Must-have gear for waterfowl hunting

Robert Sloan photo

Waterfowl hunters are not that techno crazy when it comes to gearing up for success. It’s basically like football – you get suited up with the essentials and go at it full speed. The crazy thing about duck and goose hunters is that we have to go afield prepared for just about anything that can be thrown our way here in Southeast Texas – rain, cold, mud, ice, sleet, mosquitoes, snakes and even alligators. It can be a true test of one’s perseverance on any given hunt.

The one thing waterfowlers have in common is that we try to use the best gear. I’ve been hunting ducks and geese for right at 51 years and there are four essential things I don’t leave the house without.

No. 1 is the waders. It all starts with staying dry. Chest waders pretty much dominate on the waterfowling scene. Getting wet is not fun, especially after the freezing temperatures we had last week. The best waders I’ve found are made by Simms. Their Freestone Stockingfoots (right) are comfortable and cool, which are two of the main things you want in a pair of waders. They are perfect for hunting and fishing in Southeast Texas. They can be worn as waist or chest waders, and come with a fleece-lined hand warmer and waterproof pouch for a cell phone and wallet. Instead of wearing wader boots, I use knee high rubber boots on the stockingfoot waders. Also, they have a size chart to fit you with waders that fit your body – a far cry from one size fits all. And if you spring a leak, send the waders in for a patch job.

No. 2 is a first-class parka. This is the one thing you don’t want to go cheap on. Spend as much money as you can on a parka. When it’s cold and wet and miserable, you’ll appreciate a parka that keeps you snug as a bug in a rug.

The one I wear is the Cabela’s Dri-Fowl II Extreme Waterfowl wading jacket with Thinsulate. It’s 100 percent waterproof and has a removable liner jacket. It comes with two huge cargo pockets, an insulated hood and heavy-duty zippers. It’s one of the most user-friendly parkas I’ve ever had. The best thing about this one is the removable liner. On warm days, you don’t need it. But on cold days like we’ve been through lately, the liner is a lifesaver. The one I have is in Realtree Max-5 camo. It’s the perfect camouflage pattern for duck and deer hunting.

Never underestimate the value of a good pair of gloves. They need to be waterproof (not water-resistant), warm, comfortable and easy to get on and off. The gloves I’ve used for the past few years are made by Redhead. They are waterproof, insulated and slip on and off in a jiffy. Plus, they crumple up to nothing and don’t take up much room in my gear bag.

There is no way any waterfowl hunter can leave the house without a bag to store gear. We have all found out the hard way that the bag needs to be waterproof. The best I’ve ever used is the one I got as a gift at Christmas. It’s the Drake Waterfowl Systems floating blind bag. It’s 20 inches long by 12 inches high and has more than enough storage room for shot shells, a cell phone, thermos, calls, snacks, gloves and lots more. The great thing about this bag is that you can use it year round, plus if it takes a dive it’ll float and all your stuff stays completely dry. The one I have is in Realtree Max-5 camo. It works well for both deer and duck hunting.

No. 5 on my gear list is the gun, and this is likely going to raise a few eyebrows. The preference in guns these days is to go with a high dollar semi-auto 12-guage. Two of the top names in semi-auto waterfowling shotguns are Benelli and Beretta.

One of the best sellers, in the $1,500-plus bracket, is the Benelli Super Black Eagle II semi-auto shotgun. It sets the standard for high performance and versatility in semi-automatic shotguns meant for hardcore hunting. The SBE II features a weather-resistant composite stock, finished with the Realtree Max-4 camo pattern.

And then there is the Remington 870 pump action shotgun (far left), like I’ve used for about 45 years. The 870 Express is a rugged, value-priced workhorse that is tough as nails. It comes with Rem Choke screw-in choke tubes and shoots both 2 3/4 or 3-inch shotgun shells. A ballpark price is just over $300.

 

I’ve had two 870s in my lifetime. It’s the only gun I’ve ever used for shooting waterfowl. And I’ve never had one jam. On the flip side, I’ve seen one heck of a lot of the semi-auto shotguns jam. In fact, I was out last week with a friend and he had a brand new $1,800 tricked out semi-auto. Guess what — it jammed. Just saying.

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