Exploring the camp gear needed for the duck hunting season.
To every season we turn over our tools and gear. The hose is replaced by the rake, the rake by the shovel, the shovel by the tiller. And so it is with our outdoors pursuits. Thing is, brands are coming out with cutting edge stuff: lighter, warmer, more durable, and more versatile. Although there’s no such thing as a shovel that’s also a hose, there are plenty of camping gear items that can serve dual purpose come waterfowl hunting season. Before you start to pack up your summer equipment and clothes for the season, pause to consider what you can use for mallard, goose hunting or whatever waterfowl species you pursue. Break the seasonal cycle with versatility.
Dry Bags – It’s amazing that the first five letters in waterfowl start with “water,” and unless you exclusively hunt dry fields, you’re in water. All of your gear is, too. Even after our industry’s big brands finally get smart and produce waterproof, blind bags that won’t completely break the bank, dry bags are the cheap solution. They also provide a dual service by compressing your extra layers and gear so you can pack even more away in the blind bag. Speaking of extra layers, I usually stuff my insulation layer in a dry bag and store it in my blind bag before and after the hunt; just like deer hunters not putting on all their layers before walking out to the stand, so should a duck hunter who puts out quite a sweat with the decoy spread. If your blind bag is big enough, it doesn’t hurt to pack an extra set of layering in case of someone going over their waders.
Silica Gel Packets – Yeah, these are those little packets that are thrown into packaging to absorb moisture. What do mold and mildew need to grow? Yep, you guessed it: moisture. Instead of throwing away those silica gel packets you come across, save them. Mold and mildew are nasty to clothing – especially with technical, waterproofing layers. I’m prone to forget to dry out my clothing and gear, so hopefully you’re not like me. A nice Band-Aid solution, though, is keeping at least a few in the blind bag; have two to put in each glove or hand muff to pull out the sweat they accumulated from your hands, and have one spare stuffed where you put your calls (especially if you’re using wood ones) to help dry them out from the saliva they collected from calling. You could also be the hero when your buddy drops their phone in the drink: toss those silica gel packets, along with the wet phone in a dry bag so you can continue to hunt and not have to go into town for a box of Uncle Ben’s. These are also great when you’re storing your gear that can’t be used in other seasons.
Tek Towel – There can be a lot of time in between flights. And for those of us that can’t hit the broad side of a barn, there’s an even longer lull for our faithful, furred companion. The water is cold, but the air is even colder. Help prevent hypothermia by drying off the areas which our dog’s vests don’t cover (their rears, legs, neck, and head). Tek towels are packable and will dry off quickly after the hunt. Just be sure to pack it in its own dry bag after the hunt so the rest of your blind bag doesn’t get wet.
Rain Pants – Have a set of waders that just sprung a pinhole leak and you don’t have the time or motivation to patch it? Toss your breathable rain pants on over your insulation layers. You’ll have a less soggy crotch for the remainder of the season. They’re far less bulky than ice fishing bibs or snowpants and will give you a season or two more in your neoprenes that start deteriorating.
Nite Ize Gear Ties – There are limitations to a carabineer – mostly due to its shape and rigidity. There is also a limitation to rope: it doesn’t retain shape. There are limitations to bungee straps (they lose elasticity over time and can slide around with enough force/movement). Enter Nite Ize – the multipurpose gear tie. Not only is it pretty danged strong, it’s extremely malleable; just a wrap one or two around a broken blind pole and it’ll be back to form. The rubber coating on them grips like no other!
Tarp – Yes, most of our gear is getting more and more technical. But it doesn’t hurt, if you’re lacking in vegetation around you, to erect a small, brown or grey tarp to lash into the inside of your blind with those Nite Ize Gear Ties. Not only does it completely remove your pattern but serves as a wind and weather break (your furred companion will probably thank you for that, too). What about in snow? Ask your contractor buddy if they have a roll of Tyvek laying around.
Trekking Poles – I’ve fallen so many times walking in the thick muck and fallen logs that I probably would save enough for a couple dozen decoys had I started a piggy bank for each stumble (I may be onto something there). Put on the snow baskets so they don’t go completely through the muck, too. Not only will they help when you’re wading to put out decoys in the dark, but they also can help grab your decoy that may have strayed too deep. It’ll also triple as a support to your blind if you’re hunting in an area sparse with trees.
Jetboil – Camp stoves are awesome but cumbersome for those that hunt out of ‘yaks, canoes, and small boats. Not only are they great for making or re-heating coffee or hot chocolate, but, when paired with Mountain House freeze dried meals (especially the biscuits and gravy), you’ll be grubbing down a delicious, warm meal that took up as much room as a football. Fuel lines, zippers or gear frozen shut? With a Jetboil and lake water, that’ll be gone in 60 seconds.
Fishing Net – There’s a reason why sea duck hunters use them. If you’re chasing down a wounded bird, don’t have a dog, or have the blind erected on the boat, a fishing net works pretty slick to scoop up birds in the water.
Permethrin – Yes, Thermacells are the bee’s knees in the blind during the early season, skeeter-infested hunts — but they won’t save you when you’re out collecting brush for the blind. Nor will they serve any purpose protecting you from deer ticks that linger late into the season. Give your jacket, hat, and top of the waders a spray down before the season. It’ll last 42 of the 60 days in the season.
Saw/Axe – Self explanatory here. Sometimes that beautiful blind you brushed in a week ago now looks like a pile of rubbish. Best to keep one on you to keep it looking like an actual hide. It has its perks for the late season honey hole when the rest of the pond or lake starts freezing over.
Camp Chair – I’m not talking about the standard, folding yard/camp chairs. I’m talking about the low profile ones made for the back country. Hiding in comfort is key. Helinox makes a swivel chair that packs down into nothing and weighs just 2.5 pounds – that swivel will be ideal when it’s turkey season. Or go even lower profile (and cheaper) with a GCI Outdoor Sitbacker Canoe Seat. You can wrap it around a fallen log or plop it on the ground and you’ll have instant comfort and back support from its metal frame.
Old Sleeping Pad – Your pup may enjoy a warmer butt than having to sit on cold, snowy ground. Or if it’s really mucky, the surface area on it will help keep her from sinking in or having cold toes. It’s probably not camouflaged, so take some spray paint and have at it.
Kayak/Canoe Life Jacket – Breathable waders are the latest craze – and for all the right reasons! The one gripe with them is the lack of buoyancy that we got from neoprene. For safety’s sake, kayak life jackets are slick – they sit up high on the chest so you have extra pockets to stow goods away in (if yours has them). They also help retain heat. Their biggest perk: shouldering a gun with one of them on is no sweat – they don’t have any padding around the shoulders. I wore mine the entire season last year and had no issues shouldering the gun.
inReach or SOS Beacon – Duck hunting is one of the most dangerous pursuits. You’re not going to be able to dial 9-1-1 with a waterlogged cell phone with wet hands that barely function when hypothermia is setting in. Touch screens are dang near worthless with wet hands as it is. Let’s all get wiser than just packing a first aid kit (which we all should have) and give yourself and those you love peace of mind.
Last modified: May 8, 2020