Duck Hunting in US – Having Fun with the Shotgun

By FarWide October 12, 2020

“Quack quack!” 

If this sound came from a morning rooster, I would shift my position and go back into deep slumber. But this time, it was ducks making the noise in my early morning dream. The thought of going after them kept me awake across half the night and now it was about time my fully guided duck hunting trip started. Dawn was still an hour away and I had a few minutes to freshen up before the 3 hours ride into the coveted waters and lowlands started. 

Duck Hunting in US
Duck Hunting in US

Soon, I was walking up to a permanent duck blind after having a bumpy ATV ride with a professional retriever. I chose to go alone with just a thermos of my favorite brew for company. Interestingly, my guide, who joined soon after, liked the same brand of coffee. He assured me of the best calls and hunting experience with promises to bring the ducks into close range as far as possible. Along with ducks, he also harvested pintails, widgeon, teal, mallards, gadwall, spoonies, wood ducks and geese as bonus for his clients. But today, we were after the ducks – right in the heart of the duck terrains of Northern California, Sacramento valley. 

Armed with a CA Hunting License and the required Federal/State Stamps, I was well-equipped with a camo rain jacket, waders and my age-old camo heart. I had remembered to pack in a warm layered jacket to keep me snug as I waited for my catch to come within range. The kit bag on my back carried a headlamp (which would not be needed), a 20-gauge shotgun, 2 boxes of steel shotgun shells as ammo, and my camera. While my shotgun craved for ducks, the last-named object in my kit was waiting to shoot American wigeons, geese, green-winged teals, mallards and the pretty northern pintails. 

Fast forwarding to the time we were on our way back. 

I managed to bring down and retrieve 3 ducks in a span of 2.30 hours spent on the blind. For me, the stint spelled success. If you are an avid duck hunter and would like to try your luck at this outdoor sport activity, then you may want to go through the following notes. These excerpts will give you a fair idea of how to go about the act in US. 

License for Hunting Ducks

Duck hunting seasons in most states lure outdoor enthusiasts looking for different species of geese and ducks in the same habitat. Hunters shoot down these waterfowl for more reasons than one. Despite commercial hunting being banned, there has been a sharp decline in the number of ducks in their natural habitat. Resultantly, the United States government has put several laws and regulations in place to guide and control the actions of duck hunters. 

  • In the year 1934, the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act (Federal Duck Stamp Act) was passed by the Government. According to the Act, along with a hunting license, it is important for all hunters to have a special stamp to participate legally. 
  • Additionally, states have a limit on the number of waterfowl and birds that can be hunted or found in possession at any given point of time. 
  • It is illegal to shoot ducks from moving vehicles or boat, and also if the duck is swimming or sitting in water.
Duck Hunting – Items That are a Must to Be Successful

Come fall and winter and you will find ducks migrating to warmer waters after raising their little ones. This time heralds the start of the duck hunting season in US. To make your trip a success, remember to pack in temporary hunting duck blinds, a shotgun and decoys in your kit. The decoys or calls will help you attract the ducks within shooting range while the blind will reduce the chances of your detection by the birds. The role of the shotgun is to shoot down your target before it flies away or is frightened off by any external trigger. If you are planning to use your decoys for the first time, then its best to learn the right way of using the equipment from your guide or fellow duck hunters. 

Time to Remain Calm, Dry and Warm

The harsh weather conditions during fall and winter can come in the way of your firing line. To avoid getting distracted by the cold or chilly breeze, it’s essential to don the right clothing (preferably insulated) or have them nearby. For instance, waterproof clothing is a must as you will either be wading through water or will find yourself in a hunter’s boat. 

Invest in a good pair of waders, which are waterproof lowers with boots attached to them for easy wading. Waders are available in different designs and lengths so choose the ones that match your height and purpose. Waist high, chest high or knee-high waders? Your selection would depend on the depth of water you expect to find yourself in. Last but certainly not the least, as ducks have an impressive vision, your clothes should be well-camouflaged to blend with the natural surroundings. 

Legal Duck Hunting Seasons in US

November is the regular duck season in Missouri. However, different states have different duck hunting seasons that can be found out easily. For instance, the following table gives a synopsis of the season for ducks in New Hampshire.

Sea ducks can be hunted in all coastal waters from Nov 18th to Jan 16th. The bag limit is 5 while the possession limit is 18. 

Where to Go?

Body booting in Maryland, duck hunting on layout boots in the waters of the Great Lakes, looking for puddle ducks in the pot holes of the Prairies, or something else? There’s absolutely no dearth of options to choose from when it comes to the best location for duck hunters in US.  Some exciting places on the list of amateur and professional hunters are:

  • Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
  • Venice, Louisiana
  • Stuttgart, Arkansas
  • San Francisco Bay, California
  • Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Charleston, South Carolina, etc. 
Best Shot Sizes

Along with the distance of the target (away from the shooter) and its speed, the correct shot size for different sizes of ducks is a critical consideration. The common shot sizes in use by most shooters of waterfowl are No. 4, 3, 2, 1, T, BB and BBB shot. The smaller shot sizes work well for ducks, while the geese and swans can be brought down better with the bigger shot sizes – take your pick. 

Small Ducks15-40 yds4, 5, 6IC/Mod12, 20
Large Ducks10-40 ydsBB,1, 2, 3Mod/Imp. Mod10,12, 20
Geese10-45 ydsT, BBB, BBMod/Imp. Mod10,12, 20
Best Shot Sizes
The Last Word

Regardless of whether you are an old player or practically new to the world of waterfowl hunting, the most critical thing to have when you’re outdoors is fun. Remember the rules and regulations for the sport, carry all due licenses and stamps, and gear yourself up well. Make your trip enjoyable and not too complicated. After all, it’s all about having fun with your shots in the wild. 

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