View Full Version : Waterfowling 101, part 3 – Riggin’ out

Ian F.
09-24-2007, 11:24 AM
Been a bit of a stretch between “chapters”, life has caught me pretty hard lately as I try to get everything done for work, family and otherwise before the magical time of year begins.

So where were we at?


Mallards are puddlers and as such feed on a variety of plants predominately. As puddlers their food needs to be accessible to their “dipping” so within about 12” of the surface, on the surface or within 12” above it. Fields are other choices. Find the plants ducks like and you’ll find the ducks! Ducks are just like guys, food and sex runs their lives, DON’T FORGET THIS!

Eclipse plumage is when all the puddlers look like hens, yet you can still pick out the drakes in hand. Wings are 100% and if you want to find out more spend some time with Carney (http://mercury.bio.uaf.edu/courses/wlf419/wing_age_sex/duckplum/duckplum.htm (http://mercury.bio.uaf.edu/courses/wlf419/wing_age_sex/duckplum/duckplum.htm)) this is literally the bible and used by all the professionals. Also, look at the bills, drakes are olive, hens orange. Drakes have a black stripe down the middle, hens have black splotch with little dots all around it. There are lots of greenheads around as of yesterday (Sept 23rd)

RIggin’ out,

One of the huge differentiators of waterfowling and other forms of hunting is the gear. We have decoys, boats, blinds, waders, coats, dogs and all other assortment of things that the other hunters don’t worry about. This is half the fun of waterfowling!

Basics – coat
I would say next to a scattergun, a good WATERPROOF coat is you most important purchase. There are many makers out there, some better then others, some pricier. You’ll need to make that choice. I like systems coats, commonly called 4 in 1’s and I prefer wader length. If you never leave a field then a regular length is fine, but if you wade, or will wade, buy the shortly!


Basics – Face mask
If there is one area that most waterfowler simply miss it’s covering their white faces! You can pick hunters out in the marsh for 2 reasons, 1. They are taller then the vegetation around them. 2. Their faces look like beacons. Correct this, buy a face mask! I like the ones with the plastic rim thingy (I wear shooting glasses). Choice is yours, just wear one if you want to kill more ducks!

Basics – Gloves
Take the principals above and apply to hands, think about calling and using your hands to change the sound, get the point? I use nipple gloves for early season, others as needed in the cold and big orange waterproof polar grips for working with decoys.

Basics –Waders
Few of us can consistently hunt dry fields and not have the need for waders, if you are the exception give me a call I’m more then willing to help you shoot birds! If you are like the majority then you need waders. Dark colours are fine, camo better. Neoprene is a great choice for one all around pair. I bought some breathable gunning waders this year as I find it too warm here for my neoprenes until later in the season. Use what you have or can afford, if buying for gunning Cabelas home brand is hard to beat.


Basics – Hats
Get a camo one, NO ORANGE ANYWHERE! Remember this is what sticks up the highest and is first seen by birds, oh and if you live in the lower mainland, remember it tends to rain here.

The basics explained,

You may or may not have figured this out, but if you are camoed from head to toe, you are the blind! You are all the movement that can scare ducks and you have taken every precaution you can to reduce your appearance, this means more ducks! Sit in the grass in full camo and you’ll kill ducks, plain and simple. Everything else you do adds to this base, keep it in mind, and yes you can kill ducks in a jean jacket, but this article series is about the right choices, when you are ready to make them.

As a world class carver myself (brag, brag, brag www.partridgecreek.ca (http://www.partridgecreek.ca/)) decoys are something I live everyday. But do you need to hunt over a rig of hand carved dekes, hell no! BUT, some dekes, 2 or more is better then none. Get what you can, what you can afford but get something!


The best deal in decoys right now is Greenhead Gear hotbuys, you can get a dozen mallards for $25 U.S.! Take a drive to Bellingham or Burlington, hit Joes or the new Sportsman’s warehouse (burl) and you’re rigged out! Drive not an option? The net for U.S. suppliers (remember duty and BS) or St. Lawrence outfitters for Canada (http://www.stlawrenceoutfitters.com/ (http://www.stlawrenceoutfitters.com/))

I would say your basic BC spread would start with a dozen mallards, 2 dozen would be better. Some widgeon and pintails even better, but you’ll kill plenty with a dozen or two, and remember this waterfowling 101, not advanced class!

You’ll need anchors and lines; I like tarred cord (Fishery suppliers) and make my own weights, lots of options here.

As for field decoys I’ll talk about that separately.

Waterfowling and boats, is like bacon and eggs, they go together! I’ve built 5 duck boats and still have yet to find the right one, but that’s the beauty! If you can’t walk in, set decoys and retrieve downed birds all in waders you’ll need a boat! The options are limitless and dictated by the way you hunt, which you may not even know yet. I’m not going to make much of recommendation here, just to say use what you’ve got to start and then go from there. I’m happy to talk boats all day long!

One thing to keep in mind is there is no one duck boat, period! I think you need 3 to 4 to cover all situations, 1. An open water boat 14-16 open style, 2. Small water power boat like a sneakbox, 3. One man marsh boat like an aquapod and lastly the universal Canadian Icon, and good canoe. And I’d start with the canoe!


There are a few other odds and sods for riggin out, like decoy bags, gear bags, gun cases etc, but I’ve run out of time for today..

Almost forgot your homework….

You have 3 mallards cupped and decoyed inside 20yards feet down, which one do you shoot first, second, third? What if 1 is a hen, does this change your answer? Add the why to your answer, and this is not meant to be a urination contest of hen vs drake shooting!

09-24-2007, 01:18 PM
good read Ian.

For the 3 comitted mallards, I'd shoot #2 first, let recoil take me over to #1, and then take a look at #3. This is assuming #1 is the closest, #3 is the furhterest. Now I don't know how a hen would affect this, but if I am shooting greenheads, 1 shell stays in the gun.

09-24-2007, 07:33 PM
For me it would be middle first then closest with a shell left in the gun incase either one is a cripple. I'd take the two drakes if I could but I'm not wedded to only shooting drakes.

09-24-2007, 07:40 PM
I didn't read that I'm sure it's good, I hunt ducks 4 km's from my house and my buddy and I limit out in 45 min...laughing and smoking a cigar the whole time. Geese, on the other hand are too smart for our little hole. They fly over but don't get close enough.

Ian F.
09-24-2007, 08:07 PM
So as not to belinger it...

here's "the answer"....

1. All birds are totally killable inside 20 yards.

2. The furthest bird out, will be the first one to be out of range, the closest the last.

3. Shoot the furthest bird first, then the second furthest and the closest last, opposite what most do, simple physics.

4. Drake or hen is a personal choice and either are totally legal in Canada. BUT, refer back to the previous lesson, how can we be sure it's a hen until it's in hand?


09-24-2007, 10:22 PM
Hmmm. See, for me, I'd shoot one duck and follow it until it hits the water and I'm sure it's dead before considering trying for the next one, by which time they'd be out of range anyway... The one time I didn't do that, the first duck I shot wasn't quite dead and took off, crippled, while I was getting a bead on the second duck. Luckily my hunting buddy at the time was an old hand and finished the poor bugger off for me :) Maybe in a few years I'll be confident enough of my shot to take my eyes of the first duck and try for a second in the same flight.

09-24-2007, 10:27 PM
All good stuff Ian. Looking forward to a chapter on decoy patterns. Don't keep us waiting too long !

09-25-2007, 11:16 AM
Question about rigging out. I have pretty much everything on your basics list, including a dozen decoys. Now, if I were going to spend a small amount on the next step, I could probably get
a) Baby mojo
b) Dozen mallards + Air lucky spinning wing decoy
c) Half dozen puddler decoys (pintail, widgeon, gadwall) + Air lucky
d) Dozen mallards + half dozen puddlers

Or I could save half my money and only buy one of the items in b-d. Or I could add a couple of duck butts (feeding) decoys, or a confidence heron, or something else fancy. There certainly seems to be lots available in the Cabelas catalogue :)

I guess at any price range, the general question is, big spreads of standard decoys, or smaller total numbers, but more variety/movement? Perhaps part 4 will answer all my questions.

09-25-2007, 10:43 PM
I usually hunt with a buddy or two so with 3 committed mallards in close, I take the one on my side first, then go for what's left.:smile:
If I were alone, I usually take the bird that just looks to be the best shot and let it have it. Then I move on to the next bird I can get a bead on. No too many triples for me but I do get quite a few doubles!
My hunting partner, Ol' Dan said the same thing about taking the furthest bird first etc., mind you, he's shot a lot of birds and his challenge now is to try and triple (seen him triple twice in one day!) :smile:
Again, good stuff Ian. Probably one of the biggest improvements I could make would be to wear a camo mask or even use face paint. I stsrted to wear gloves last year and found it was a great way to get a good feel for the gun, keep the hands warmer, and because my gloves are thin I can shoot with them on.
I use about 20 mallard decoys (half are mags), and a Mojo mallard. May go up to 30 decoys this year.
P.S. Damn, still no new coat for this season.....