Multi-tool. Knife, screwdriver, punch, file, and pliers all in one—these practical gadgets allow you to carry the equivalent of a small
toolbox on your hip or in your blind bag.
Life jackets. Each hunter in a boat is required to have his or her own Coast Guard–approved personal flotation device, and each hunter should be required to wear it when the boat is under way. Life jackets save lives.
Jerk string. This rig, which includes a bungee cord, 50 yards of tarred nylon twine, and snaps for attaching decoys to the line, can be deployed quickly when a lack of wind leaves the decoys and the water's surface unnaturally still.
Headlamp. A headlamp leaves your hands free for handling a boat and decoys or toting gear to the blind in the predawn darkness.
Cell phone. Most hunters carry them—for good reason. A cell phone can be a lifeline in medical emergencies, and can help you out of a jam if your boat motor quits or your truck gets stuck. Carry the phone in a resealable plastic bag to keep moisture out.
Marsh seat. These portable seats are compact, lightweight, and sturdy—great for taking a load off when hunting in marshes and fields.
In short, when it comes to gear, carry what you think you'll need—and then take along extras. Shells, calls, batteries, hand warmers, snacks, decoy string, toilet paper, first-aid kit, etc. I keep a "possibles bag" stocked with such extras in my pickup. It's amazing how many times I'll dig through this bag for replacements each season.
BEYOND THE BASICS While the following tools are not essential, they are useful in enough situations to be counted among my favorite duck hunting gear.
- Wading staff. I've used the same cherry wading staff for 20 years. It has saved me from countless falls in soft-bottom marshes and stump-strewn swamps. I never leave home without it.
- Layout blind. In my opinion, this is the best piece of waterfowling gear to come along in decades. Its portability, versatility, and capacity for hiding hunters in wide-open areas offer many advantages to those who use them.