15 days from now, I will be a waterfowl widow… 15 days from now, I will be a single mom again… 15 days from now, I will be booking, and scheduling, and coordinating 100 days of waterfowl hunts, for more than 500 clients over the course of one season!
Never mind all that,
15 days from now, I will be making my way to a duck blind in a flooded marsh long before the sun decides to rise. Setting out dekes, steadying the dog, getting the kiddos situated, and excitedly waiting and listening for that beloved sound of whistling wings and duck chatter to start!
15 Days from now is the Waterfowl Opener for the Balance of the State, and the kiddos and I have big plans to head out the morning of and bring home our first few ducks of the season! I know that I am not the only one! Duck Season is upon us and many waterfowlers across the country are buzzing with excitement as they countdown the days. The Stafford Family pretty much considers “the Opener” to be somewhat of a holiday and therefore our preparedness for such a festival is of utmost importance. My tips outlined below offer a little insight into exactly what and how we are preparing for our Opener and hopefully they help you start your season off on the right foot too!
1. Waterfowl Identification:
I truly believe this is what makes waterfowl hunting one of the most challenging hunts ever!!! There is just so much to know! My tip: Grab a waterfowl ID book and head out to a nearby refuge. Gray Lodge Auto Loop is a great place to tour around and have the kids help you spot different birds. This is something you can start doing long before the season starts too. Watching birds in flight is so helpful to becoming an ID expert. Really studying the way a certain species flies through the air can be so beneficial on those early morning hunts, when everything that is flying over head looks like nothing but a blacked out silhouette above. Listening to the sounds they make also helps a ton! Get yourself a book and don’t forget to share with the kids! It’s never too early to get them started!
This kinda ties into the whole ID game too, but I can’t begin to tell you how important it is to know your regulations! My tip: Download the regs online from the Fish & Wildlife Website. Duck hunting regs typically change every year, so be sure to brush up on them and don’t just assume they are the same as the last season. You have to know your total daily bag limit and the species that can make up that limit. Be sure to checkout shooting times too. There are a few cool apps that our guides use to log their daily hunts and these apps also have shooting hours built right in. Some of the apps also have bird ID photos and sounds as well. My kids love these apps and I figure if they are going to play games, they might as well play useful games. Download an app or two to play with before opener. But more importantly download those regs and look them over too!
3. Gear Check:
Nothing makes a hunt more unenjoyable than having a bunch of faulty equipment. It doesn’t necessary have to be brand new, high dollar gear but my tip: make sure what you dohave is hunt worthy!
Waders – are notorious for leaks. It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to test your waders before you wade through those ponds on opening morning. But before you do, I would for sure give them a good wash down and then dry them out before you test them out. Mice love to live in wader boots. Just a little warning for you.
Decoys – The same can be said for decoys and decoy bags. Mice love to hide in our decoys! Pull out your dekes and double check that everything has a string and weight and that your knots are tight. Wash out and hang dry your decoy bags too. Most of our decoys are cleaned and touched up during the summer months, but if you haven’t done so yet, you could also spend some time giving them a bath. Spit shining them or dunking them in muddy water doesn’t always cut the mustard.
Duck Calls – This always makes me laugh, but driving through the town of Colusa middle of the day, you can more than likely spot at least one guy driving down the road blowing on a duck call. I admit, I am no stranger to this past time myself. It doesn’t hurt to practice! Pull out your calls, clean them up and throw them in the front seat of your car. Put on an instructional cd and quack along! For those of you who are absolutely opposed to calling, grab yourself a whistle and learn how to flutter call pintails. While you’re at it get your kids one too
4. Guns and Ammo:
The dove opener usually has most wing shooters digging their guns from their safes weeks prior to the waterfowl opener. But, if you haven’t already done so, my tip: would be to pull your gun out and give it a good cleaning. For some of you rookies, there are some great tutorials to watch to do this. I think there is no better way to learn your weapon than by breaking it down and cleaning it yourself. Or you can always head into your local gunsmith shop, have them clean it for your or I am sure they would be happy to show you a quick demo if youare wanting to learn. Once the gun is clean, I’d recommend taking it to the range to cycle a few rounds through it. A day spent shooting skeet is pretty darn helpful in getting the gun parts greased and the shooters too. Experiment with different loads and chokes too. Really try to learn your gun and know the shot pattern you are throwing out there. I promise it makes you a better more efficient shooter! Side note: Remember to make sure your plug is in your gun too!
5. Obedience Brush Up:
This goes for both the kids and your retriever. It is important to get the kids and the dog prepared for the opener. My tip: prep your kids by reminding them about gun safety while in and around the duck blind. Just like the obedience drills you do with your dog to mark the bird and not bolt immediately on the shot, remind your kids of the same concept. Laying out a list of expectations will help them prepare for the day too. Describe to them what they may experience while out there with you and be realistic. As far as the dog goes, water work & retrieving training is great exercise for your pooch and fun too. 20 minutes each evening can help a lot and this always makes for quality family time, so be sure to bring the kids and let them help!
Hope you read something useful in all of that. The Opener might not be in the cards for everyone, but what matters most is that you plan at least one hunt this season. Get out there and have some fun and take a kid or newbie with you!!! Nothing beats a morning in the marsh and I can’t wait for 15 days from now…