has changed waterfowling just as it has everything else. Modern hunters have access to a broad range of new gear
that has made hunting easier and more hassle-free. Layout blinds, mud motors, ATVs, new decoy systems, and improvements in shotguns and loads are all designed to make hunting more efficient and effective. New high-tech clothing and outerwear allow you to hunt with fewer cumbersome layers and still stay dry, warm, and comfortable.
The Internet is also a great resource that can help you make the most of your limited hunting time. Websites
that feature migration updates
, weather data
, river and lake stages, and other useful information have made "intelligence gathering" easier than ever. Hunters who incorporate these new tools into their overall hunting strategies are sure to have a leg up on those who don't.
Hire a Guide
If you want a truly hassle-free experience, hire a guide
and let him do the heavy lifting for you. Pay the fee, and settle back for a leisurely day of duck or goose hunting. All you have to do is show up with your gun, shells, and personal gear.
Before booking a hunt with a guide, do your homework. The best insurance is talking to references. Ask questions about the overall hunt—the location, blind, equipment, decoys, calling—and also about the guide's temperament, work ethic, and other pertinent information.
Remember that the one thing a guide can't control is the weather, which affects how well the birds fly. When you book a date, you're rolling the dice that you will hit a good day. If action is slow but the guide does his best for you, he has fulfilled his obligation.
Go with a Friend
A sure way to make waterfowling easier and more enjoyable is to go with a friend. When a hunting buddy extends an invitation, quickly accept it and lock in the date. Be considerate in sharing chores and expenses, such as carrying and setting out decoys, maintaining the blind, and buying gas and food.
If you are invited on a hunt, keep in mind that it's common courtesy for a guest to follow the lead of the host when putting out decoys, calling birds, and calling shots. And don't put your host in an uncomfortable spot by asking to bring your dog. If he wants help in this department, he'll tell you. Later, when you invite a friend to go hunting with you, expect the same common courtesies from your guests.
As waterfowlers, we sometimes judge success or failure by how many birds we bag. A slow day brings disappointment. A banner day fuels the desire for more. These emotional highs and lows come with the territory, but we should always be mindful of taking time to smell the roses. Duck hunting is meant to be an enjoyable endeavor, not an all-consuming quest to rack up numbers.
Sure, shooting ducks
is the goal, but it should not be the only measure of success. Instead, step back and enjoy the other pleasant aspects of the hunt—duck blind banter with friends, the company of a canine partner, the beauty and fresh hope brought by each sunrise, the smell of a freshly spent shotgun shell, and the mystery of a high-flying V of geese. If ducks or geese grace your decoys and you bag a few birds, so much the better. But the joy should be in the doing, not the getting. It's the quest and the wonder that come along with the flights that matter most.