The one hunting buddy that is reliable day after day walks on 4 legs. I have hunted for years, with and without, the use of a retriever and by far hunting with a dog is tops. Sure they make the tough retrieves and on the right day, make us look a accomplished dog trainer; but the real difference between a duck hunt with a dog and the hunt without a dog is companionship. From time to time I have witnessed the unfortunate scene of a retriever lacking discipline and an unhappy hunter who, rather than accept the obvious and save the day by simply securing that dog in the blind; continues to scream, shout and curse until the joy of the hunt is no more.
But, I have never seen a seasoned hunter/dog handler and dog that were not an obvious team in the field. A team that put in the hours of training, maybe bonding, in preparation for the first hunt and continued to work together hunt after hunt and season after season. A disciplined dog that knows the commands and trust that these commands will lead them to the prize.
You can but duck boat gear to assist your dog's egress, vest to protect the retriever from icy waters and brush and field blinds to conceal the dog's movement in the field; but no amount of gear will build a successful working team between handler and K9. Only hours of training will make a retriever dog successful.
We recommend that you work with your dog at least 4 times a week and for a minimum of 15 minutes each workout. Do that and both of you will hunt like a pro.