By Kent Danjanovich
Senior Editor

October is here and while many of you will be hitting the hills in search of big game, many will be heading to the waterways to try their luck out on big green heads and giant honkers.  Yes, waterfowl season is upon us and with wet weather and cooler temperatures ahead, we thought we would bring you up-to-date on some great products that are sure to make your hunt even better this year.

Camo

Sitka Waterfowl Collection
Sitka Gear, the industry leader in performance hunting gear has made a big slash into the waterfowl section of camo design, creating a premium system designed with the most demanding waterfowler in mind. This marquee product has been scientifically designed and tested for hunters that desire both maximum comfort and functionality. The new line of performance waterfowl gear from Sitka Gear utilizes the all new GORE OPTIFADE Concealment Marsh Pattern. Whether you’re traversing a marshland tulle maze or navigating the willows along a river, you can be sure that you will be wearing the best hunting clothing money can buy.
GORE OPTIFADE Concealment Marsh Pattern is the newest edition to the OPTIFADE family and to Sitka Gear’s top-quality products which feature the most scientifically advanced visual concealment pattern ever to hit the market.  GORE OPTIFADE Concealment, is the first-ever concealment technology based on the science of animal vision.  The unique micro-pattern considers the way waterfowl perceives color, the ratio of positive to negative space and other visual elements to create an effect that allows the hunter to blend with the waterfowl’s perception of the environment. The macro-pattern breaks up the symmetry of the human body so that if a hunter is detected, the waterfowl will not be able to identify the hunter as a predator.

Sitka Gear realized that there was a void in the waterfowl market and that hunters were in need of garments that allowed them to battle the harsh and unruly elements that a waterfowler faces on a daily basis.  From frigid temperatures to tromping through wet and mucky marshes, a waterfowler’s body gets put through all the elements.  Sitka Gear’s approach to hunting gear is systematic, helping hunters withstand the exertion level, temperature, wind and precipitation of any hunting scenario.  The new line includes the Duck Oven Jacket, Delta Wading Jacket, Hudson Insulated Jacket,  their Pantanal Parka and Bibs, Dakota Vest, Wind-stopper Beanie, the Pantanal and Delta Deek Gloves as well as the Hudson Lobster Mitt.

Browning Dirty Bird
New in Browning’s diverse line of outdoor apparel for the avid sportsman is the new Dirty Bird Waterfowl line that is the most effective, ergonomic and comfortable clothing yet.  The new line of clothing includes insulated models with Browning’s Pre-Vent waterproof, breathable fabric shell for colder days in the field as well as models with Browning’s Vari-Tech Temperature and Motion design that are more adaptable when the weather looks better in the marsh.  All insulated models in the Dirty Bird line will feature PrimaLoft Synergy Insulation that is soft, lightweight, quick-drying and provides excellent insulating properties, even when wet.

Browning’s new Dirty Bird waterfowl clothing is offered in the two most effective camo patterns for waterfowl hunting that include Mossy Oak Duck Blind and Realtree Max-4.  A Dirty Bird 4-In-1 Parka, Insulated Parka, Insulated Wader Jacket, Insulated Bib, Non-Insulated Bib and Field Pants all feature an angle-entry pocket design for more convenience, Raglan sleeve construction and arrow gussets armpit design that makes the garment fit better and allow a greater range of movement.

The Dirty Bird Vari-Tech models include a Base Layer Pullover constructed of 200-gram fleece, a Vari-Tech Jacket with 3-layer laminate fabric in sleeves and a Vari-Tech Half Bib with 3-layer laminate fabric throughout with high bib design back, with an adjustable elasticized suspender system.  All Vari-Tech models feature Browning’s Pre-Vent waterproof, breathable fabric with fully taped external seams.  The Dirty Bird Vari-Tech Base Layer top features lightweight stretchable poly jersey sleeves with a mock neck design.

Decoys

Ducks and geese respond to decoys because other ducks hold the key to their survival. They are drawn to specific locations by a phenomenon called “local enhancement”, meaning that the presence of birds or decoys on an area enhances the appeal of the site to passing birds. While the laws of physics hold constant, waterfowl behavior does not. The variables that make your spread work for you are always changing and so your approach to setting decoys will need to keep changing too.   Even if your budget is tight, a few decoys are important to any duck or goose hunter.

Avery GHG Over Size Canada Shell
Crafted with awesome feather detail by an award-winning, professional wildlife carver, these heavy duty field shell goose decoys from Avery are made to last, for years of dependable use. They are oversized at 25” breast to tail and 12” wide, yet a dozen make an incredibly compact stack for easy transportation.

Avery GHG PG Mallard Surface Feeder Duck Decoy
Once again GHG has raised the bar in the duck decoy market. These new surface feeder floating mallard decoys are the most realistic, true to life production decoys ever made. The out-stretched neck creates the look of a real feeding duck.  A few of these with dipper feeders and flyers and sleepers will fool any duck. All styles come with full plumage paint schemes and the patented 60/40 Dura-Keel weighted keel.

Final Approach Full-Body Lesser Canada Goose Decoys
These lifelike decoys duplicate Lesser Canada geese, right down to their stubby beaks. They’re smaller, lightweight, easier to carry and add realism to your spread. Sculpture Flock detail in the neck, head and tail makes them indistinguishable from custom decoys. The Dura-Connect head-attachment system handles the abuse decoys get during the season. The Snap-Loc Whisper Motion System base conveniently and easily locks the body in place during blustery conditions or allows the decoy to move freely with a lifelike motion in lighter breezes. 4-pack includes one of each: sentry, stretching, resting and squawker head styles.

Final Approach Gunner HD Floating Duck Decoys
Created from carvings by decoy artist Marty Hanson, these decoys incorporate flawless detail with vivid, custom-quality paint schemes. The paint makes the decoys highly visible and is incredibly durable. Each decoy has intricate, lifelike feather texture and a host of natural head positions to mimic wild birds. Available in mallard, black duck, pintail, wood duck, wigeon and canvasback styles.

Calls

A wise old waterfowler once told me that a duck call is one of the best conservation tools ever invented. “Blow a call well” he explained “and you will bring ducks in close enough to clearly identify individual birds and make clean kills”. “Blow a call poorly” he continued “and most of the ducks you see will keep a safe distance from your blind”. Of course, most waterfowlers’ calling abilities fall somewhere in between these two extremes. Some days, many duck and goose hunters can work wonders with a call, bringing flock after flock into their decoys. But other times, especially in bluebird weather, their same calling efforts are met with indifference or even worse, hasten the departure of working flocks. Even the best callers make mistakes and these mistakes are what most often cost birds in the bag. In duck and goose calling, as in so many endeavors, knowing what not to do can be as important as knowing what to do. There are a lot of great calls on the market, with new and innovative models coming out every year.  Buck Gardner, RNT, Primos, Zink, Duck Commander and Echo all make great calls and you will find models on the shelves of most of your Sportsman’s Warehouse stores across the county.  Don’t be afraid to ask their waterfowl specialists to recommend one of their favorites for the area and species you will be hunting.

Ammo and Gear Bags

Avery Neoprene PowerBelt
The AveryNeoprene PowerBelt is truly a all in one design! In addition to 25 shell loops for any gauge shotgun shells, the PowerBelt has three zippered pockets for necessities such as choke tubes, game calls, ear plugs, shooting glasses, licenses, compass, GPS, wallet, keys and dozens of other small items you might want to take afield. The waist belt expands to 60″ to fit around large jackets and waders.

Avery Finisher Blind Bag
Every hard-core waterfowler has a long list of gear to take to the field. Keep all your small stuff organized in this full-featured, yet compact blind bag from Avery. Constructed of a virtually indestructible 900-denier polyester body, with an even tougher 1,200-denier bottom panel, the Finisher is built to last. Large rectangular main pocket is perfect for a few boxes of shells and also contains a water-resistant zippered compartment perfect for a wallet or hunting license. Zippered mesh pocket inside the main flap is just right for a pair of gloves. Easy Pull zippered side pockets expand slightly when loaded, and contain a secure key chain holder. The front pocket contains three choke-tube sleeves and plenty of extra space. It also has a padded carry handle and a padded nonslip shoulder strap.

Ammo

Patterning shotguns for waterfowl hunting is an often overlooked aspect of the hunt. So much emphasis is put on decoy placement, concealment and scouting, but none of that matters if you’re throwing a pattern out there that that isn’t uniform and has holes in it. The only way to find out what your gun is doing is to test it on the range, much like turkey hunters do. You want to give yourself the best chance possible at harvesting that passing duck or goose and firing some shots down range is the way to do so.

When patterning shotguns for waterfowl hunting, it isn’t just about the number of pellets in the circle. You want your pattern to be uniform throughout the circle and have a minimal number of bare spots in it.  Everyone would like to see a completely uniform pattern across the circle, but it is nearly impossible to achieve. Good results minimize and keep the gaps at three inches or under.  When shooting a smaller size shot, the shell will have more pellets in it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean more pellets on target. Some load and choke combos just don’t work well. The number of pellets on target is an important part of taking a bird down, but it’s penetration that kills. Penetration comes from the speed and size of the shot. It obviously takes more energy to penetrate the thick down of a goose and since they are a larger animal, you will typically utilize BB shot size. For ducks, their feathers are thinner and they aren’t as large as a goose, so 2s and even 4s typically work well.  Shot size for ducks or geese isn’t set in stone. It carries a bit of personal preference in the decision, but you need to keep in mind your typical shot distance and the size of the birds you’re going after.

Winchester Blind Side Steel
With 250% more trauma-causing power and 15 percent more pellets per shell, ducks and geese won’t know what hit them. Game-changing hexahedron-shaped pellets crumple waterfowl with a six-sided punch that cuts through feathers and keeps going. Unlike round shot, Hex shot focuses energy transfer and concentrates blunt-force trauma with sharp corners and flat sides for massive wound channels and flight-stopping shock. Space-optimizing Hex shot also provides superior packing density by stacking gap-free in the shot cup. These tight-fitting stacks create room for 15% more pellets in every shell and save space for bigger powder charges, providing more velocity. The exclusive Diamond-Cut Wad manages pattern density and uniformity with diamond-shaped air-brake petals for improved downrange performance, stretching the instant kill-zone up to 25% beyond the 30” sweet spot. The hinged wad column also increases velocity while reducing peak pressure and perceived recoil. Reengineered Drylok Super Steel system for water-resistant durability.

Federal Premium Black Cloud Steel
There’s a storm warning out for waterfowl and it comes in the form of a Black Cloud. This devastating steel ammo from Federal mixes innovative and lethal FliteStopper steel pellets with standard steel pellets in the range- extending FliteControl wad for superior downrange patterning and hitting power. Unlike standard round steel pellets, FliteStopper pellets have a sharp cut-on-contact surface that produces bird-slaying wound channels unlike anything you’ve seen before. The FliteControl wad is configured 180 degrees compared to standard wads so the cup flares at the rear instead of the front. This causes pellets to remain more tightly patterned longer as they leave the barrel, adding 10-15 yards of effective range compared to conventional steel loads and increasing pellet energy downrange. This deadly combination of superior patterning, increased Knockdown Power and longer range means there can only be one forecast when Black Cloud FS Steel shows up in the blind – expect it to rain ducks and geese.

Remington HyperSonic Steel
The 1,700-fps HyperSonic Steel from Remington Introducing the world’s fastest, hardest-hitting steel. With unprecedented velocity and the highest downrange pattern energies ever achieved, new Remington HyperSonic Steel takes lethality to new heights and lengths, to a level of terminal performance where more birds drop with fewer shots, at the farthest reaches of your abilities. This great new creation shortens lead by up to 11% – an 8-inch difference at 40 yards while putting more pellets in the head and neck area for quicker kills and fewer misses. HyperSonic incorporates Remington’s patented Xelerator Wad, a two stage system and a new HOTTER primer that ignites a small powder charge in chamber, moving the entire payload forward slightly to control pressure.

Blinds

Duck and goose hunting success can be improved by paying close attention to how well you are hidden.   I am sure you have seen this scenario:  While waterfowl hunting, you spot a flock off in the distance, so you turn on your spinning-wing decoy, then you and your buddies begin blowing hail calls following into a greeting call as they come closer, a little feed-chuckle here and there, then hammer on them as they fly past and never look back at your spread as though you were never even there.  Then you sit there and look at each other like “what spooked ‘em?”  You get out of your blinds to look things over and then it hits you– your “concealment” sticks out like a sore thumb!  I know it’s happened to me on more than one occasion and it’s hard to imagine anything more frustrating while on a hunt. The question is, do you practice what you’ve been told and/or said over and over again?  Whether you’re hunting out of a boat blind, pit or a layout blind in a dry field, excellent concealment is an absolute must!

A popular blind option these days because of its mobility and level of comfort is the layout blind.  An absolute must-do when you first purchase that nice and shiny layout blind, is cover it with some wet and sloppy mud!  I can’t believe how many times I’ve witnessed guys trying to hunt out of a layout blind that hasn’t been mudded yet!  It even says to cover it in mud on the instructions when assembling your blind.  The fact of the matter is, a new blind will act like a mirror reflecting the sun.  You might kill a few “dumb ones” without mudding your blind, but I’ll be willing to bet, you’re going to have a tough time being consistently successful while hunting out of a comfortable mirror in the field.

Be sure to utilize the stubble-straps on your blind also.  I would recommend using corn or wheat stubble away from the area you’re planning on setting up in, so your row of blinds don’t look like corn huts on bare mud.  Ducks and geese are finicky birds and will shy away for sure.   Also when brushing your blinds, make an honest attempt at breaking up the shape of your blinds as you will blend in with the rest of your surroundings much better.

Avery Finisher Blind
After only two years on the market, the Finisher Blind has become the #1 ground blind in the world. Constant R&D from the best field-testing and design team in the hunting business (actual Finisher Blind owners) has generated design/function modifications that are bound to leave even veteran hunters speechless. This highly durable all-aluminum frame blind weighs only 18 pounds and folds effortlessly to a compact 42” x 16” x 7”. The 900-denier polyester top combines with an 1,800-denier polyester floor for rugged, water-resistant performance. The rear HeadRest moves from 18” high down to 15” and the front GunRest drops from 12” to 10” to create a low-profile silhouette. Zippered Flagging Ports, a roomy cockpit, large windows with optional camo FaceFlaps and a double-padded seat make this blind one of the most functional on the market. Each has a powder-coated aluminum frame with steel reinforcement inserts at all stress points.

Well, a flock of geese just flew over and I have got to grab my gear and head out to the field.  I hope you have some great hunting experiences this fall and make sure you stop into your local Sportsman’s Warehouse to pick up everything you need for another great waterfowl season!