These accessories can make your hunt more fun and productive
Each summer, when the sun is blazing down, mosquitoes are at their thickest and ducks are sneaking around the weeds, unable to fly, it happens: The waterfowl hunting catalogs start arriving. Inside are pages upon endless pages of the latest gear, gadgets and gizmos guaranteed to pull birds in and send you home with a limit every time. And as hunters, we eat it up. Surely, a new spinning-wing decoy would help finish birds. And this year's new calls will hail ducks from distances never seen before.
It's fun to drool over all the latest waterfowl hunting gear, but really, the things we buy are limited by our budgets and the amount of gear we can realistically bring along. Hunters bound by small skiffs obviously can't haul the same amount of gear as guys in big jon boats with high-powered mud motors. Still, that doesn't mean they won't be successful. All you really need is a shotgun, decoys, waders, a boat, a pocket full of shells and your faithful retriever. However, some accessories can make your hunt safer and more enjoyable.
Here's a look at 10 waterfowl hunting items you really don't need but you might not want to be without.
Face it, if you're hunting over water, stuff is gonna get wet while you enter the boat and when your dog gives its inevitable post-retrieve shake. A good hard case with a weatherproof rubber gasket is a great item for storing items that shouldn't get wet, such as wallets, medications, cell phones and other items.
Oh sure, you don't need a hook to pick up your decoys. A good pair of gauntlet gloves (another must-have) can do the trick. But that hook really comes in handy if your boat has high sides or the boat blind gets in the way. It's also good for reaching out for those blocks just out of reach when you can't turn short enough or when the wind is strong. It keeps you warmer by preventing the need to reach into or close to icy water, and can also keep you safe, preventing accidental falls overboard when you reach for decoys.
Amplified Hearing Protection
Repeated gunfire isn't good for your ears. When birds are flying, you and your buddies might fire 100 times or more in a day. All those close-range miniature explosions can do some real damage to your ears through time. The cumulative effects can slowly cause hearing loss. Earplugs protect your hearing but limit your ability to hear the whistling wings that signal incoming waterfowl. Amplified hearing protection is the answer. These devices amplify normal sounds, such as those telltale wings, but stifle loud noises such shotgun blasts, giving you the best of both worlds. Van Halen would approve.
Folding Wading Staff
Time was when a guy didn't need no stinkin' wading staff to hunt over water. But as you get older, you get a little less gung-ho and a little more oh no. Nowadays, when that water gets over my waist and starts creeping toward the top of my waders, I get a little more nervous, especially if the bottom is soft and mucky. It's nice to have a little support. There's really no excuse not to bring a staff when you can just fold it up and stuff it in your pocket. Plus, you can use it to reach out and snare that bird that's just out of reach.
Along the same lines, it's nice to have a little bit of comfort when you're hunting. Sometimes, a seat can be a real luxury when you're surrounded by cattails and ground about as solid as a politician's promise. Folding marsh seats push down into the mud and give you a quick seat in almost any hunting situation. Sure beats standing up like a cattail.
Married hunters know the key to your own happiness might rest in keeping your spouse happy. Joking aside, the same might be true for man's best friend. Bringing along a dog platform is a nice gesture to your canine partner, especially if you're in flooded timber or other places where there's no high ground for Fido to stay dry. Your dog works hard for you. Treat it right. You'll get more doggy kisses.
Some might argue a spinning-wing decoy is a necessity rather than an accessory. And it's true spinners have become a staple for many duck hunters. However, each year, you see more spinners, flappers and gyrators. Do you really need them? No. The old standby jerk cord is just as effective now as ever if you're looking to impart motion in your spread, and hunters still shoot their share of birds over traditional, stationary decoys. But there's no doubt these new-fangled motion decoys are effective. How many you use is limited only by your budget and space in your boat.
When I was a child, my dad's old tawny-brown duck coat had a sizeable game pouch in the rear. Although upland vests still have such a feature, you don't see that with waterfowl apparel anymore. That's usually not an issue for hunters like me, but for those who actually kill a limit of birds with regularity, a game strap is invaluable. You ever try to carry a limit of ducks by their feet? Or how about a whole slew of snows during a spring conservation hunt? A game strap or three comes in mighty handy. Plus, it frees up your hands to carry other gear.
A spotlight is great for navigating your boat in the darkness, especially if stumps or rocks are present. They're also great ways to search out a promising spot on the shoreline to hunt from and to signal other hunters who don't know that you're already set up on the point.
When birds are flying like fake snow in a globe, it can be hard to describe to your buddies how amazing the action was. Portable video cameras such as Go-Pros have become much more popular and less expensive in recent years. Now you can capture your hunt on film, and the quality is better than ever. Plus, it's a great way to relive past hunts during the off-season.