Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Duck Gear. Part 2: The Rest...

This is the second installment and opinions from a rookie duck hunter blabbing about the gear he used.

1. Decoys and Robos
A dozen mallards. Yup, that's what everyone tells you to start with. This, my friends is not the stopping point. Wood ducks, teal, motion decoys. The dozen mallards may work well if you're inundated with flocks of greenheads but in my limited expereience, variety is defenitely the spice of your spreads life.  

I have a few different species in my spread as of now and all of them come from the Flambeau Storm Front Series of decoys. They split the difference between price and quality and for me right now, it works. I'm ending the year with 13 mallard decoys (1 lost and 2 found), 6 woodies, and 5 green-wing teal(one lost to the Atchafalaya swamp). I've also cleaned up a few stray decoys from our local waterways. A pintail and some old mallards. They'll get cleaned up, touched up and rigged for the next seasons spread. And will probably add another half dozen teal decoys for early season.

As for rigging the decoys, i've found it easier to buy the texas rigged "No Hassle" lines from H&H Lure Company. You can buy the parts separate and rig them yourself however you'd like but the monetary savings isn't much for a small spread like mine. if I were to be RErigging a spread I would opt to do it myself. But the 72"/6oz lines have yet to do me wrong. They're easy to wrap round the keel for storage or gather them onto a carabiner and hang. A simple, easy solution i'd recommend to anyone. 
The Mojo. I didn't have one for the first half of the season. Looking at everyone else's spread there was not a hunter out there with atleast one. And if you can't beat them you better join em. A green-winged teal spinner was added to the spread and it helps catch the eye of birds from afar. Up close it may flare them but it no doubt helps more than it hurts. Will probably add a timer to break up the continuous flashing of the decoy for next season. 

2. The Forgotten Essentials

The Headlight - This is probably the most important piece of gear for any duck hunter outside of guns and shells. Unless you plan on hunting afternoons you will probably be catching the morning flights of ducks in your area. This translates into waking up at ungodly hours and traveling in the darkness before dawn breaks. A good headlight is mandatory. Whether you're throwing decoys or setting up in your blind, you will need to be able to see.
The Black Diamond Revolt worked well for me on everything from wading into the basin to paddling through the marshes under cover of night. The rechargeable feature on this light is what sold me on it because I knew it would be used for an hour or more every time I hunted. I topped it off every time I remembered and it has a few flashing indicators to remind you when it needs refueling. One word of warning, remember to check that the batteries are seated well and it is recharging before leaving it alone. On a few occasions it did not recharge fully and left me with less than stellar performance in low light conditions. A bit finicky but right up my alley for power, ease of use and size. 

The Call - No doubt the best place for a duck call is in your pocket if the ducks are doing what you want them to do with your mind power alone. You're probably not always gonna be set up on the proverbial "X". Eventually you'll have to learn how to sound like a duck. Something i've yet to do well. With time and another 8 months to practice, I reckon I might sound like a few species. One call that everyone should have and is easy enough would be a whistle. These multi-species calls are hard to mess up and can mix up the sounds coming from your spread. I won't talk too much about calls because I really don't know what the heck i'm talking about. Check back with me next year and i'll have a more informed opinion about duck calling.
Camouflage - Stop into any post hunt food joint and you will quickly realize that RealTree's Max-4 is king of duck hunters attire. In my opinion it will probably be good enough for any hunting situation you find yourself in. If you do your homework and hide in good cover, brush your blinds appropriately and stay still when ducks approach, camo is more of an afterthought. Wear more brown than green, shut up and wait for the "get em!" call.
But you must dress the part in this sport. Mossy Oak's Blades or Duck Blind will work well especially if you're in marsh areas. Where tall grass and roseau cane are the norm these patterns will hide you well. I see a lot of timber hunters wearing Bottomland that resembles the bark of a tree very well with it's vertical print. I like MAX-4 if only because it is probably the most widely available print. Almost any duck hunting apparel company will have their clothing lineup in MAX-4. It is a versatile enough pattern to go from the marshes in Pecan Island to the Atchafalaya Swamp. I really don't think camo selection matters as mush as we put an emphasis on it as hunters. Even your old school military or digital camo prints will work ok if you're not waving your hands in the air and drawing attention to yourself.
If you have deer hunting camo laying around the house then use it. One thing I DO believe in is a consistency in your patterns. Try and stay with one pattern so your outline is broken up over a consistent shape and size. A difference in backgrounds and textures in the print can stand out very easily. Ducks have a pretty good sense about them especially as hunting season goes on so I believe that concealment takes priority over camouflage. But who am I kidding, i'll probably end up with one outfit of every pattern on the market if I hunt a lifetime. Get what seems right for your situation and hold still!

The Blind Bag - Eventually your little knick knacks from a pair of gloves to shotgun shells and snack will need to be carried in and out. The items you need on a hunt will depend on your style and dictate the size of the bag you'll need. For me, I plan on doing a lot of solo hunting and staying out for extended periods of time. I chose a Drake Walk-In Backpack for my needs. I usually bring too much water, an extra layer, snacks I won't eat and the ever-present Stanley Thermos. Along with everything else any hunter will need like licenses, calls, ear plugs, cell phone, etc.
I'm gonna touch on a few of the key features on this pack that make it well suited for my style of hunting.
-The detachable shell pouch is especially handy. The closure for it is easy to open and snaps shut TIGHTLY. It will hold damn close to 2 boxes of 3" shells. It's removable by 2 snaps and 2 metal closures and can be put on your wader belt or used freely in the blind. This is a well thought out addition to anybody's gear.
-All of the straps on the pack have buckles so the bag can be hung from anything. Didn't realize how useful this feature was until it was hung from a tree branch one day, then thrown into a boat the next and was able to be secured to the gun box for safe, worry free travel. The buckles are strong and webbing tough.
-There are side compression straps for the pack to cut down on the bulkiness of the pack if it is unused. Also used it a few times to hold some birds on the way out. I wouldn't recommend doing this unless you have someone walking behind you. I will modify the daisy chain loops for next year to double as my bird stringer.
-The inner pocket and top outer pocket have a zippered compartment to keep essentials dry and out of the way of cold hands rummaging for a camera or snack. I use these pockets to secure things I can't afford to lose during a hunt like my cell phone, wallet, and keys.
This pack is well suited for me as a hunter. The shoulder straps are well padded and comfortable. The material it's made out of is tough and they say it's "waterproof". I wouldn't test the theory and it certainly will not float. So be careful when hanging it from tree limbs! I have had it rain on a number of occasions and I don't remember cursing the company name at the time so I reckon it did a good enough job.
That's it! If you're still reading this I hope you picked up a thing or two. This is part of an effort by me to review more of the gear that I could not find reviews on when doing my research. Please feel free to ask if you have any questions and bon chance!