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John Hoffman, DU


One surefire way to find out if a product performs as advertised is to subject it to the punishment of day-in, day-out waterfowl hunting in all kinds of conditions. I gave the following gear a complete field test during the 2022–2023 season, and it all passed with flying colors.

Winchester Bismuth Ammo

Winchester's bismuth shotshells set new standards in nontoxic performance, patterning up to 90 percent at 40 yards. By cushioning bismuth pellets with a micro-bead buffer compound, Winchester engineers were able to prevent the brittle pellets from shattering and flaking. Available in 3-inch 12-gauge loads with 1 3/8 ounces of 1 or 4 shot, and 3-inch 20-gauge loads with 1 ounce of 4 shot. 

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John Hoffman, DU

Benelli Super Black Eagle 3 20- and 28-gauge

I was lucky enough to shoot these sub-gauge options from Benelli last season. Both are compact and lightweight, and, in the right circumstances, they are deadly waterfowl guns. The quick-handling easy-to-mount 28-gauge proved to be a great option on several blue-winged teal hunts, and the 20-gauge earned its keep in Arkansas's flooded timber and rice fields. 


Chêne Gear Merino Wool Bottoms

In the era of lightweight, breathable waders, having an exceptional underlayer is vital on frigid morning hunts. Made with 100 percent New Zealand merino wool, these pants are designed to be worn as your first layer in all temperature ranges. Merino is naturally wicking and helps keep you cool on warm days and warm in the coldest temperatures. Integrated stirrups keep the pants from riding up. 

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Filson Skagit Waterfowl Jacket

Designed to combat the elements, Filson's Skagit Waterfowl Jacket features a proprietary waterproof and breathable Rain Cloth shell and 9-ounce fleece liner. It is also fully seam-sealed and has a water-resistant zipper, neoprene cuffs, corrosion-resistant hardware, and several specialty pockets. Available in Mossy Oak Shadow Grass or Bottomland. 

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Drake Waterfowl Wax Gun Sleeve

As the industry has moved toward bigger, heftier, floating gun cases, my preference has always been minimalist. I need a case that provides some protection for my shotgun in boats and vehicles but is easily stored in my blind bag during the hunt. Drake's Wax Gun Sleeve checks all the boxes, and it folds into a compact size that can fit anywhere. 

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BlindGrass DryShotShell Weatherproof Bag

This past season, I hunted in inclement conditions more often than not. Knowing I was headed to the field in rain, snow, or sleet, I repackaged my ammunition into one of these weatherproof bags, which can hold two boxes of shells. The bag's carabiner clips onto a blind or tree strap, making ammunition accessible and protected from the elements. And each bag has an extra pocket for your cell phone. 

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