Archive for June, 2012

So, You Want to Start Duck Hunting? (Part 3)

This is part three of a three part series on how to get started in duck hunting. In the prior post (part 2) we discussed shotguns and ammo.

Okay, now that you’re licensed and you’ve got your shotgun and ammo you’re almost done…NOT! Now you need to get the rest of the gear that will turn you in to a full-fledged waterfowler.

Next on your list should be waders. There are basically three types of waders, neoprene, rubber/canvas, and breathables. When I say waders I’m talking about full chest high waders, not hip boots. There may be a few ponds that you can get away with wearing hip boots but they are few and far between so you should get full on chest high waders. Even if a pond is only a foot and a half deep you can have problems with hip boots as, if you hit a soft spot on the bottom, you can sink a foot or so in the mud and once the water comes over the top of the hip boots you’re wet and (depending on the weather) cold for the rest of the day. I have had all three types of waders in my time. I have developed a preference for stocking foot waders as you can then tightly lace a pair of wading boots to them and you have no problem with the mud pulling the boot off your foot as I have always had in boot-foot waders. Lately I have leaned towards the breathables as, being I’m in Southern California, it usually isn’t cold enough to require the neoprene and its sometimes way to hot to be comfortable in the neoprene, especially if you have to walk any distance at all. With the breathables you can just wear long underwear and pants under them if you expect it to be cold. Expect to pay around $75 at least for a decent pair of chest high stocking foot waders (either neoprene or breathables) and an additional $40 or so for wading boots. If you prefer boot foot waders you might be able to find a decent pair for around $75 or so and not have to buy the wading boots.

Next is clothing. You should have the following, all in some type of camo pattern:

A long sleeve t-shirt, a sweatshirt, a jacket, some type of rain jacket (this can be a full on insulated rain jacket or a rain shell to just cover your other clothes to keep the rain off) a hat, a stocking cap and gloves. I tend to try and keep my camo patterns on the brownish side rather then the greenish side as most of the vegetation in the marsh tends to be on the brownish side of the spectrum. Check off season sales on this type of camo clothing, especially with some of the big on-line retailers. You can sometimes get some great deals if you hit the ads right. Expect to spend around $150 to $300 for this clothing depending on which sales you manage to get in on.

Now on to decoys. Decoys can be a controversial subject. There are many that think the more the merrier and then there are some that think less is more. For a start I’d say get at least a dozen. You can sometimes find good sales in the off season also. A good combo pack is the Avery Greenhead Gear puddler pack which gives you a nice variety of ducks for your decoy spread. Each puddler pack gives you 2 Pintails, 2 American Wigeons, 2 Green Winged Teal and cost about $35. Two puddler packs are enough to get you started and they’re great looking decoys. All you’ll need then is a little fishing line and a dozen 3 or 4 ounce weights (which, if you’ve ever fished, you might already have in the garage). The only other thing you’d need would be a decoy bag to transport the decoys in. You should be able to find one of those for about $10 or so. One tip on the bag. Take an empty water bottle and zip tie it to the bag. That way, if you drop the bag in the water it won’t sink and you won’t loose it.

Now on to calls. I wrote a post on calls a while back so I’ll just refer you to that. I’m not a big fan of calls unless you’re real good at it and it really takes a talent. Check this link for further on calls:

Seating is the next subject. Unless you want to stand up all day you’ll usually need something to sit on. There are some blinds that actually have seats in them already but, for the most part, you’ll need a seat to sit on. This can be anything from a 5 gallon bucket painted camo to a dove seat to a folding director’s chair in camo. Whatever you choose be sure it is either camo colored or some flat greenish or brownish colors. A decent dove seat goes for around $20. A bucket you might be able to find for $6 or $8 and then add some paint.

Lastly, what to carry all this stuff in/with? When you’re just starting out you can probably just carry the stuff in your hands and on our back. The bucket or dove chair (which usually has a pouch beneath it) can carry your loose items such as shells, calls, lunch and other assorted small stuff. The decoy bag can usually be carried on your back like a backpack and the shotgun can be carried in hand or with a sling over your back. The waders and clothing you’ll be wearing out to the blind. Later, when you fully caught the addiction and have accumulated all kinds of gear you’ll want to take out to the blind, you might want to invest in a cart for your equipment. One of the best I’ve seen is the Ducks & Bucks Cart Blind. I also did a review on the D & B cart a while back so I’ll refer you to that link if you’re interested:–-ducks-bucks-cart-blind/

So there you have it. The basics to get you started in duck hunting. Hopefully it will lead to a lifelong addiction, as it has with me, and I’ll see you out at the refuge from time to time.

So, You Want to Start Duck Hunting? (Part 2)

This is part two of a three part series on how to get started in duck hunting. In the prior post (part 1) we discussed getting licensed to hunt ducks.

Now that you have your license what’s next?

Well, next in importance is a shotgun. Without a shotgun you’d be a bird watcher out in the marsh so, what should you get for your duck gun? My personal preference is a pump action 12 gauge. My reason for this is mainly reliability and ease of use. Some people like semi-auto shotguns, as they don’t seem to “kick” as much and there are others that like a nice over/under double barrel. You might want to check at a local trap range and see if you can rent a couple different shotguns and see what your preference is. Another good source you might want to consider that could save you some money is if you have a local pawn shop that handles firearms you can sometimes pick up a used gun for cheap as well as checking out the consignment and used guns at the local gun shop. I’ll list a few of what I think are good starter shotguns for your consideration. Of course, the final decision is entirely up the the individual hunter and what he or she prefers and can afford:

Mossberg 500 – A very basic, pretty “bulletproof” pump action gun. They’ve been around for many years and work well. They can handle 3-inch ammo and are not too expensive. You can pick up a new 500 for around $280 to $300 or so. I have recently seen a deal at Big 5 for one of these that comes with 28 inch barrel with screw in chokes and another 18 inch barrel for home defense for about this much money. Many years ago I bought my son his first duck gun at a pawn shop and it was a version of a Mossberg 500 but is marked “New Haven 600AT”. I believe I paid about $125 for it from the pawn shop.

Remington 870 Wingmaster – Just take a look at the shotgun rack in any police car in the US and I’ll bet 99 times out of 100 you’ll see a Remington 870 sitting in that rack. These guys bet their life on these guns so you know an 870 is reliable. I’ve heard some of the newer “express” models aren’t as well made but I have no personal experience with them so I don’t know for sure. I do have a 50+ year-old 870 that used to be my duck gun. I mainly use it for upland now as it only handles 2 ¾ inch shells so when we had to go to steel I retired it from duck hunting. Most of the more recent 870s will handle 3-inch ammo and there are even a few around that they chambered for 3 ½ inch shells but they are hard to find. You’ll probably be looking at about $400+ or so for an 870. Another good one to look for used in a pawn shop or as a used gun at a gun shop.

Remington 1100 – The 1100 is a good basic reliable semi-auto. Of course, made by the same folks that make the 870. My preference is for pump guns so I have no personal experience with the 1100 but they have a reputation for reliability and, from what I understand, tame the recoil somewhat over what you’ll feel with a pump gun. Most will handle 3-inch shells although some of the older ones only took 2 ¾ inch shells. Again you can sometime find a deal on an 1100 at the local pawn shop or used at a local gun shop. 1100s go for around $500+.

Benelli Super Nova (or just Nova {older model}) – A newer style pump gun. These have a polymer stock and fore-end and come in black anodized or camo. Novas are a good reliable shotgun and will handle all ammo up to and including 3 ½ inch shells. This is what I use as my waterfowl gun and it works great. I don’t think you’ll see too many of these in pawn shops or on the used gun rack at your local gun store but they aren’t too pricy and you can walk out the door with a Super Nova for around $450 give or take a little.

As with all things, shotguns are a big personal preference item and these are just a few suggestions to get you started. Try some of them out and don’t be afraid of a used gun as most of them, especially the pump guns, are hard to mess up as long as minimal maintenance is done.

Now, the next thing you’ll need is ammo. What are you going to feed your shotgun? Of course, due to federal waterfowl regulations, you have to use “non-toxic” shot. This means steel, bismuth, tungsten or heavy shot. No lead! That’s a big ticket if you’re caught with any lead shot on your person or in you gear when you’re out duck hunting…don’t do it! Personally whatever I use I like it to be what’s referred to as “fast”. In other words I like mine to have a muzzle velocity of at least 1550 feet per second. I’ve seen some steel loads that have a velocity of 1300 fps or less. These, in my humble opinion, are too slow for reliable, kill shots on ducks. There are some newer non-toxic loads that have a velocity of 1625 fps or more. In the case of duck loads, as they say, speed kills. Steel shot will be your cheapest option and a box of 3” or 3 ½” “fast” steel shot loads will cost about $13 to $18. Other non-toxic loads (other then steel) can run anywhere from $15 to up to as much as $32 a box. A lot of these non-steel non-toxic shot shells come in boxes of 10 instead of boxes of 25 as most steel shot loads do, even with those afore mentioned high prices so you could be paying up to $3 a round or more for some of the more expensive types. As for shot size, personally I like #3’s. Lots of people shoot #4’s and a lot of people shoot #2’s. If there is a possibility of geese I usually carry a few rounds of BB or T size shot just in case.

Well, now that you’re armed and ready. In the next installment we’ll discuss the rest of the equipment you’ll need to get into duck hunting.

So, You Want to Start Duck Hunting? (part 1)

This will be a three part series on how to get started in duck hunting. To begin, of course, is part one.

So, you want to start duck hunting?

Are you nuts? You want to get up at all hours of the very early morning, battle sub freezing temperatures, wade through freezing water and two foot deep mud, sit in the rain and spend large amounts of money to shoot at a few ducks?

Okay, all kidding aside, there’s nothing like duck hunting and despite some of the above “hardships” those of us that have the addiction wouldn’t trade it for the world. If you’d like to join in with the addicted the following advise will at least get you started, hopefully for a minimum amount of dinero.

First of all you’ll need your hunting license, but, before you can get that you’ll need to take a Hunter’s Education Course and get your Hunter’s Education Certificate. By law you can’t buy a hunting license without first taking, and passing, a Hunter’s Education Course. There are on-line courses you can take, however, these require you to show up and take a 4-hour follow-up course to get your actual certificate. If that’s your preference just search “hunter’s safety course Southern California” on the Internet and you’ll find several. Probably better (in my opinion anyway) is to take a full 8 hour course with a Hunter’s Safety Instructor. You can find a list of scheduled classes through the Department of Fish and Game at the following link:

Some of these courses aren’t too expensive but expect to put out between $10 and about $50 depending on where you take the course. Every spring San Jacinto Wildlife Area offers the course for free, but that’s already happened this year. If you’d been checking SoCalHunt regularly you would have seen the announcement for this year’s course at San Jacinto.

Okay, now that you have your certificate next is the license. You can get that at any DFG license agent (AKA: sporting goods store, Walmart, etc.) or at your nearest DFG Office (check the DFG web site for locations). If you do get it at your DFG Office you’ll actually save 5% as they don’t charge you the license agent handling fee that the sporting goods and other “license agents” will charge. They will, however, charge you a 3% license buyer surcharge, although the “license agents” also charge this fee. Actually, right now, you may want to hold off on this step until just before July, or even just before duck season, as hunting licenses are good from July 1 to June 30, but you can buy them earlier if you’d like to. I’d at least get it before September 1st as that’s then opener for dove season, which is a good “tune up” for duck hunting. The cost for your license, and necessary stamps will be (from the DFG web site:

$44.85 – resident hunting license
$19.44 – California duck stamp validation
$ 9.21 – Upland game bird validation (just in case I go quail or dove hunting – it’s worth having for that option in case you don’t get drawn out of the sweatline bucket.)
$ 0.00 – Harvest Information Program (HIP) validation – (required to get a license – you’ll be required to take a short survey of your last season’s hunting. If this is your first license that should be an easy survey.)
$15.00 – Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp – (AKA: Federal Duck Stamp) – (This one you’ll have to get at either the Post Office or many of the “license agents” carry them as a convenience for their customers – you won’t be able to get this stamp at the DFG Office).

Therefore, according to the above, your total price to get licensed to duck hunt will be about $79.29 or, if you want the option to upland hunt, $88.50.

Also, one more thing, if you’re going to hunt a refuge such as Wister or San Jacinto you’ll need a type A one-day, two-day or season pass. I always buy the season pass as I go often enough to make that a really good deal. I hunted 17 times this past season, which figured out to $8.22 for each hunt day. If you were fortunate enough to be able to hunt every available hunt day at a refuge like Wister, which hunts Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, that would give you a potential 44 hunt days which would figure out to $3.18 for each hunt. (Of course, this was figured on last season’s season long pass price). The refuge check stations don’t sell these passes any more so you have to have them in your possession when you arrive on opening day or you will be turned away, even if you have a #1 reservation. Get them at the same place you got your license. Per the DFG web site the price for the 2012/2013 season pass is:

$150.69 – season long type A pass

The DFG license web site doesn’t list the prices for the one-day and two-day passes yet but last season’s prices were:

$ 18.00 – one-day type A pass
$ 31.58 – two-day type A pass

You can expect these will go up a little, probably around a buck or two.

You’ll have to do the math and see which permit(s) might be best for you based on how many times you expect to hunt during the season.

One last thing on the licenses and permits, all of them are available on-line at the DFG licensing sales web site at:

However, even though you can buy these on-line, if you do that you’ll have to wait up to 15 days to receive the actual license, stamp validations and/or permits in the mail before you can use them. Now, if you’re buying your license, stamps and permits a long ways out from the season, no problem. But, if you’re buying close to or after the start of the season waiting for them to come in the mail may constitute a problem. If you buy these in person at a “license agent” of DFG Office then you walk out with the actual license, stamps and/or permits and there’s no waiting involved.

Okay, that’s it for the first part. Now you’re “legal” so what’s next? In the next installment will discuss one of the most necessary items you’ll need when duck hunting…the shotgun and what to feed it (ammo).

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 216 other subscribers