Today's waterfowl hunter has many reasons to be optimistic about the future. Waterfowl populations are up in Minnesota and Canada thanks to the abundant rainfall that this
area has received the last few years. New clothing exists to keep hunters warmer, drier and more comfortable. Steel shot loads have been improved for greater killing power and other materials such as tungsten have been
introduced to make for more effective loads. Improvements have been made in guns as well. Automatic shotguns have been designed to shoot a variety
of loads under all conditions. Twelve gauge shotguns are being chambered for 3-1/2 inch shells for greater range and killing power. These improvements in equipment and waterfowl populations have brought many people
back into a sport, that not so long ago found many people leaving their waterfowling gear unused. If you are among the group who left waterfowling, there has never been a better time to come back to this
grand sport. Let's take a look at the recommended equipment to outfit the waterfowl hunter. .
DUCK HUNTING METHODS
When duck season opens in early October in Minnesota, hunting is primarily centered on the local populations of birds. Smaller lakes and sloughs will see most of the action. Medium sized spreads of decoys can be used to attract these local puddle ducks. Two to five dozen decoys will work well for this type of hunting. While the birds will usually be a mixed bag of mallards, widgeons, teal, wood ducks and other species, standard mallard decoys will get the job done. However, a few other decoys added to your spread will give it variety. For many of the larger sloughs and lakes a duck boat is a necessity and a blind such as Avery's new
Quick Set Blind does an effective job of camouflaging the boat and hunters.
When bluebird conditions are prevalent, jumpshooting will be a more effective tactic after the early morning period. Many hunters do not rely on this tactic as much as they should, but under clear sky conditions, jumpshooting will provide a limit when other methods fail.
Later in the fall, when weather starts to push the northern flight of birds down, Minnesota's big lakes will see huge flocks of diver ducks. Bluebills and goldeneyes will make up the majority of these birds. Lakes such as Leech and Winnie will attract many birds, but other lakes throughout the north will host groups of birds as well. When hunting these late season diver ducks, larger spreads of decoys are a must. Spreads of 50-150 decoys work best, with more decoys being preferred. Safety in numbers is especially true when hunting divers, which is why large spreads of decoys are the most effective. Scouting the day before the hunt is an excellent idea to determine which area the birds are using.
Which ammunition one chooses for the hunt is an important consideration. Keep in mind that steel weighs less than lead or tungsten so adjust your choice of shot size selection accordingly. For birds over decoys, 12 ga. 3" loads of 2 or 3 shot are preferred. For longer-range situations such as pass shooting, one may want to consider using the 12 ga. 3-1/2 loads of 1 or 2 shot. These loads will deliver better knockdown power. For hunters that want the performance of lead shot or have an old favorite shotgun that won't handle steel, tungsten loads will work.