Duck hunting is one of the most gear-intensive outdoor pursuits. For that reason, it can be intimidating for newcomers. But you don’t have to burn a hole through your wallet on every piece of equipment. When starting out, keep it as simple as possible. Get the necessities and just hunt. Over time, you’ll learn what you need and what you don’t for the way you hunt. The gear below will keep you dry, hidden, and safe when you head to the marsh—which is exactly what you want to be when hunting ducks.
1. Cabela’s Hunting Chest Waders
Cabela’s hunting chest waders. · $159.97 Bass Pro Shops
I always tell new waterfowl hunters that after your shotgun and shells, waders should be your next purchase. Unless you’re hunting ducks and geese in dry fields, waders are an absolute necessity. This pair of Cabela’s waders are great for new hunters. They won’t break the bank and their thick neoprene design will keep you warm on cold winter mornings.
2. Drake Waterfowl Fleece-Line Full-Zip Jacket
Drake Waterfowl fleece-lined full zip jacket. · $74.95 Drake Waterfowl
Along with waders, you will need a good jacket to protect you from the elements. The Drake Waterfowl fleece-lined coat will do the job. It’s a good early- to mid-season jacket that can also be used as a layer during the late season. The fleece lining and marsh pattern will keep you warm and hidden.
3. Cabela’s Northern Flight Oversized Mallard Decoys
Cabela’s Northern Flight oversized mallard decoys. · $59.99 Cabela’s
You can’t go wrong with a half-dozen mallard decoys as one of your first duck hunting investments. I’ve killed plenty of ducks over these Cabela’s northern flight oversized mallards, and they’re still in great condition. Pick up a spool of decoy line and some weights and you’ll be ready to go.
Canoe’s and kayaks for duck hunting
Before you invest in a canoe or kayak make sure it is a safe and effective way to reach the area you plan on hunting. Many areas will require a bigger duck boat with an outboard motor, and some spots can be accessed on foot. But if you’re hunting small marshes, swamps, and creeks, manually operated watercraft are usually the way to go.
4. Old Town Saranac 146
The Old Town Saranac 146. · $649.99 Old Town Canoe
If you plan to hunt with a buddy, consider the Old Town Saranac 146. This two-person canoe is a manageable weight and offers plenty of room to store gear. It includes a waterproof compartment for dry storage. It’s comfortable adjustable seats make for a smooth ride. And for the price, you can’t beat it. My dad and I have been hunting out of this canoe for six years, accessing remote creeks and ponds. Mallards, black ducks, wood ducks, gadwall, and other species have all made the paddle out with us. The only drawback to this boat is the lightly-colored inside, but I use a large piece of camo burlap to cover up the boat once I’m set up and ready to hunt.
5. Ascend 10T Sit-On-Top Kayak
The Ascend 10T Sit-On-Top Kayak. · $549.99 Bass Pro Shops
If you’re planning to hunt alone, consider shifting your attention towards kayaks. I’ve been hunting out of my Ascend 10T sit-on-top for three seasons now and have been very happy with the setup. My boat is painted desert storm, and it hides extremely well. It has enough room for 20 decoys, a shotgun, a blind bag, and a dry bag. This kayak paddles smoothly and goes right over beaver dams, but it’s a little on the heavy side, so if you have to carry a boat for long distances, I would look for a lighter option.
6. RedHead TrueTimber DRT Mesh Life Vest
RedHead TrueTimber DRT Mesh Life Vest. · $49.99 Bass Pro Shops
Falling into freezing waters while motoring to your spot or retrieving a bird is no joke. That’s why a life jacket or PFD that fits is an absolute must if you are using a duck boat, kayak, or canoe. This one from RedHead hides well, has mesh storage pockets, and no foam in the shoulder area—making it perfect for either right- or left-handed shooters. Always make sure your life vest is securely fastened when operating your boat.
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7. Rig’Em Right Blind Bag
This is one piece of gear that I think new hunters overlook. A blind bag is a place to keep all the small things you need for the hunt. It can hold your license, wallet, shells, calls, thermos, gloves, hats, and food. It keeps everything dry and in one place. I pack my blind bag with the essentials the night before a hunt, and I always toss in an extra box of shells.
8. Cabela’s Camo Hunting Face Mask
Cabela’s Camo Hunting Face Mask. · $24.97 Cabela’s
You might be wondering why this is on the essential checklist. A friend that I hunt with is a waterfowl biologist, and every year he does flyovers to count ducks. One year, during hunting season, he spotted a flock in the water and flew down for a look. As he got closer, two hunters on the bank looked up at the plane. He said it looked like someone was shining a flashlight towards the sky. It wasn’t hard to see how decoying ducks would notice the same thing. Ever since I heard that story, I always wear a facemask or face paint to stay properly concealed.
Hot Shot Thinsulate wool fingerless mittens. Hot Shot
Keeping your hands warm and dry during a duck hunt is no easy task. On cold and snowy mornings, wet hands can mean an early trip back to the truck. I like to bring two different types of gloves: decoy gloves and fingerless mittens. The water-proof decoy gloves work great for motoring out to the spot and setting up decoys. Once I’m ready to hunt, I switch over to my Hot Shot Thinsulate wool fingerless mittens. They keep my hands warm throughout the day, and I can easily shoot because of the fingerless design. When it’s time to leave, I switch back to the decoy gloves to pick up my spread and head back.