Guns & Gear
Occasionally in duck conversations, someone will say, "I might buy a 10-gauge shotgun this season. What do you think?" My favorite reply is, "You don't need bigger artillery, you need to learn to call better!"
There's no argument that 10-gauge have more range and killing power, but each and everyone of us should improve our calling skills each year until we can bring game in so close that even a 20 gauge would clobber it. In fact, I've seen hunters make as many good shots and take home just as much fowl with 3-inch 20-gauge as the guys with the "Big Guns".
Myself and the staff (Shannon, Jeff and Ted) at Wall's Gun Shop in Blairstown, Missouri, all agreed on the following top five most popular waterfowl guns. We know there are many other fine guns that work well in the marsh, but these are our choices:
1. Remington 870 Express - 12 ga - 2 3/4"-3" - Pump - $250 - An economy model of the legendary 870 Wingmaster. A reliable, user-friendly pump. No doubt the best value on the market.
2. Remington 870 Mag Express - 12 ga - 2 3/4"-3 1/2" - Pump - $300 - New on the market. The big brother of the express. For just a few dollars more you can step up to a 870 Mag with composite stock forearm that can handle all three sizes of shells. Veteran waterfowl guide and gunsmith, Jim Sutton of Truman Lake says, "This gun performs and patterns excellent with steel shot."
3. Remington 1187 - 12 ga - 2 3/4"-3" - Auto - $550 - Well known among hunters, this big brother to the famous 1100 is a good buy for an auto shotgun.
4. Browning Gold - 12 ga - 2 3/4"-3"-3 1/2" - Auto - $800 - Another new addition for waterfowlers. A super automatic shotgun that has worked well here in the Missouri Outback.
5. Benelli Super Black Eagle - 12 ga - 2 3/4"-3"-3 1/2" - Auto - $1000 - The Cadillac of waterfowl guns. This automatic has silk-smooth inertia action and will take anything you can dish out.
(All five guns have screw-in chokes and satin finish, some with optional camo finish.)
Always keep your eyes open for a good usedwaterfowl gun in the off-season. You can sometimes save 25% to 40% off the above prices.
Most of you know by now that steel shot shoots a tighter, faster pattern than lead. For ducks I prefer modified or improved chokes over decoys. For geese, modified chokes perform better.
Longer barrels keep the blast of the muzzle out of the blind and are safer. I've tried 24" barrels but 26"-30" lengths will swing and follow through your lead better
STEEL SHOT LOADS
Ain't gonna quote a bunch of data ... here's the plain basics: If your load is heavy on the shot, you will loose speed. Too much powder will blow holes in your pattern as big as a duck. There are some good flyway speed loads on the market. Fiocchi (a Missouri-based company) makes a 3"-12 ga powder-to-shot matched load that delivers 1475 FPS. Federal also has a load at 1450 FPS. These loads have worked very well for me.
I believe #2 steel shot for ducks is the happy medium, although don't overlook #1 and #3. For geese, BB's or BBB's work best all around. Steel shot is faster than lead for the first 25-35 yards, but then slows down shortly after that. Try to get the birds in close enough for a head shot when possible. Fifty rounds of trap with steel shot right before the season sure don't hurt anything either. Remember, your shot string is approximately 5 feet long, so it's hard to over-lead a duck or goose.
"Ducks aren't really that hard to hit ...
it's just that there's a lot of space around
them that you can shoot and not hit duck."
- Tom Guthrie, Nov 1 1997
There are many good GoreTex coats made in wetland or marsh camo patterns. Make sure the GoreTex fiber membranes are in the outside shell of the fabric. One coat I own looks great, but the membranes that are in the inner layer. I learned all about it one rainy day. I stayed dry, but the outer shell and insulation was soaked, which made the coat weigh about 20 pounds. Bad ole deal. So check this carefully before you buy. Try the coat on and see how flexible it is. Duck hunters need freedom of movement. Browning and Columbia, to name a couple, have very soft outer shell coats. Some you may be able to buy just the insulated outer coat, because very seldom to you need the inner insulated jacket in Missouri. Of course matching pants and hat are optional.
Some hunters like the neoprene chest waders for warmth and comfort, but if you walk through brush they can easily snag and even be cut when wading in broken ice. Remington has a new canvas camo chest wader that averages about $70. This wader includes H-back suspenders, belt and insulated foot. It's a tough boot and a super buy for the waterfowler. Chest waders not only allow you to handle deeper water, but will keep you warmer. I usually wear my coat inside my waders, which allows me to get even deeper and still have access to my coat pockets and shells. If you hunt only shallow water, hip boots may be all you will need.
If you hunt the big lakes and rivers, a duck boat may be for you. Before you buy or design a blind on your boat, check out what your local waterfowl guides are using. This will save you time and money. Kitco, a company based in Odessa, Missouri, has come up with one of the best solutions for hunting shallow water. They make the Four Rivers Layout Boat that is 13 1/2 feet long, 50 inches wide and weighs just under 100 lbs. It floats only 8" above the water surface, but is very stable and can haul two hunters and gear. Along with the optional Denier Wetlands Camo cover, grass mats and recliner seat, you can go to wherever the ducks are, set up a small spread and become virtually invisable. The ducks will basically land in your lap. This boat maneuvers excellent with a paddle or push-pole and has a transom that will handle a 2 HP gas outboard or electric trolling motor. A smaller 9 1/2 foot version with a 45" beam, weighing under 60 lbs is also available. Both are ideal for shallow water and slide easily into the bed of your pickup or roof rack. For more information call Action Products at 1-800-733-5514, for a dealer near you.
And that's all I've got to say about that.
Remember ... take a friend or kid along, have fun, never take more than you need, always pack a camera, call them in close and keep the inside of your waders dry!