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How To/Pro-Tips

Picking Out Waterfowling Waders

There are a number of wader styles and options. The basic styles are boot- or stocking-foot waders. Stocking-foot waders require additional wading shoes and are a bit more flexible. However, due to the muddy, mucky, debris-laden wading associated with waterfowling, most waterfowlers prefer boot-foot types.
Boot-foot waders come chest and hip high. Obviously, how deep you expect to get into your duck hunting determines how high your waders should be. However, there is something to be said for chest waders even if you never go into water above your knees. They provide for dry sitting and they are warm, particularly if insulated. Form-fitting neoprene chest waders are really nice in cold weather.

Field shooters usually don't need high-water waders. However most field shooting involves mud and some standing water. Very often knee-high all-rubber boots do just fine.

Always wear quick-wicking liner socks with rubber footwear. Rubber traps your own perspiration and without liner socks you'll get wet feet anyway.

Diet and Your Dog

A hunting dog is an athlete, particularly a hard-working duck dog. Like most athletes, working dogs work up large appetites. During the waterfowl season when your retriever is burning up calories swimming in cold water and staying warm the rest of the time, high-energy food is best. However, after the season is over and particularly during the warm months, putting your retriever on a diet is a good idea.
If you feed high-protein, high-performance dog food, you can simply cut back the amount fed. Another approach is to change to a different feed with lower protein and fat content. Switch dog foods gradually by mixing, until the dog gets used to the new food.
The metabolism of individual dogs varies and they may require different amounts of food. For a clue to condition, look at the dog's flanks. A healthy dog at its proper weight should show the last two ribs. If more show, feed more. If you can't see those two ribs, cut back.

Practice Makes Perfect

Clay target shooting is great practice for game shooting. All of the clay target games can help hone your skill at "shooting flying." However, Sporting Clays offers more of the steeply rising and dropping targets that duplicate common waterfowl shots than trap or skeet.

If you are a clay target enthusiast, you probably have a special shotgun all tricked-out for your favorite shooting game. That's great; I love good guns and think everyone ought to have five or 50. Specialized target guns help you shoot top scores when there's a trophy on the line.

However to tune up your waterfowl shooting, take your duck gun, with the tight choke in place, to the target range. That "too-tight-for-targets" choke tube will help you get used to the tight patterns produced by steel shot and improve your ability to put them on target. Your target-range score may drop but you'll be rewarded by better shooting where it really counts -- in the duck blind.

Duck Boat Maintenance

It's no fun to get all dressed up for duck hunting and have no way to go. Standing by the road at 4 a.m. with a burned out wheel bearing or trying to crank a cranky outboard in the dark are not my ideas of a good time.
Getting your duck boat shipshape for the season pays dividends both on the road and on the water.
*Drain the gas tank and clear the fuel lines of old, probably contaminated, gas.
*Check all rubber lines and fixtures for weather-cracking.
*Change the oil in your outboard. Check and change the sparkplug if necessary. A full-scale tune up isn't a bad idea either.
*Check your trailer tires for wear and cracking. Re-pack the wheel bearings now and on a regular basis during the season.
*Check your boat for dents, dings and other obvious damage that could spring an icy leak while you are hunting.
Tending to duck boat maintenance gives you a head start toward a trouble-free hunting season.

Pellet Projections

The shift from lead to steel shot continues to plague waterfowlers with confusion about proper pellet size. Because steel is less dense than lead, a steel pellet, say a #4, is lighter than a lead #4 pellet. The steel #4 carries less energy to start with and loses its velocity and energy faster than a lead #4. The general rule of thumb to retain roughly the same pellet energy delivery on a duck, is to go up one pellet size with steel. (A #2 steel pellet hits about as hard as a #4 lead pellet.)

However, the most noticeable differences between steel and lead show up at longer ranges. Waterfowlers who shoot only close-range decoying ducks and/or in tight timber situations probably don't need to go to bigger pellets.

If your waterfowling includes long shots at ducks, you might want to go further -- up to #BB steel. A BB sounds big for duck hunting, but the way steel pellets shoot, it provides extra power at longer ranges.

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