Essential Duck Hunting Gear and How-To Guide for Beginners

Essential duck hunting Gear and How to for beginners duck flying with cross hairs in a blue green sky

As fall approaches, I hear buddies talk about going duck hunting and it sounds exciting, but my question is what’s the essential duck hunting gear and how-to guide for beginners?


The essential duck hunting gear needed to get started; a shotgun, shotgun ammo shells and duck decoys. The “best answer” is to find some friends locally who already hunt ducks and ask them to teach you.  This is the best method to begin your journey into hunting duck. But what if you do not have friends who hunt ducks? Then this guide will help you get your boots into the marsh and start duck hunting fast.

So you’re a beginner and you want to get into duck hunting? Well so am I. This post is actually set up to change on a continuous basis as I learn and discover while participating in the sport.

As I said above, I’m learning just like you will be. So the questions are: how do you get started and what am I going to need?

How I got started into Hunting Ducks?

This is what I did, I have a few friends who are serious duck Hunters. I send one of my closest friends a quick text message and asked,

“hey man, I’m trying to learn to hunt ducks. What’re the chances of me tagging along on a few trips just to learn the ropes?”

His reply back to me, “No problem bud! Let’s get a date together and I’ll show you everything I know.”

I think the reason he responded positively was not only because he’s my friend, but also how I approached him.

I didn’t approach him like, “Hey bud can you show me some good spots to go duck hunting?”

That just seems a little bit like you were just trying to steal his scouted spots.

My point to him was I wanted to learn the sport of duck hunting. That gives him the opportunity to be a teacher and pass off what was taught to him from his buddies or mentors.

There is something special you get when you teach someone a skill that they can learn. So if you go about it with that approach, giving them the opportunity to “teach you something” your chances are greater to get a spot in the marsh on the next hunt.

But what if you don’t have friends who hunt What Now?

Start searching for online for forums, local groups or clubs in your area. Some of these groups are willing to show you the ropes when you become a member.

The same way I asked my buddy to teach me, go to learn, not just stealing what people have already worked hard to get.

Scouting takes time and nobody wants to show you their best honey holes.

These will be strangers at first so they will be leary at the beginning. Keep showing that you’re trying to learn, get involved and prove your not just trying to steal their tactics.

You have to give before you can receive.

You’d be surprised in The Hunting Community how many people are willing to help, as long as you put forth the effort to show you’re willing to learn. Nobody wants to waste time with anybody who’s not serious about learning the activity or sport.

What if you can not find a group and don’t have a buddy?

Well, you will have to go at it alone. It’s not impossible but it is a longer, more strenuous road. You are going to make mistakes and you’ll have to learn things the hard way.

But like I said before The Hunting Community is usually pretty forgiving and willing to help those who are trying to help themselves. So while you’re at the boat ramp or the local Marsh meet people, ask questions with the locals who are in the sport just like you.

You’d be surprised how much you can learn if you ask enough of the right questions and in the right way. Respect and kindness can go a long way with the hunting community.


Hire a professional guide. They are the masters of the sport and can show you the ropes faster than anyone else. The reason I did not place this at the top is they usually cost money and can get pricey. However, if you have the extra money to spare, no friends who duck hunt who can help and you do not want to go at it alone then a guide might be your best option.

If a guide is what you need here is a great site to get you started looking for one.

ultimate outdoor network logo for outdoor guides

What is the one must have essential duck hunting gear item?

You were going to need a gun, a shotgun.

Preferably in a 12 gauge or 20 gauge. There are many other styles of shotguns that you can go with. My suggestion is to start cheap or low budget. That way you can figure out what style of shotgun that you like. You can choose from a single shot, double barrel, over-and-under, pump or semi-automatic. Each one has their pros and cons depending on what features you’re looking for.

For a good low-end, budget gun, I would suggest a 12 gauge pump as your first duck hunting gun with a barrel length of at least 26 in. A versatile all-around shotgun that is not going to break the bank to purchase.

Shotgun prices can range from $150 to well into the thousands of dollars. All depends on make, model, materials made from, where the gun is made and what features you want the gun to have.

My suggestion is start with a good shotgun that fits your personal budget and then moves up as your skill level improves. This way while you’re learning the ropes of hunting ducks you learn what you like and do not like in a gun before shelling out the dollars.

Plus, in the beginning, you are going to be rough on your gear until you get the hang of everything and you do not want to be brutal on your $2500 shotgun!

Ammo to shoot from your shotgun is also going to be necessary.

Make sure to look at your gun manufacturer owner’s manual to ensure you get the right type of ammo for your gun. Also, you’re going to want to check State guidelines and regulations on what ammo is required to hunt and that States waters.

For instance, in the state of Florida, you can only hunt ducks with a steel shot load. Hunting with brass or lead pellets in the shotgun shell is illegal. Your shotgun can hold 5 shells but you can only hunt with 3, which means you will need a plug installed to hunt legally.

Some shotguns allow different barrel chokes to be installed to change the pattern and spread when the shot comes out. Verify if you have a choke if it is legal to hunt in your state and match your ammo to the choke pattern.

Check your state laws and regulations frequently as they can change, to make sure you don’t start your season off wrong by getting in trouble or wind up in jail. That will really put a damper on your season.

With the 12 gauge pump shotgun, I am using, my friend advised me to get 3-inch #4 steel shotshells. The recommendation came as to this is what he has had success with.

There are many options, brands and spread patterns when it comes to shotgun shells, so you may need to try a few different options to see what works for you.

You are going to need floating decoys.

Decoys are to bring the ducks in closer. You need them to be in shooting range to make a successful shot. Decoys like rose and all different styles to choose from. However as stated above, I suggest picking a low budget low-cost spread of floating decoys like these to get you started. Sold usually and 1/2 Dozen 2 dozen I suggest you start off with a dozen to make a good visual spread to lure in more ducks. Second on the list for an essential duck hunting gear item needed.

Do Not Like Amazon? You can get them here at Dick Sporting Goods as well. Click on the ducks to check to check lowest price.

Duck call is going to be a must.

Picking the right duck call can be a little bit of a challenge. You need to know how and where you will be hunting to determine the best call for your hunts. Calls are needed to help lure the ducks closer to your position, allowing you to get into shooting range to be successful.

Determine whether you will be hunting on open water, flooded timber, marsh swamps or small ponds. Each environment may require a different style of call.

Louder calls for open water tend to be single reed with a larger borehole and the end of the exhaust tube.

Softer calls usually are a double reed, tend to have smaller boreholes at the end of the exhaust tube. Used more for smaller areas like ponds and flooded timber.

My suggestion for a beginner call would be the double reed style call as they smaller in size, easier to mimic the sound of a duck and easier to blow just like this one from Duck Commander.

Colder temperatures, where you would be in freezing temperatures, you may want to look into calls that have spit grooves to avoid from the reed from freezing up while calling.

You are going to need, camo.

You don’t want the ducks seeing you from the air, so camouflage is needed to help you blend in with the natural environment. There are several Styles and patterns for camouflage, but there’s one pattern you should try to stick with, a grass pattern like this from Drake Waterfowl Systems.

However, any camouflage is better than no camouflage so raid the camo you use for deer hunting and do your best to blend in.

When it comes to pants for duck hunting best to use is waders like this pair on Amazon. Now if you do any River Fly Fishing chances are you have waders those will work. If not, try to kill two birds with one stone by purchasing a pair with grass patterned camo waders so you can hunt and fish with them.

If you like shopping at Dicks Sporting Goods here is a

$30 Off Field & Stream Every Hunt Hunting Clothing in RealTree Edge


Unless you have a boat, you’re going to get wet. Ducks live in wet areas and you have to go get it the ducks you shoot, so waders are all most essential.

This is where having a dog, a boat or both come in handy, however, they are not necessary when getting started.

Now if you can only hunt on big open water, then you are going to need some kind of boat.

If you’re looking at purchasing a boat, canoes, Jon boats and kayaks make really good choices with Jon Boat being the best option in my opinion. They give you more options for comfort and convertibility to how you want the boat to perform. However this option can be quite pricey, you can find some really good deals through yard sales and online sale listings.

Canoes and kayaks have come a long way, just take a look at this one and you will see what I mean.

Back in the good old days, canoes where the Jon boats of their time. They were built to last and were used for thousands of years for all types of hunting.

Nowadays kayaks seem to have more options for convertibility that just about any other boat, so do not dismiss these options. Jon boats just have more room to move around, the ability to float higher and allows for powered motors to get you into your spot much faster.

Where is the best place to start looking for ducks to hunt?

If you’re lucky enough to get a buddy to show you or get into a group of hunters that are willing to share some tips on where to get started, you will already have a leg up on the competition.
However, if you were not so lucky and her going at this alone a few places to start are as follows:

Ponds and lakes.

This is the best place to start. Watch for ducks to see if they are even in the area. While fishing in your local pond or lake take notice to see if any ducks fly by or if you have any waterfowl whatsoever in the area. If there are birds coming into the water chances are they’ll be ducks to follow.

Flooded Timbers.

Swamps and marshes that hold water and vegetation will almost ensure ducks as they feed on the vegetation. A lot of places that hold water will hold ducks. Ducks need water to live just like every other air-breathing mammal on the planet. Find water, find vegetation and you’ll find ducks.

Best Answer – Research WMA brochures to find places.

One of the best places to start looking to find ducks to scout is through your local Wildlife Administration. Look through the website or the printed brochures for Wildlife Management areas to get a good guideline on where ducks will be.

These area protected wetlands and give ducks everything they need to thrive. Check local laws to make sure you do not have to have any special permits to be there. Doing so without a permit is illegal and you will end up in jail.

Make sure to read the regulations and guidelines properly before hunting on any Management areas.

Scout these areas to see what the ducks in your environment like and gravitate to. Once you discover they like a particular type of environment, go scouting around to other areas and see if you can match the same elsewhere. Use the wildlife management areas (WMA) as a guideline to learning what the duck’s preferred habitat looks like.

Here are the State Wildlife Agency Websites about Waterfowl Hunting:
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
West Virginia
US Fish and Wildlife

What is the best time to hunt Ducks?

Check your local Wildlife Agency for the proper dates on when duck season opens in your area.

Each area spread out across the United States has different dates, for different seasons, for different species, so make sure you check all of your guidelines before going hunting. There also will be shooting regulations on the times of day when you can and cannot hunt. Verify those in your area before starting your hunt.

Rule of thumb, set up before dawn (sunrise) to make sure you are ready when the ducks wake up and start moving.

That means waking up at 3 a.m. to get your spread ready before shooting hours and do go unseen while doing it.

Yes, duck hunting is an early-morning sport. The early bird gets the worm, or in this case, the early hunter gets the Ducks.Click To Tweet

There’s nothing like getting set up in your spot that you scouted for weeks before the season opener to realize someone is sitting in your spot because you got there too late.

Make sure to set your alarm early and get there early so you can get to your coveted honey hole spot.

See why most hunters are reluctant to just give away places for you to hunt?

There is a lot of work that goes into having a successful season.

Some states have a closed shooting window throughout the day and some states do not let you shoot at dusk. Remember to check your state laws.

Most seasons throughout the country are going to be in late fall and in the early winter. so set your calendar to your Wildlife administration’s websites calendar on the opening dates and closing dates for each season.

You’ll also want to pay attention to if there are any special permits for special areas that you want to hunt. There may be an application date well before the season opener. Most permit and quota hunts are by application only so you want to make sure to get your application in early to get your shot at hunting these special places.

I know here in the state of Florida special quota and permit hunts have applications that are three months earlier than when the season opens.


Why would you want to hunt ducks?

Great source of meat while teaching self-preservation and respect for the environment.

Duck hunting provides a great source of meat but not only that it also teaches self-preservation and respect for our environment.

15And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

Genesis 2:15 KJV

Self-preservation in the way of teaching you a skill, learning how to be able to provide for oneself and family. There’s no better feeling to know you can feed your family on what you have personally hunted to provide. Our ancestors had been doing this for thousands of years before us, yet some of our society today has stopped teaching the new generations. It’s a shame as future Generations will lose the art of self-preservation altogether.

As you become more involved with the hunting process, you’ll learn to respect the environment more growing an intimate relationship with the habitat and its animals.

Let me explain the intimate relationship to stop some of those who are thinking some perverted way. We are not molesting animals or having some weird fantasy. The intimate relationship that I’m talking about is you growing a deeper respect for the outdoors, the animals that inhabit and a drive to ensure the continuation of the sport. You will begin to see where you can help out with conservation with the drive to make sure that these animals stay around for years to come. Wildlife management is an important part of the hunting process. You have to take care of the animals in order to be able to hunt the animals.

18And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

19And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

20And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

Genesis 2:18-20 KJV

Hunting provides overpopulation management on the species that we hunt.

Each year more and more animals are born adding to the population however the land is not growing it stays the same. So what that means the more population of ducks the less food and resources they can have. This is where hunting steps in to help Cole overpopulation of the new births of animals each year.

Here is an excerpt from a study done by Wildlife Damage Management at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln

Some communities have found out the hard
way that deer populations cannot go uncontrolled.
There are hundreds of examples
throughout the country where an area at one
time in its history did not allow hunting, and
the white-tailed deer multiplied until they
caused ecological disaster.

Time of bonding with fellow hunters that builds lasting lifetime friendships.

What are the main reasons that drawl duck Hunters back to the fields and marshes each year is the camaraderie between fellow Sportsman alike and the bonds that are developed in the blind? Some of the best relationships between Hunters have been built on the competition between each other during duck season.

17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

-Proverbs 27:17 KJV

Life is all about making memories that you can take with you through life. Some of the best stories have been memories made of hunters getting together doing what they love and building the comradery that is needed to live a healthy fulfilled life. What would life be like if you did not take the time to spend it with friends and family enjoying something that God has created for us?

God’s Grocery store which is as healthy as you can get, bringing you closer to nature.

When you shoot a duck, it’s like hunting it’s like grocery shopping in God’s personal grocery store. You can’t find any better meat, any more organic then what you kill in God’s creation. Ducks are like water chickens just ready for consumption. All you have to do is get out on the water and select your protein source.

That’s a great source of protein and fat ratio that your body needs in order to be in Optimal Health.

Farm to Table, fresh organic, are all big trends right now and shooting wild ducks will put you right where you need to be when it comes to providing for your family with a healthy protein meat source.

Not only are the benefits listed above awesome but anytime you get to spend and God’s creation and see his gorgeous Sky paintings made each morning is enough to make anyone want to get out and hunt.

And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.

-Genesis 9: KJV


How to do you cook the meat after a successful duck hunt? 


I have a lot of friends who swear by cooking it on the grill. Not sure if it is the smoke that cooks into the meat or what but they will not cook it any other way. Grilling is sure to be the healthiest way to eat duck but be sure not to cook all the juices out or the meat will be dry. Medium to Medium Rare should do the trick.


Baking or Roasting duck is a staple for a lot of people and restaurants. This method liquifies the fat in the duck to maintain that juicy, tender meat that duck is known for. Cook just like you would chicken thighs in the oven. Just think of ducks as “water chickens”.


Pan searing seals the outside part of the meat, locking the juices of the duck inside. A lot like roasting the duck with the skin on, it locks the liquified fat inside the meat keeping it juicy and tender. Same concept as searing chicken or steak to maintain that moist flavor. Don’t worry about the word fat, it is healthy in moderation and is need to break down the protein during digestion.


My body hunts Moorhen duck just to make jerky with to chew on in the blind throughout the rest of the seasons. Jerky is easy to make, easy to travel with and a great source of protein when you need a snack. Way better choice than grabbing a Snickers when you get hangry in the duck blind.


So as you can see, the question what is the essential duck hunting gear?” can be confusing for the beginner, but with a little help from friends, other hunters, and the internet, you to can learn how to hunt ducks the right way.

With the tips mentioned above, you should have a leg up on what do so you can get your boots wet in the marsh for the upcoming duck season.

As Always, God Bless and Enjoy the Adventure!


  • What mistakes did you make on your first duck hunt?
  • If you could only take one piece of gear, other than your gun duck hunting what would it be?
  • Name your favorite shotgun and why?

Essential duck hunting Gear and How to for beginners duck flying in blue green sky

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