by Matt Young
Waterfowling as we know it today was largely made possible by revolutionary advances in firearms and ammunition that occurred during the latter half of the 19th century. Before the advent of breech-loading shotguns, choke boring, and smokeless powder, hunters were relegated to using black-powder muskets, which were difficult to load and fire, especially in the cramped quarters of a boat or blind. Once reliable and effective firearms and cartridges were developed, recreational hunters flocked to the marshes and fields in pursuit of the continent’s plentiful ducks and geese.
Waterfowlers are a notoriously resourceful lot, and, over the years, they have invented a wide variety of specialized equipment to make them more successful and comfortable in the field. Frequently, the pursuit of profit, as much as that of waterfowl, drove these innovations. Build a better decoy or duck call, and waterfowlers will beat a path to your door.
However, waterfowlers have achieved much more than simply becoming more efficient at bagging birds. During the early 1900s, America’s growing sporting community, alarmed by dwindling waterfowl numbers, organized and pressed their elected officials to bring an end to commerical hunting and to regulate waterfowl harvests. They also formed private waterfowl conservation groups, which culminated with the founding of Ducks Unlimited in 1937. At the same time, a rich tradition of waterfowling art and literature emerged, enriching the sport beyond measure. The following is a chronological look at many of the greatest moments in the history of waterfowling.