When hunting migratory birds, especially ducks and geese, it pays to be dynamic, flexible, in a word- mobile. Having the capability to just scoop up a spread and move can be the difference between going home with a fist full of green or watching birds slip past your spread out of range all morning long. In the world of waterfowling nothing is worse than knowing you’re set up in the wrong location and not being able to do anything about it. Sometimes moving a spread just 50-100 yards is all it takes. Other times being mobile may mean moving miles in order to be on the “X.”
In the west, most often, we hunt rivers due to our late seasons having any still water frozen solid. This means that the birds tend to shift locations quite often throughout the day. Feeding water is different than resting water and resting water can be a long way from where the birds roost. Get my point? The key to consistently killing limits out here is having the ability to pick up quickly and move to where the birds want to be. Sometimes that means moving throughout the day, other times it means being flexible on a daily basis, either way, I like to be light and fast. You cannot do this if you haven’t thought out your kit.
A good kit is one that keeps the waterfowler mobile, concealed, and protected from the elements. The following list is a breakdown of my day to day late season duck and goose kit. Keep in mind, this is a river/stream hunting kit. My layout kit is much more extensive and will be covered in a later issue. Until then, I hope this gets you thinking about the coming season and maybe has you doing some tweaking of your kit.
Backpack – Sitka Full-Choke Pack or something similar in size
Jacket – Sitka Dakota Hoodie or Layout Jacket
Whites – Snow camo over-jacket – No Blind? No Problem!
Vest – Sitka Fahrenheit
Shirt – Sitka Core Heavyweight Hoodie or similar insulation option.
Baselayer – First Lite Chama EXP (Top & Bottom) or other high quality merino base layer.
Pants – Simms Cold weather wader pant or Sitka Layout pant
Hats – Lucky Stormy Chromer
Gloves – Sitka Caller’s Glove
Boots – Schnee’s Extreme 13”
Waders – Simms G3 Guide Wader & Vapor Boot or the Drake Eqwader which is reserved for brutal cold.
Note: All of my outer layers either fit in my pack or can be lashed to it, this is vital as most of the time I work up a pretty good sweat hiking in and setting up despite the piercing cold of late season. Snow camo is a must! I can hide in plain sight by simply standing still when wearing snow camo, if there is snow on the ground this piece can make or break a hunt. I went to breathable waders a couple years ago and they have become a favorite. With the right socks and foot warmers if needed, I’m just as warm and more mobile than when I wore 5mm neoprene waders.
Benelli SBEII – matte black w/Patternmaster choke & Carlson’s IC choke
Weatherby Element- This gun has become an office favorite and is a lot of fun to shoot
Floating gun case
Two boxes of ammo
Small tube of gun lube
Note: Carrying two chokes helps me be better prepared while being mobile. I’ve found myself changing chokes often enough to warrant carrying two. As for the gun lube, I usually use a light oil due to the cold temps of late season. There is nothing worse than a sticky action on a shotgun during a hunt.
12-24 Standard Mallard – don’t be afraid to experiment here.
2-4 Goose floaters – trust me!
12 Goose Sleeper shells – again, trust me!
Rig ‘Em Right Tanker XL decoy bag
Rig ‘Em Right Texas Rigs
Motion – either a jerk string or a spinning wing decoy
Note: First, the goose floaters. These are like my late season American Express card; I don’t leave home without them. Ducks love to hang around geese and while I’m not normally targeting geese on the river, having a few goose decoys ups my chances when they do come knockin’. This is the same with the goose sleeper shells but I only use them when there is shelf-ice. Now for the duck decoys. Two dozen is my max for staying mobile and most often I find I can get by with fewer. However, in recent years I’ve mixed a couple pintails and a few wigeon into my spread. I feel it makes it look different than what most guys are running and in the late season that can mean full limits. A note on spinning wings, while they are a great tool, I do think that ducks have gotten used to them and they are difficult to use in the cobble-bottomed rivers I hunt so mine quite often stay home.
Sundries & In the Pack
Jet Sled (ice fishing sled) – Large or XL
Small bolt cutters/side cutters
Coffee in Yeti Rambler bottle
Snickers – Fun Size (whole bag)
Facepaint – camo compact
Note: This last category contains perhaps some of the most important pieces of my kit. For example, the sled. This component is key to being mobile for me. I’ve drug it loaded down for up to two-miles to get to a duck hole. It totes all my gear and in flooded areas my dog can sit in it and remain dry. The Jet Sled was a game changer for me. As for the Lariat and side cutters, in an upcoming issue I talk about why these are important pieces that I always have on hand. I’ll not get into specifics on calls as we all have our favorites and I feel that the license, coffee and Snickers speak for themselves.
Well, there you have it, my mobile waterfowling kit. This kit lives in my pickup from November to the close of the season in January. I can hit the brush at anytime and know that I have what I’ll need to be successful. As with any gear list yours will probably look a bit different, as it should to reflect your tastes and region. However, if used as a baseline this list is a great starting point and one that I have and continue to refine every year. The important thing to remember here is to stay mobile, especially in the waning weeks of the season and you’ll kill more birds.