Certain basic duck hunting supplies are necessary for successful duck hunting. Whether you are a beginner or a veteran hunter, it's a good idea to go over a basic supplies list to make sure you are properly outfitted for your hunt.
What are the basic duck hunting supplies?
Access to water goes without saying. Depending on what kind of water you hunt, a boat of some sort might be necessary. If you hunt large, open water that's more than waist deep, you need a boat. If you hunt small creeks, marshes or prairie ponds that are mostly waist-deep or less, then you don't need a boat (although one might be handy if you already have one). Boats are covered here on this website.
Here's a list of other basic duck hunting supplies:
In truth, I've killed ducks without decoys but it was mostly accidental. In general, you need anywhere from a dozen to several dozen decoys to effectively draw ducks. Chances are, though, you don't need as many as retailers and "professionals" will say you need. A couple dozen will probably fill out your duck hunting supplies list in most instances.
Click here for tips on how many decoys you need for various hunting situations and how to set them out into a good "spread."
2. DUCK CALLS
Ducks are a "social and vocal" species of birds. They like to hang out together and they like to "talk" about it. This means that calling them in to your decoys or to a body of water is key to successfully hunting them in the wild. Duck calls, therefore, are essential items in a duck hunting supplies box.
At a minimum, you need a good, all-purpose reed call that does the most basic duck sounds. These include the simple quack, the greeting call (which is a series of quacks) and a couple others. One basic wooden or synthetic reed call can do all these. If you want to go all out, then you can fill a lanyard with several calls - reed calls as well as whistle calls - so that you can handle multiple species and situations.
Click here to learn more about different kinds of duck calls.
Click here to learn how to call ducks and to watch some videos of the essential duck calls.
I'll begin with something obvious: Ducks are waterfowl, which means that to hunt them you will mostly likely be in or near the water. I realize this sounds silly to say, but I've shown up to many duck hunts where hunters dressed in deer hunting clothes or other apparel that wasn't suited for the wet and muddy conditions of duck hunting. They were either miserable because of it, or it forced the other hunters to do more of the "work" of the hunt since those dressed for deer hunting couldn't get in the water.
Unless you are going on a totally guided hunt - where you'll step from the dock onto a boat, then onto a dry blind, then back to the boat after the hunt, then back to the dock and to dry land - you need waders of some kind. Of all the duck hunting supplies, this is the one you'll miss a lot if you don't have them.
Click here to learn more about the different types of waders.
4. CAMO CLOTHING
Duck hunting, like most other hunting scenarios, requires camouflage clothes. Camouflage is essential to successful hunting of many kinds, but especially for duck hunting because you must get the ducks into close shotgun range before you can shoot them.
In my experience, the most important camo clothing for duck hunting is that which covers the upper body, the arms and the face. Full-body camo is great, but a pair of dark jeans or khakis is totally fine since they'll probably be covered by waders anyway. Add camo long-sleeved upper body outer garments (shirt, sweater, fleece, jackets) and something for your face, and you'll be good to go.
5. A BLIND
Duck blinds are important for the same reasons you need to wear camo clothing. You must hide yourself in order for the ducks to fly in close enough to shoot. You must be as hidden or invisible to the ducks as possible.
Duck blinds differ widely based on the specific hunting conditions and the amount of money you have to spend on them. Are you hunting flooded timber? Flooded grain fields? Big, deep and open water? Small ponds, lakes or creeks?
Also, is your access to the land/water such that you can construct a permanent or semi-permanent blind, or do you need a portable blind that you can take up and down for each hunt? The kind of blind you need will depend on the answers to these questions.
6. GUNS & SHELLS
Although ancient peoples hunted ducks with bows, arrows, spears and nets, most people today hunt them with shotguns. In fact, hunting with shotguns is the only legal way of hunting ducks in most areas of the United States and other countries.
Of all duck hunting supplies, this is the easiest one to go crazy with. The main thing to consider is this: duck hunting happens in or near the water. And where there's water, there's also mud and maybe salt. So, you don't want your most prized, expensive or "fancy" guns out there in all that water and mud, especially if you're hunting in saltwater.
Generally, a 12-gauge shotgun that can shoot 2-3/4" shells is fine for duck hunting. One that shoots 3" shells is fine, too, but it's probably overkill unless you plan to hunt geese or swans as well. I also know people who could fill several big ice chests with the ducks they've killed with a 20-gauge (my mother, for example).
Federal law in the U.S. forbids shooting waterfowl with shells that contain lead shot. So, you must use shells that contain other kinds of shot, such as steel, bismuth or tungsten.
7. A RETRIEVAL METHOD
This is perhaps the most important of duck hunting supplies.
Duck hunting requires a retriever of some kind to go out into the water (or the field or woods) and get the ducks after you shoot them down. The most common kind of retriever is a dog - a labrador, spaniel or some other kind of water dog. I know of a guy who uses a big white standard Poodle to retrieve ducks and geese. (They were originally bred in France as water retrieving dogs, and are highly intelligent hunters. Who knew?) But, dogs are not the only retriever option you have.
Regardless of your method, you must have a way to retrieve fallen ducks from the water. Otherwise, you leave dead ducks to rot. That's a dirty waste of wildlife and natural resources (illegal in some states), and it makes you merely a shooter, not a hunter. Consider going to the gun range instead of the duck pond.