Beginner’s guide to duck hunting: Everything you need to get started

Hunting

Over time, most hunters learn which gear works best for them and their specific hunt. Experts recommend keeping your equipment as simple as possible when first starting out.

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Essential gear for your first duck hunt

Known as one of the most gear-intensive sports, duck hunting can intimidate anyone who hasn’t tried it before. With waterfowl season taking place in the autumn and winter, choosing the proper clothing is a top priority, just as much as finding the best hunting blind, decoys, boat, shotgun and more. These items keep you safe on the marsh, well hidden and dry, which all make for a successful hunt.

What to consider when preparing for a hunt

Shotguns

Although shotguns come in various gauges, the 12 gauge is the most common choice for hunters due to its weight and firepower ratio. Some feature camouflage skin with a low-gloss finish that helps reduce visibility to nearby birds.

Ammunition

Since the introduction of lead shot in the 1500s, shot shells have been manufactured differently to prevent poisoning in waterfowl. These animals feed on the bottom of lakes and wetlands. Despite steel shots being a more environmentally friendly option nowadays, hunters prefer to use a shot that combines tungsten, bismuth and other elements due to its range capabilities and consistent patterns.

Hunting blinds

Hunting blinds are essential so that hunters, their dogs and equipment remain concealed from any prey. Some are made out of plywood, lumber, branches, burlap and even natural vegetation. Temporary blinds are more common in areas where permanent fixtures are prohibited. You can place pit blinds near the ground or a bank, while layout blinds allow better visibility since a hunter’s head or face is only exposed.

Decoys

Known as one of the most important equipment pieces, decoys are exact replicas of different aquatic birds. Initially, vegetation, live birds and wood carvings were used as duck decoys, but modern-day iterations use molded plastic. Some also have lifelike movements generated by a small electric motor.

Boats

Using boats makes it easier to pick up birds, set up multiple decoys and travel to different hunting areas. Tan, black, green and brown combinations are the most popular boat designs. Sometimes hunters use kayaks or canoes since they are more quiet options.

Clothing

The weather can be harsh during duck season, depending on where you decide to hunt. Waterproof clothing is critical since standing and wading in the water is very commonplace. Waders, which are waterproof pants, are entirely resistant to water and have attached boots. Although some are chest high, others can be waist high or knee high, depending on your preference. Various jackets, base layers and gloves are also available.

Dogs

Not all hunting parties bring a dog along with them, but using one gives a hunter numerous advantages. With most swamps and marshes located in wet and cold places, a dog helps prevent hunters from foraying into dangerous territories. Not to mention, a dog’s heightened sense of smell also aids in finding downed birds that might otherwise escape a hunter’s notice.

Hunting guides

In the U.S., some guides are specialized in specific breeds of waterfowl, while others are known more as generalists. Professional hunter guides help to explore unknown areas whether you find yourself near the sea, bay, lake, river or swamp.

The best hunting essentials

Best hunting bag

Drake Waterfowl Blind Bag 2.0

Drake Waterfowl Blind Bag 2.0
Available in four different patterns, this first-rate duffle bag has a compartment for everything you could need during your hunt. The internal waterproof liner keeps items completely dry in the main compartment, which also features padded backing. The outer layer is made with rugged PVC-backed HD2 material that offers great durability.

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Best hunting blind

Rhino Blinds R150

Rhino Blinds R150
Made with top-quality material that offers a large amount of space with great functionality. A hunting party of up to three can fit inside with ease. The durable fabric covering can withstand heavy winds and harsh weather. It is easy to set up and take down.

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Best duck call

Duck Commander Triple Threat Duck Call

Duck Commander Triple Threat Duck Call
Known as the single best on the market for duck calls, this option’s brilliant design features a premium design with accurate sound production. Its triple reed casing improves accuracy and volume for a clearer call. It can create low and high pitches for a variety of birds. Also, it’s easy to blow without complications unless cold weather causes it to freeze up.

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Best decoy

Dakota Decoy X-Treme Flocked Drake Head Mallards

Dakota Decoy X-Treme Flocked Drake Head Mallards
Conveniently comes in a set of twelve that features an intricate design with highly realistic details. The six head designs are painted in lifelike detail with the utmost level of craftsmanship. Although heavy-duty and durable, each decoy is easy to transport if you find yourself on the go to your next hunting destination. Assembly may be a bit difficult and require more effort to put together.

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Best camouflage suit

HECS 3-Piece Camouflage Hunting Suit

HECS 3-Piece Camouflage Hunting Suit
Known to be one of the most comfortable hunting suits around, this set includes a face mask that closely matches a head-to-toe camo suit made out of moisture-wicking material. Pattern designs can vary, but all offer maximum concealment in your preferred hunting environment.

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Best hunting gloves

Mechanix Wear MultiCam Original Tactical Gloves

Mechanix Wear MultiCam Original Tactical Gloves
Out of all the essential items you will need, hunting gloves are definitely worth the investment. You’ll want to buy gloves that don’t wear and tear easily in different terrain but are also easy to work in. This pair is perfectly designed for rough conditions yet features a snugger fit with room to stretch. The fabric is also breathable if hunting season happens to be a bit warmer. Glove sizes run large, so you may want to order a size down just in case.

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Best wader

TIDEWE Chest Wader

TIDEWE Chest Wader
Whether you’re hunting over the water, standing in it or in a boat, these waders are comfortable and rugged enough to withstand most environments. It is designed with a mesh lining that helps protect skin from chafing and has nylon-reinforced PVC waterproof bootie attachments. The ultra-durable nylon two-ply upper fabric is 34% lighter than other traditional brands and can compact easily when stored. A free waterproof phone case with cord is also included.

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Best binoculars

Carson 3D Series HD Waterproof Binoculars

Carson 3D Series HD Waterproof Binoculars
If you are concerned about compromising certain features, do not worry. This set of binoculars offers strong focus power for your field of view and features an ergonomic focus knob on its side. They are also easy to carry around despite their weight and camouflage well. In low-light conditions, they remain sharp and stay fog-free regardless of weather conditions. A Tripod mount is also included.

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Ashton Hughes writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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