and you limit out as the gun blast echo through the crisp air.
Talk about a rollercoaster of emotions and sense of pride when it all comes together. A morning full of hard work, mental toughness, patience, adjustments and a happy end can translate to life, making it good for the soul.
Are you convinced that waterfowl hunting is an underrated pursuit yet?
I'll jump right out and be honest with you, if you're going to get into waterfowl, prepare to be broke! It's a rather expensive hobby if you want to jump in from scratch. There's so much cool gear involved with hunting waterfowl, but it isn't cheap. And as hunters, you know we like our gear!
Start going with guys who've been waterfowl hunting for sometime. They'll already have all the gear you need to be successful.
The gear is endless, though, as you'll start looking into all the realistic decoys, the sweet calls, waders, shotguns, boats and so on. There's nothing cooler than decking yourself out in camouflage, sporting waders in waist-deep water and showing off that new face paint while you're blasting waterfowl.
Food! We all have to have it, and we all love it. There are two kinds of table fare here, though. First, let me get to the table fare you can have in the blind! With a proper setup, you can enjoy bacon and eggs in your duck blind while hunting.
Yea, you read that right. Chowing down on bacon and eggs while you smoke green heads out from the sky sounds good, doesn't it?
Aside from the food you bring on the hunt, the food you get from the hunt is a huge part of waterfowl hunting's appeal.
I remember the first year I started hunting geese and ducks. I'd always hear people say how it wasn't any good to eat. I've often heard, "The best way to eat goose is by cooking it on a board, throw away the goose and eat the board."
That couldn't be further from the truth. I've experimented with duck and goose meat over the years and have found some incredible dishes and recipes you can make. If you prepare it right, it can be some of the best wild-game table out there.
I could get into those recipes, but that deserves an article for itself. Trust me, save a chicken and eat some waterfowl!
What do you think?
Have I convinced you that the pursuit of waterfowl is underrated yet? Maybe not, but you should still give it a shot.
Vivid memories and moments replay in my mind every week of waterfowl season, and they make me daydream and anticipate opening day more and more every year. I encourage you, if you know a waterfowl hunter, to ask them if you can tag along one day this season.
I've never seen someone who loves hunting or the outdoors leave a good day of waterfowl hunting not smiling.
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