Want to learn how to start duck hunting? You've come to the right place. Today, we're going to share our top duck hunting tips in this complete guide to duck hunting for beginners. We'll go over all the basic information you need to start planning that first outing and enjoy a successful, safe, and comfortable hunt.
From securing a hunting license to picking a location, packing your blind bag, and setting up your decoys - and so, so much more. Enough with the pleasantries - let's explain what you'll learn in our duck hunting for beginners guide.
What You'll Learn In Our Duck Hunting For Beginners Guide
When we say that we're going to teach you everything you need to get started hunting ducks we mean it. This is a complete guide on how to start duck hunting. But, we're going to keep things as concise as possible - we know your time is valuable. Here is a sneak peek into what you'll learn in this short article:
- When duck hunting season is
- What gun/ammunition is best for hunting ducks
- What gear you'll need for your first outing
- How to start duck hunting (decoy strategy & hunter location)
- Our top duck hunting tips for beginners
Let's get started with some basic information on duck hunting for beginners.
How To Start Duck Hunting: Step By Step
Getting started with waterfowl hunting is not difficult. In fact, there are only a few steps you need to follow to enjoy a successful first duck hunt. And we're going to walk you through them - followed by some additional tips that most duck hunters wish they had known sooner. Let's start with the first step - getting your license.
Step 1) Get Your Hunting License
As with all types of hunting, ducks are heavily regulated. As such, your first step is securing the necessary licenses and permits for duck hunters.
This step is pretty universal no matter where you live. But, there are obviously varying approaches to getting a hunting license among individual states and provinces. So, you'll need to research the necessary steps in your specific state and county. And it is important that you understand the limitations and regulations surrounding waterfowl hunting in your respective location.
Step 2) Prepare Your Gear & Gun
First things first - you need to get all your hunting gear lined up. If you've hunted other birds before, you know that calls and decoys are an essential part of your arsenal. But if you're new to bird hunting - or hunting in general - you may not know where to start. Fortunately, we recently wrote a complete must-have duck hunting gear list. We highly encourage you to read through that guide. You'll learn:
- What clothing you need (waterproof clothing and warm layers)
- The type of gun/shells you need (and a reminder to bring your license and any necessary stamps)
- How to pack a blind bag for success (decoys, calls, headlamps, snacks, radios, binoculars, a game tote, harvesting tools, and more)
There's no doubt about it - getting all this gear at once can be overwhelming. But the good news is, much of this gear you'll only purchase once as a hunter - unless you want to upgrade later on to something bigger/better. And, you can get most of the gear pretty cheap - especially when you find the right hunting goods store. More on that later. For now, let's move on to the next step in how to start duck hunting - picking your gun.
Most duck hunters prefer a 12 gauge or 20 gauge shotgun. If you're a beginner duck hunter, stick with the semi-automatic 12 gauge (if permissible). If you really want to get started on the right foot, add a choke to your shotgun. This will help you optimize your shot pattern depending on where you hunt. For example, you can create a tight shot pattern for a longer distance shot or a shorter spread for those close shots.
In terms of the ammunition you use, smaller and faster birds will call for a three or four-shot. If you're planning on hunting larger birds like mallards, you can use a bigger pellet for greater knockdown power - like a two-shot. Oh, and you must find nontoxic shells. This is required federally.
Step 3) Rally Some Experienced Friends
Chances are if you're looking to start duck hunting, you probably already have a friend - if not a group of friends - that hunts ducks. Maybe you're seeing how much fun your friends have when they go out hunting and you're ready to join them.
This is the best way to get started with any type of hunting - finding an experienced friend or mentor that can show you the ropes. You can only learn so much by reading blog posts and watching YouTube videos. The real-world expertise a seasoned veteran can lend you is invaluable - so if you don't already have friends that duck hunt, it's time to find some!
Step 4) Find Your Hunting Grounds
Once you've got a group ready to go, you need to find a location. Maybe your friends will have one in mind already. But if not, you can try scouting a location yourself. This is an art in itself - because finding really good locations isn't easy.
Look for fields and waterways where ducks congregate - ideally, where they just hang around or feed. You may also find roosts - an area where ducks settle down for the evening to sleep. There are also areas of high duck traffic where you can hunt. These are the flyover zones ducks commonly use.
Once you have an idea of where might be a good place to hunt, you have to determine if you're allowed to hunt there. The likelihood of that land belonging to someone else is really high. Fortunately, those with land may let you hunt there. They get this inquiry all the time. See if you have a mutual friend or acquaintance that can help make the connection. If not, just be polite and ask - and make it worth their while. Offer a bottle, gift card to a restaurant in town, or even some roasted duck!
Duck Hunting Tips For Beginners: Our Best Advice
The advice above will get you to your hunting location and set up for success. Now, we want to share some duck hunting tips for the big day. You can work on these things leading up to your hunt to ensure you're ready.
We're going to assume you already know how to use your gun - if not, take the time to get some lessons. Not only will it make you a better hunter, but you'll also be a safer hunter - and that's the most important duck hunting tip we can provide you. Speaking of safety, you should always be sure that you know your surroundings when hunting. Even if you're familiar with the spot, make sure you're aware of other hunters, and anything in the direction you're shooting.
Furthermore, you are only allowed to shoot during light hours. You should know the specific shooting light time in your location - because it varies from place to place.
Work On Your Calls
Duck calls are going to make or break your success hunting. If you can bring ducks to you, you're going to have a much better day than if your calls scare them away. This is why it's so important not to just buy the best duck hunting calls - but to learn how to use them correctly. There are different calls for different types of birds - so make sure your call matches your species.
Develop A Decoy Strategy
As you'll soon discover, it's not so much about the specific decoys you use - it's how you use them. While buying quality hunting decoys is important, perfecting your decoy line is even more important. Because you have so much gear to buy as it is, go with a budget-friendly decoy set. Just make sure the decoys you select create some type of motion in the water or grass to add a sense of realism and catch the attention of real ducks. Here is a simple decoy strategy you can try yourself:
- Duck decoys should be placed in accordance with wind direction. Ducks like to land coming into the wind - so you can set up your decoy in the water such that the ducks will fly towards you to land. You want to be facing the wind direction.
- Set up your decoys in a U shape. This spread shape helps funnel ducks in, allowing you excellent shooting from your blind. Pay attention to decoy distance, too - 5'-8' apart will give the ducks enough room to feel comfortable. And, be sure you alternate the direction in which your decoys face to add a sense of realism for the ducks flying overhead.
From there, it's just about setting up your duck blind in the right spot. Keep reading to learn more.
Set Your Blind Up with Natural Coverings
As we mentioned earlier, you need to be sure you're facing the same direction as the wind speed so you can see ducks approaching your landing zone. You also need to consider the distance from which you're shooting - the shorter the better.
You also must be properly concealed - no matter how camouflaged your gear is. Rely on natural coverings. Maybe the natural covering is not perfectly facing your landing zone, though? That's ok - you should always opt for natural cover. If you set up your decoys in a good U shape, you'll still have good shooting from the side of the water.
Hunting Ducks With A Dog
Some of the best duck hunting spots are in really deep water. And, even the best waterfowl waders don't make getting in freezing cold water easy. Sure, you can get a duck boat to make this easier - but why not consider adding to your family and getting a hunting dog?
Not only does mans best friend keep things light around the house, but a dog will be one of your best assets when hunting. They track down wounded birds and can bring your kills back to you - so you don't have to move a muscle. Keep in mind that there are certain breeds that are better for hunting than others. And no matter your breed, you'll need to invest in dog training - and this takes time. But be patient - a properly trained dog is worth the wait!
Know Your Seasons
This one should go without saying - but knowing the best time to hunt certain birds will set you up for success. For example, you can start hunting teals in September here in Texas. But in California, duck season starts in October. Meanwhile, certain geese can be hunted starting in February. The point is that different birds have different seasons in different regions.
Dress Warm & Waterproof
The best hunting typically comes during the harshest conditions. That means you're going to want to bundle up and stay dry with the proper apparel. We go over this in our article about the duck hunting essentials. Here are a few pieces of duck hunting clothing you'll want to start with:
Final Thoughts On Duck Hunting For Beginners
That concludes our guide to duck hunting for beginners. Now that you know how to start duck hunting it's time to prepare your group, your gear, and yourself. For all your hunting and outdoor essentials, stop by our shop at Texas Fowlers.
We have the lowest prices online and unparalleled customer service. That means if you aren't quite sure which supplies and apparel are right for you, you can give us a phone - we'll help set you up right from the start. So, what are you waiting for?