Waterfowling Tips for beginners

Get the Gear
– It doesn’t have to be expensive to get started duck and/or goose hunting, but it can be.  You need the proper clothing to withstand the cold and sometimes wet conditions of waterfowl hunting.  If you will be hunting in or near water, you will need warm chest waders with rubber soles.  You will need warm, camouflage clothing, gloves, and head gear.  You will also need decoys and calls, but again, start with the basics.  You don’t need hundreds of decoys and five- six different types of calls to get started. You can get by with few dozen decoys. Start with only a couple of calls, and learn how to use them and what the calls mean to the ducks and geese.

Do your homework, Find the Spot – As with all hunting, finding a place to hunt that will be productive is the most critical step. You can have all the gear, all the skills, be there at early in the morning before legal shooting time, and be ready, but if you aren’t in the right place, all of that does no good.  Go where the birds are. Ducks and geese change locations frequently as food and water conditions vary. Scout continuously to find areas that birds frequent use.


Learn the Birds – Understanding how ducks and geese behave at different times of the year, in different weather situations, and in different environments will go a long way towards your success.  Make an effort to spend some time to research how the birds react to weather, to wind, their feeding habits, and how they react to hunting pressure.

 Choose the right size ammo – A goose is a large bird, and you are going to need a powerful shot to get one down. If you are just starting out, try starting with BBB or BB steel shot loads. A duck is smaller, so for ducks try starting with #2’s or #4 steel shot loads. Of course everyone has their opinions; some people prefer 12 gauge 3″ shells and others prefer 12 gauge 3 1/2″ magnum shells to start with. There is the debate over steel shot versus other types of non toxic shots and even the shape of pellets within the shell.  The Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries has approved steel, bismuth-tin, iron-tungsten, iron-tungsten- nickel (HEVISHOT), copper-clad iron, tungsten-bronze, tungsten-iron-copper-nickel, tungsten matrix, tungsten-polymer, tungsten tin- iron, tungsten-tin-bismuth, tungsten-tin iron- nickel, and tungsten-iron-polymer] for hunting all waterfowl. Lead shot is not allowed for waterfowl hunting and cannot be in possession in the field while hunting these species. Shot size should be no larger than "T".  


Wear a Camo Face Mask or use Camo Face Paint – Sunshine reflects off human skin, this is why hunters looking out of a blind can flare ducks and geese working overhead. To prevent this from happening, wear a camo face mask or camo face paint and keep your cap bill low to shadow your eyes.

 Take One Bird at a time– When it is time to shoot, make a habit to focus on one bird and stay on it until it drops. When a flock of birds decoy into a decoy spread, hunters who choose to shoot into the flock, the normal results is a poor shooting percentage a small bag. For better results, take the time to concentrate on taking one bird at a time.

 Realistic looks and motion in your decoy spread – The more realistic the decoy spread, the more effective it will be at attracting waterfowl. Worn-out decoys can ruin a good waterfowl hunt. Waterfowl hunters should keep their decoys freshly painted and mud-free. If your decoys leak and full of water, covered in mud, or missing paint, they don't look like live birds. To get ducks and geese to lock up and drop toward your spread, they need to believe your decoys are the real thing. Usage of jerk strings, wobblers or spinner decoys can help mimic live birds.

Tailor your calling – Some days ducks and geese respond better to loud, aggressive calling. Other days, they prefer low key, quiet, subtle calling or no calling at all. Try experimenting with different calls and calling techniques to see which works best on each given day. 

Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back – Take a moment to make sure a responsible party knows your plans. If in an event you get lost or injured, someone will notice you are missing and will have an idea where to send help.

Recommended waterfowl hunting articles

Below are just a few articles that might help you get started.

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Decoy Placement

Waterfowling Tips