by Chris Jennings
It's July, but September teal and early Canada goose seasons will be here before you know it. Cobweb-covered decoy bags and layout blinds are still nestled in dark garage corners all over the country. When the waterfowl-hunting bug strikes, crisp mornings in the field and birds hovering over the decoys will monopolize the mind, so getting your gear ready now may save you time and money as the season approaches.
When is the right time to start sorting through decoys, gun bags and tuning calls? Obviously, the answer to that question will be different for everyone, but waterfowl hunters across the country are beginning to stir—the new season is on the horizon and now is the time to start preparing.
If everything was stored properly after the season, most duck floaters and goose shells will be ready for opening day, but even the most organized hunters need to address some pre-season decoy issues.
"I store all my decoys in individually slotted bags, so I avoid a lot of the tangles. But I still like to go through and check for kinks in my decoy line," explains Tyson Keller, from Avery Outdoors, who handles the company's media relations and photography. "I replace all the line on decoys that are kinked and I also like to double check the weights to make sure the knots are still holding and there are no issues with the weight itself."
For those hunters who don't utilize slotted bags, decoys that were tossed lackadaisically into a bag at season's end might be facing quite a tangled situation. Restringing dozens of decoys and purchasing new weights can be costly. Fortunately, for hunters searching for new string and weights, July is far enough away from the season opener that deals might be found on these "off-season" items.
Jeremy Abbas, an Avery Outdoors pro-staff member in Kanawha, Iowa, stresses that being prepared immediately after the season closes is important, but hunters should utilize the summer months to get organized. Abbas will make lists of his wants and needs and then use that information in the off season.
"By doing this, you have the whole off season to compare prices and shop around for the objects you need," he says. "I just finished up checking my floaters and giving them all a little shake to see if there is any water left in there."
The last few years, the layout blind has changed the way many hunters spend their days afield and pre-season maintenance on a blind is also a good idea. A blind left hanging or sitting on the floor of a shed or garage is very likely to end up with some unwanted visitors or possibly mold. Put the July sun to good use and air out your layout blind well before it is needed.
"It is always good to set up your layout blinds and perform a maintenance check before the season. Dump out the empty shotgun shells and other unwanted garbage," Keller says. "Also, check all fastening points to make sure all of your fastening pins are available for a quick and effective setup. Give your blinds a quick dusting of ultra-flat Field Khaki paint and rub on a fresh coat of mud to the blind's material. Not only will this allow your blinds to be much more concealed, it is easier to perform this process when it is warm outside."
Abbas checks his blinds throughout the summer months as well, keeping them off the ground and airing them out a bit, but he uses a common household item as a deterrent for pests looking to make a home in his blinds.
"I know some people who have had mice get in there and tear up a good blind," he says. "I throw in a couple sheets of fabric softener in each layout blind and that keeps out the mice. It's also nice to open them up for the first time in season and it smells fresh."
The essentials are different for every waterfowl hunter. It can consist of calls, extra gloves, face masks, shells and a thermos, but no matter what your essentials are, this is the time to gather them.
Every hunter should have an emergency box that is kept in their boat or vehicle. If you don't have one, this is the time of year to start gathering essential equipment.
"I always carry a dry storage box with extra essential gear that can come in handy during the hunting season. Tow ropes, extra gloves, socks, a battery jump pack, flashlights, a spare truck key, hats, boots, shotgun shells and rainwear are some of the items I pack," Keller explains. "I will take this dry storage box with me in my truck, boat and trailer wherever I go to hunt. Whenever the unexpected arrives, I know that I will have all of the essentials that will help me make a potentially ruined day into a good day. Simple preparation will go a long way."
As the July heat melts thoughts of tossing decoys into icy waters, the good news is that fall is on its way—a long way, but it is coming. The waterfowling gear stockpiled in odd places will be needed in the near future and there is no sense waiting until opening day. Utilize summer's warmer temperatures and have your gear ready for that first cool snap this fall.