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How To Duck Hunt — 11 Basic Tips & Tricks

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Flock of Ring-Necked Ducks Flying in V formation

Duck hunting for the first time can be fun and exciting, but it can also be challenging. Just like hunting other animals, hunting ducks requires special tools, resources, and skills. 

Below, learn 14 basic tips and tricks about duck hunting. This includes what you need to know before you go out, how to actually hunt, and extra tips that will have you duck hunting like a professional.

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What Do I Need to Know Before Duck Hunting for the First Time? – The 3 Essentials

Before you go out, there are some things you need to know, including duck species, duck hunting locations, and the duck hunting season in your area. This information is critical for ensuring you are hunting legally, safely, and effectively.

1. Duck Species

ducks in lake migrating
Image Credit: Arawolf, Pixabay

In the United States, there are four main divisions of ducks: puddle ducks or dabbling ducks, diving ducks, sea ducks, and whistling ducks or tree ducks.

You need to figure out what duck species are in your area for the most effective duck calls, decoys, and hunting techniques. Puddle and diving ducks can be found practically all throughout the United States, whereas sea ducks and whistling ducks are only found in specific locations.

2. Approved Duck Hunting Locations

Once you know what duck species are in your areas, find approved duck hunting locations. You want to select locations that are safe for hunting purposes but that also see a lot of ducks. Most ducks can be found in marshes, fields, and large bodies of water. The species of duck in your area will largely determine where you should look.

3. Duck Hunting Season

flock of birds flying in circles over the lake
Image Credit: eka_zimina, Shutterstock

The last thing you need to worry about is the hunting season. You will need to contact your state’s wildlife resources agency to learn the hunting season for ducks and waterfowl. The duck season loosely covers September to November, and hunting is sometimes only allowed Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

The duck species you are hunting will determine when in the season you are most likely to get a hit. As for the time of day, ducks are mainly active in the early mornings and late evenings. You’ll have the best opportunities at hunting 30 minutes before sunrise and the last hour of daylight. However, you will need to check the hunting times that are legal in your area.

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How to Duck Hunt – The 11 Basic Tips & Tricks

What You’ll Need

Once you’ve confirmed the duck species in your area, hunting locations, and hunting season, you’ll need to gather your supplies before the hunt. There are many resources and tools you will need to stay safe during the hunting season.

Of course, you will need a shotgun. Most 12-gauge and 20-gauge models work. You will need a non-toxic shot, making steel the best option for duck hunting. You will also need decoys and duck calls in order to attract the ducks to your location.

Don’t forget about your clothing. You need to wear special apparel for duck hunting. Chest waders and hip boots are ideal. Make sure that all your clothes are inconspicuous, too. For the best result, utilize the nature around you to camouflage yourself naturally. Don’t forget about standard safety equipment, including goggles, gloves, and ear protection.

One last thing to consider is water rig boats. Because you will be hiding out in the water, having these sorts of devices can make duck hunting much easier.

Starting the Hunt

Now that you have everything you need to go duck hunting, here’s what you will need to do:

1. Select Your Duck Hunting Method

Firstly, you need to select your hunting method. There are three main hunting techniques: jump shooting, pass shooting, and decoy hunting.

Jump shooting is whenever you sneak up on the duck and shoot them as they fly away. Pass shooting means you shoot the bird whenever it is flying at a distance. It’s important to use ethical pass shooting in which you aren’t just aiming mindlessly at all birds that fly by.

The most traditional approach to duck hunting is decoy hunting. You will need to select decoys based on the area and ducks in your location. This is the method we recommend for beginners. Set up decoys in a natural way to attract ducks and waterfowl. 

2. Duck Calls

Wild motley waterfowl on the lake
Image By: Frezi Gate, Shutterstock

After you decide on your hunting method, grab your duck calls. The idea behind duck call is to bring the ducks to your location. There are different calls you will need to master, and you need to know the type of species in your area. Some different sounds you will need to master include quacking, highballing, and a feeding chuckle.

3. Conceal Yourself and Wait

hunting aiming the target
Image Credit: Body Stock, Shutterstock

Once you’ve done the duck call, you will need to conceal yourself and wait for a duck to fly or swim by. Make sure you are concealed from head to toe and be patient during the process. This is the most difficult part of hunting—the waiting game.

4. Shoot

Whenever a duck flies by, that is when you will shoot. The exact time when you shoot depends on the hunting technique you selected. The key to any successful duck hunt is patience and practice. Be patient as you get better at hunting these quick creatures.

5. Retrieval

hunter walking in the wild
Image By: Piqsels

One difficult part of hunting duck is the retrieval process. Many traditional duck hunters opt for duck hunting dogs that will retrieve game that has fallen. Retrieval species, such as Labradors and Golden Retrievers, make excellent duck dogs, but you can technically train any dog to be a retriever.

6. Don’t Waste Any Meat

If you’ve gone through the trouble of going duck hunting and successfully snagged yourself a bird, don’t waste the meat. After all, duck is delicious. Bring the duck home and cook it up for yourself and your family.

Advanced Tips for Duck Hunting

If duck hunting was as easy, everyone would do it. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of time, skill, and effort to master duck hunting. Here are some other tips we recommend for duck hunting like a pro:

7. Use Natural Concealment

hunter leaning on the post
Image By: Clint Patterson, Unsplash

Concealment is key whenever you are duck hunting. To make yourself as inconspicuous as possible, blend in with your surroundings using natural concealment. Natural concealment will be much more effective than human-made concealment.

8. Don’t Forget to Conceal Your Gun

Many beginner duck hunters make the mistake of concealing themselves but not concealing their guns. You need to safely conceal your gun so that the duck does not see a sparkly metal piece glistening in the sunlight. One of the easiest ways to conceal your gun is by using white medical gauze.

9. Store Your Keys Strategically

turkey hunter leaning on the tree
Image Credit: Gregory Crosby Jr, Shutterstock

Whenever you are duck hunting, you will have to keep track of your keys. You don’t want to lose them, but they can’t make noise either. This can make storing your keys difficult. One thing you can do is get a floating key caddy. That way, you don’t lose your keys if you drop them in the water, but you don’t have to worry about them jangling either.

10. Stay Out Late

Even if you are out early in the morning, try to stay out late. Waterfowl typically migrate later in the morning and sometimes towards the evening. By staying out late, you will get more opportunities to get the duck.

11. Patience Pays Off

Patience is a virtue, and that certainly is the case for duck hunting. Duck hunting is no easy feat, and you will have to be patient to learn key duck hunting skills and get a bird.

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Duck hunting can be challenging. Even if you are an avid hunter, the first time you go duck hunting is stressful and difficult. Use the 14 tips above to understand duck hunting and make your first duck hunting trip as successful as possible. Good luck!

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Featured Image Credit: rck_953, Shutterstock

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.