By Bill Buckley
Being a gear-intensive endeavor, waterfowling naturally evokes impassioned discussions about the various tools we use in pursuit of ducks and geese. Like every waterfowler, I can tell you why I love my shotgun and calls, or decoys and camouflage, but most of us have a favorite piece of gear. For me, I can honestly say it’s a FoodSaver vacuum sealer. I don’t shoot what I won’t eat, and vacuum sealers keep waterfowl from getting that horrible freezer taste I used to dread.
These are the waterfowling tools that experts from around the country say they couldn’t do without.
Jim Ronquest, RNT-V
“My biggest game changer? The onX Hunt App. It’s phenomenal for scouting and navigating vast tracts of public land. I can speed-scout areas where I’ve never been, pinpoint ducky water holes, even share directions from the boat ramp. My other go-to is the tried-and-true jerk cord. I can’t tell you how many tough hunts have been saved by a cobbled-together jerk cord. It’s way more effective than a spinner for turning wary birds.”
Bill Saunders, Bill Saunders Calls
“The advancements in calls and decoys have made all the difference for me. Here in southern Washington we primarily hunt small Canada geese and cacklers, which have high-pitched calls. Short-reed goose calls with shorter mouthpieces and inserts have made it possible to mimic these birds versus just sounding like a honker. This is much more effective, and it also strengthens that connection with the birds that every caller seeks. I also like realistic decoys. I use Dave Smith decoys, which, while expensive, are so realistic I can hunt over fewer decoys than before. I’m also amazed at some of the less expensive decoys, like those made by Avian-X. They’re super realistic and affordable for any hunter.”
Brian Hauptman, hunter and guide
“I hunt 60 to 75 days a season, and here in western Nebraska it can get darned cold. Mobile upright blinds like the A-frame by Avian-X have made hunting much more enjoyable. Not only can I heat them, but old and young hunters alike have a far easier time getting into shooting position in these blinds. I also really like today’s premium ammo; not only am I getting cleaner kills, the Boss shotshells I’m using allow me to hunt with older and smaller-gauge guns. Even the lighter loads are deadly on close-range honkers.”
Field Hudnall, Field Proven Calls
“Last season my brother, Clay, and I talked about improvements in loads more than anything else. There are many phenomenal loads out there: tungsten-steel blends and high-density Tungsten Super Shot (TSS). We’ve been using Apex TSS with devastating results. It’s noticeably better at producing clean kills than steel loads. Also, I know this isn’t gear-related, but what has influenced and enriched my hunting experience more than anything recently is learning how to cook waterfowl well. Now I’d rather eat ducks than just about anything else.”
Kelley Powers, Final Flight Outfitters
“I’m a call maker, but my most important tools are things that add motion to a spread. I wouldn’t goose hunt without a flag—it’s as important as a call for attracting distant birds. For duck hunting, Higdon’s Pulsator decoy is phenomenal. It creates lifelike ripples when there’s no wind. I’ll use seven or eight for large, permanent spreads, and in small timber holes I’ll sometimes hunt with a couple of Pulsators and nothing else. They’re easy to use, and that makes hunting more enjoyable right there.”
Rusty Creasey, Coca-Cola Woods Duck Club
“Single-reed duck calls and breathable waders. With a double reed I could call ducks, but I pretty much sounded like one old hen. After I was taught how to blow an Echo Breaker single reed, I became far more effective because I can sound like three or four different ducks. Breathable waders have made hunting so much more enjoyable because I stay drier, warmer, and more comfortable than in the old neoprene-wader days. And if you’re not enjoying yourself, what’s the point?”