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Pre-Season Prep: 7 Steps for Success

Off-season prep to ensure a great opening day
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  • Preventive gun maintenance before season helps avoid costly breakdowns in the field.
    photo by David Sams
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By John Pollman

Like an early-morning wood duck buzzing the decoys, the 2011-12 waterfowl season will be here before we know it. Taking the proper steps in August will make opening day that much more enjoyable. While the to-do list is long, these seven steps will prove essential to a successful waterfowling season.     

1. Preventive Maintenance for Your Shotgun

Dave Reckoff, gunsmith at Kjergaard Sports (kjergaardsports.com) near Lake Benton, Minn., sees a lot of waterfowl hunting guns come through the shop each year. Most problems, he says, are ones that could have been prevented.

Reckoff says that a good place to start is to make sure that your removable choke tube is just that: removable. He recommends applying a choke tube lube or other anti-seize compound to the threads and occasionally throughout the season, loosen the tube to make sure that it has not locked up.

"I can't tell you how many guns come in here in the middle of the season with stuck choke tubes," says Reckoff. "And with probably half of them, they're not coming out without doing some damage to the barrel."

Reckoff also says that he has discovered a pattern with problems involving the two most popular kinds of shotguns used in waterfowling.

When a hunter comes in with a semi-automatic shotgun that won't cycle correctly in the field, Reckoff says the problem is usually related to using the wrong kind of lubricant.

"Especially later in the season, guys are using a lubricant that, when it gets cold, the gun freezes up or it gets so stiff it won't cycle a shell," says Reckoff. "Or sometimes they'll use too much, and the recoil mechanism in the stock or under the forearm of the gun will hydrolock." 

2. Clean Gear is Productive Gear

New York waterfowler and Avery Pro-staff member, Mike Bard is a stickler for making sure his hunting gear is in proper running order, especially those that he pulls behind his truck. When it comes to trailers and boats, surprises are not a good thing.

"Prior to the season I always like to run through everything on my enclosed and boat trailers, making sure to check all of the lights, wiring, brakes, jacks hinges, tires – including the spare – and grease the bearings," says Bard. "I'll do the same thing in my hunting boats, and I also replace the spark plugs and top off the oil reservoir on my outboards."

As for those decoys that haven't seen the light of day since the close of last year's waterfowl season – Bard says to clean ‘em up.

"Clean decoys are more realistic and show up better, in my opinion," he says.

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