column and photo by Josh Boyd;
As you sit anxiously in your blind, awaiting what is to follow, you gaze in wonder as a group of mallards circle high above, issuing a chorus of quacks as they descend. With one eye on the ducks as they commit, and the other on your shotgun, your heart races. Even the dog, though steady, tenses in excitement at the prospect of the volley of gunfire that is to come.
These are the moments that make duck season monumental. Lucky for outdoorsmen and women of the bluegrass, waterfowl season opens in less than one month. Although this comes as a substantial source of excitement for many, an individual is wise not to overlook all of the prep work that duck hunting can entail.
One pertinent item of business to attend to when preparing for duck season is patterning your shotgun and getting in a little range time to brush up on your shooting skills. By doing so, you ensure that when opportunity knocks, you will be prepared to answer to the utmost degree.
By patterning your shotgun with both the choke and waterfowl loads that you intend to use, you are better able to understand the limitations of your firearm combination and eliminate any unwanted surprises. Patterning your shotgun in advance also allows you adequate time to make changes to your choke and ammo selections, should your results be unsatisfactory.
By putting in some quality range time, and shooting clays before season, you will enter opening day in top shooting form. Because shooting instinct plays a large part in most any wingshooting endeavor, it is of significant importance to shake the rust off your marksmanship abilities after any prolonged period of inactivity.
Another valid concern for those preparing for the upcoming waterfowl season is performing thorough checks of any all-weather attire. A hunter can face harsh winter weather during outings to the duck blind in the latter portion of the season. Therefore, all heavy winter weather clothing should be checked for proper fit and condition.
Additionally, a pre-season wade into a nearby pond is a worthwhile practice when checking for leaky waders. If a substantial leak is found while wading waters in sub-freezing temperatures, consequences can be dire. It takes very little to become hypothermic once clothing has been soaked when facing brisk winter wind and temperatures dipping into the single digits.
Decoys should also be checked for any defects, and proper rigging should be verified. Few things are more aggravating to a duck hunter than dealing with a tangled decoy string and missing weights by flashlight in the predawn darkness. By conducting decoy checks in the coming weeks, you allow yourself a chance to rectify any shortcomings in your gear in a timely manner.
If you plan to duck hunt by boat, now is an excellent time to ensure that the vessel is water worthy. It is advisable to take a quick jog up and down a familiar waterway prior to season to ensure that everything is in proper order. Ensure against any leaks or gear malfunctions, while also checking for the presence of the proper number of life vests for the intended occupants.
It is also worth mentioning, that preseason checks are often helpful as they pertain to duck blind inspection and maintenance. If your blind resides permanently at its location, it is a wonderful time to check for any rotten boards or other structural materials. Clearing your blind of any stinging or biting insects is also of importance. Duck blinds that have been unattended since the previous winter are favorites of insects of all varieties.
As the time ticks away to yet another opening day of duck season, avoid stress-inducing complications by getting a jump on your gear preparation. With an afternoon of sorting through gear, and some quality time at the range, behind your shotgun of choice, you will be ready to bag a limit of ducks in no time. Remember, procrastination does no one any favors. Preparation, on the other hand, puts ducks in the truck and smiles on the faces of all involved.